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Of briefings and beards: Building a State of the Union speech

From outreach meetings to grueling schedules and even a “playoff beard,” putting together a State of the Union speech is no simple task. 

A senior administration official says the January 28 speech is “on track” to being finished, with less than a week to go before the big night.

It’s been in the works for more than a month. The president and his staff had the first official meeting about the content of the address on December 20, right before Obama left for his holiday vacation in Hawaii.

That’s when Cody Keenan, the president’s director of speechwriting, started work in earnest on the text.

Now Keenan, who is taking the lead on the State of the Union for the first time since he succeeded Jon Favreau in the top speechwriting job, gives the president a draft each night for editing.

So far, there have been "several" drafts -- but fewer than 10. 

He’s also sporting a new beard, which officials say he doesn’t plan to shave until at least after next Tuesday. White House aides have dubbed it his “playoff beard.”

The speech drafting is hardly just a two-man show, though.

Top administration heavyweights-- including Denis McDonough, Dan Pfeiffer, Valerie Jarrett, Cecilia Munoz and Gene Sperling – have been meeting with dozens of outside organizations to discuss the content of the speech. It’s the first time that the Obama administration has done such extensive outreach before a State of the Union address.

That means the president’s message will be laced with input from labor leaders, immigration groups, business organizations, health care industry gurus and former staffers from the administration of Obama’s Democratic predecessor, President Bill Clinton.

The White House aide said that Obama will reference those conversations with outside groups in the speech itself, which is expected to have a heavy emphasis on income inequality and economic fairness.

The State of the Union is at 9 pm ET on Tuesday, January 28.

NBC's Carrie Dann contributed to this report.