Capturing the DNC’s ‘pop’
by Staff Writer
The Democratic National Convention will bring 6,000 delegates to the Charlotte area the week of Sept. 3, 2012. Not huge, as far as conventions go, N.C. Democratic Party Chairman Dave Parker said. The 2010 National Rifle Association brought more than 70,000 people to Charlotte, he said. But the Democrats will be followed by as many as 18,000 media representatives that will spotlight the area on a national stage.
Lake Norman businesses hope to capture some of that added attention.
“It’s about the pop,” Parker said Oct. 28 at a Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce Focus on the Democratic National Convention meeting. The pop, or public relations attention garnered from the national attention, will be as big as 125 Super Bowl spots, Parker said.
“This is an opportunity for the world to get to know Charlotte on a first-name basis,” Parker said.
The international businesspeople that will attend the convention will have a chance to see the appeal of bringing their business to the Charlotte area, said Democratic National Convention Executive Director of External Affairs and Huntersville resident Torre Jessup.
Friday’s meeting was one of the first steps for many local business owners to figure out how to capitalize on next year’s convention, but the Democratic National Convention Committee, the Lake Norman Chamber and Visit Lake Norman have been planning for months.
Before Charlotte could even bid to host the convention, 16,000 hotel rooms had to be blocked for the event in the area, Visit Lake Norman Marketing Manager Courtney Wolfrom said. In the Lake Norman area, 10 hotels have committed 10,081 rooms over an 18-day period surrounding the convention.
Now, with less than a year before the convention, Visit Lake Norman is concentrating marketing efforts on attracting convention delegates, guests and media to Lake Norman. They will be releasing press releases each month, one to local publications and one national release to target possible visitors. Based on research on how previous convention host cities have succeeded and failed, Visit Lake Norman is still crafting their approach to marketing, budgeting and promoting certain attractions.
“The most important thing, getting started, is to get the word out to potential delegates, visitors and media that we are so close and have so much to offer,” Wolfrom said. “If they have that information far out they can make that decision to stay here and spend their money here.”
Staying in Lake Norman during the convention, Wolfrom said, will allow delegates and visitors to escape the traffic and long lines of downtown, travel to convention events on busses to avoid traffic and experience the lake and area attractions.
The Democratic National Convention Housing Committee will begin work with the Charlotte Regional Visitor’s authority in February to place guests in those hotel rooms already set aside, Wolfrom said.
Parker, who lives in the area, has a personal interest attracting and keeping attention and business in Lake Norman. He is working to develop a hotel on 400 acres of lakefront property he owns.
In total, Jessup said the convention could bring in 35,000 people, including delegates, media, senators, congressmen, governors and President Barack Obama. The event, he said, will have international ramifications for Charlotte’s public image.
There are just not enough hotels in Charlotte to hold every delegate, visitor and media representative for the convention.
“People will be watching us,” Jessup said. “We have to put our best effort forward to make sure that people understand the uniqueness of our communities in the Charlotte area.”
Jessup, Parker and Visit Lake Norman leader Sally Ashworth encouraged chamber members to register as vendors on websites for Visit Lake Norman and the convention’s site – www.CharlotteIn2012.com. Convention leaders, event planners and visitors will use these directories, they said, to find local businesses. Organizers want visitors to find local attractions and enjoy themselves in the area outside of the convention center so they can take stories back home with them across the country.
Parker estimated that outside of the convention hall there will be 400 party functions and 800 private group functions during the convention. Every event will need a venue, entertainment, food and amenities, and the convention committee is encouraging delegates to use local businesses for these events.
Ashworth said the CharlotteIn2012.com directory and Visit Lake Norman’s directory are automatically linked, but some business owners wanted a smoother connection.
“There is still some disconnect,” Sandbox Solutions Partner Karen Dortschy said. “I registered on both. It’s free, but time consuming.”
Dortschy, a social media and marketing strategy, hopes to work more with Ashworth and Visit Lake Norman to create a comprehensive marketing strategy for the area, to attract business and media attention.
The directories are not just for businesses to be found by visitors, however.
Parker’s suggestion that local businesses find each other on the directories and find ways to work together to capitalize on the convention resonated with event planner Carla Eustache.
“Partnering, thinking creatively and packaging (services) will be huge,” Eustache, of Style Perfect weddings and events, said.
Visit Lake Norman will continue working with the Lake Norman Chamber, visitors bureaus, businesses and the convention to capitalize on the influx of people and attention.
“Though we are completely nonpartisan, we do want to capture the audience coming in,” Wolfrom said. “The community will embrace the group coming in to create loyal, lifelong visitors.”