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Beth Peterson

National party conventions garner extensive media attention and require a significant amount of resources and planning in order for the event to be considered successful. And despite the changing role of conventions, research suggests they are still an important element of modern presidential campaigns. Conventions still have the power to sway voter opinions in favor of a candidate and provide a platform for presidential nominees to reach a large, demographically diverse audience.

Glancing behind the scenes into the planning process for party conventions can verify the perceived new role of modern party conventions.

In North Carolina, the state hosting the 2012 Democratic National Convention, political figures aren’t the only thing posed to benefit from the gathering in early September. Local businesses are also profiting from the DNC taking place in Charlotte. While this can be anticipated, it is an examination of which businesses stand to benefit most that sheds light on the intentions and aspirations of convention planners.

A start-up company in Raleigh, Business Empire Consulting, recently won the contract to design and host the Democratic National Convention’s website, according to an article in the Charlotte Observer. The company competed against 11 other firms for the job and now stands to dramatically elevate its portfolio with the addition of the high profile client.

While this is certainly good news for the 28-month old company and for the small business environment in North Carolina, the interesting political communication impact of this announcement pertains more to the product the Business Empire Consulting has been asked to produce. The DNC is heavily emphasizing its online presence and increases to its digital audience.

This emphasize exemplifies two important considerations with regard to the convention. First, new media is of high importance to DNC planners. This is evidenced by the desired improvements to the website as well as Business Empire Consulting’s plan to integrate and highlight social media in the site’s design, as is discussed in the Charlotte Observer article.

“The goals are to really focus on interactivity, to bring the conversation into your living room so anyone in the country, any American, can interact and be a part of the conversation as it is going on,” Matt Laster, chief information officer for Business Empire Consulting told the Charlotte Observer. “We will rely on a lot of social media.”

Second, the DNC aims to draw national attention and serve as an education and persuasion tool more than it is set up to be a deliberative body. This is also clear because of the planners’ focus on the website and social media. If the convention were primarily serving its traditional purpose of selecting the democratic nominee for president, fewer resources would be directed to mediums that act as outreach mechanisms for the general public.

Party conventions have changed audiences and shifted purposes but are still a necessary part of the election process. Leading up to the DNC in Charlotte, North Carolina this September, it is clear this is the new reality of conventions when examining what local businesses have won contracts for in preparation for the event.

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