PR pros lend press a hand at Democratic convention

WASHINGTON: There was no shortage of reporters in Boston last week hunting for stories at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) - and no shortage of PR pros eager to aid in the search.

WASHINGTON: There was no shortage of reporters in Boston last week hunting for stories at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) - and no shortage of PR pros eager to aid in the search.

About 200 PR staffers - mostly volunteers - were inside the Fleet Center, helping to run the show, whether it was scheduling live interviews or circulating talking points.

"Most of the volunteers here are House press secretaries or they formerly worked on past conventions in some capacity," said Lina Garcia, convention press secretary, one of about 10 paid communications staff hired jointly by the Democratic National Committee and the Kerry-Edwards campaign.

Each TV network had up to three PR volunteers assigned exclusively to them. Vada Manager, director of global issues management at Nike, who took the week off to volunteer, was assigned to CNN.

"Mostly we're doing lots of troubleshooting, coordinating with convention officials for the guests of the day, and lining up speakers," he said.

Both Garcia and Manager agreed that the primary difference from previous conventions, PR-wise, was the ease of movement provided by wireless technology - and the much-anticipated presence of bloggers.

Blackberries "sure make it easier to respond to thousands of media inquiries more quickly," said Garcia. Many of those requests, she added, involved stories about the bloggers. "We've credentialed bloggers for the first time, so we have had a lot of media interest in them."

But the official DNC staff were hardly the only ones working the media in Boston last week. Protesters and advocacy groups held events outside the Fleet Center to push their agendas. And even the Republican National Committee set up a "war room" across the street with the Bush-Cheney campaign, determined not to cede the entire week to the Democratic message machine.

With about 30 paid staff and 15 volunteers, the GOP "rapid response center" spent the week sniping at the competition through it's TV studio (equipped with satellite uplink for live feeds) and by e-mailing thousands of MP3 audio bites to more than 600 radio stations around the country.

Reception from the media was excellent, said GOP radio director Scott Hogenson, though much of the attention focused simply on the party's presence in Boston.

In other convention news, Gillette and convention organizers denied rumors that the razors placed in the gift bags for convention attendees were confiscated by security in an ill-advised product placement move. (Full story at PRWeek.com.)

  • Additional reporting by Keith O'Brien.

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