NYC, GCI Group add comfort to reporter services at RNC

New York: Reporters who cover political conventions are accustomed to tiny workspaces, often shoddy technical setups, and few, if any, luxuries.

New York: Reporters who cover political conventions are accustomed to tiny workspaces, often shoddy technical setups, and few, if any, luxuries.

Last week, New York City and the GOP - with the help of GCI Group - went to great lengths to break the mold.

Journalists covering the Republican National Convention, held for the first time in Manhattan's Madison Square Garden, were treated to world-class accouterments, including facials, tailoring services, and gourmet food - drawing a marked contrast from the rather cramped conditions at the Democratic National Convention held last month in Boston.

Most of the pampering took place across the street from the Garden in The Barneys Lounge, sponsored by upscale clothier Barneys. The lounge was located in the James A. Farley Building, a former post office across Eighth Avenue.

The services were arranged by the 2004 New York City Host Committee and supervised (and aggressively publicized) by GCI.

"We're basically saying to the reporters, 'We know you're working hard. Let us make your lives easier while you're in New York,'" said Ray Kerins, EVP and MD with GCI.

The services went beyond pampering, however. Aside from the usual RNC public affairs reps inside the convention who assisted with research or provided surrogates for interviews, the Host Committee ran a service with the New York Public Library offering speedy research on any non-convention-related topic free of charge.

"If any reporter has any research request, we can get it done in two hours," said Kerins. "Also, if a reporter needs a new battery, a hotel room, anything, our concierge service can take care of that."

As in Boston, the opposing party had its own rapid response team set up in town to deny, in real time, claims made inside the convention walls. Unlike in Boston, however, the Democrats enjoyed the added benefit of millions of street protesters touting a similar message.

Toby Chaudhuri, director of communications for the Campaign for America's Future, a nonprofit seeking greater prioritization of public schools and educational issues, was just one of many PR pros using the event to bring messages to the media.

"It's convention time, so the challenge is to break through the clutter," he said.

Even the GOP got in on the dissension. Mainstream 2004, a group of moderate, environmentally concerned Republicans, hired Fenton Communications - usually known for its work with nonprofits and leftist groups - to pressure the party to temper its more conservative tendencies.

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