Political parties rushing to ready '08 conclaves

DENVER, MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL: The organizers of the 2008 Democratic and Republican national conventions are working closely with local area PR agencies, businesses, and civic leaders, who see the events as a way to promote their respective cities and states.

DENVER, MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL: The organizers of the 2008 Democratic and Republican national conventions are working closely with local area PR agencies, businesses, and civic leaders, who see the events as a way to promote their respective cities and states.

With the Democratic party slated to nominate either the first female or the first black candidate, Denver's convention, to be held August 25 to 28, is expected to draw intense national and international interest, beyond the 35,000 expected official visitors - including 15,000 media, 4,000 state delegates, and 16,000 VIPs of various sorts, said Chris Lopez, communications director for Denver 2008 Convention Host Committee.

"We are really fortunate because of who the two [remaining] candidates are," Lopez said. "Denver, in one way or the other, is going to nominate either the first African American or the first female to be president of the Unites States. That's history in the making, and that is something that Denver will forever be known for."

Local agencies are aiding DNC communications. Linhart & Associates is helping with sponsorship development, a media party, and delegate welcome bags; Shenkein PR is helping develop a media outreach plan; and CSG-PR is assisting with green-related communications - the city is eager to show itself a leader in environmentally friendly business practices - and general communications outreach.

Local outreach is geared to ensuring that local businesses work together to accommodate the many visitors to Denver and to make their stay is as pleasant as possible. They also seek to ensure that residents don't leave town or work from home. One project to keep locals engaged is a planned film festival built on the theme of "democracy," and featuring films or documentaries that anyone may submit to a newly launched Web site, http://www.cinemocracy.org/.

Thousands of volunteers are being trained in advance of the DNC to make sure that convention delegates are well treated. The success of the convention will be measured in part on the number of visitors who decide to stay for Labor Day weekend, as well the number of new business ties that are formed. Most businesses that relocated to Colorado moved after their CEO had vacationed there, Lopez said.

Similar efforts are underway for the GOP convention, to be held September 1 to 4 in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Teresa McFarland, communications director for the Minneapolis-St. Paul Host Committee - which is composed of civic and business leaders, working to promote the region - said her group will soon announce a training program for volunteers that uses social networking tools to keep them up-to-date on information from the convention.

Local PR firms are expected to help in the effort, though McFarland said talks are still underway concerning their roles.

Community and business outreach, and local media relations are also extremely important, noted Matt Burns, communications director for 2008 RNC. In addition, the RNC staff has already donated hundreds of hours of their time to work at local charities, as part of the RNC's general effort to connect with the local community.

"Our goal as communicators is to share as much information as possible, to have the process be as transparent as possible, and to ensure that the host city gets as much out of the convention as possible," Burns said. "Every four years, both parties face the prospect of where they will host their convention. You work as closely with the city as possible, so you can find another wonderful city to host you in four years."

But promoting the respective political parties and their candidates remains a prime objective of the conventions, of course.

After an initial focus on local outreach, which remains important during the convention, Burns said media outreach - some 15,000 media, out of a total of 45,000 visitors, are expected at the GOP convention - will include the use of customized, online video feeds to bloggers and journalists around the country who aren't able to attend the convention.

"With the convention so late - after ours is over, we'll have less than 60 days to the election - this is really an opportunity to dominate the media coverage and share our message with the American people," Burns said.

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