Case Study

How the 2020 DNCC pivoted to 100% digital with WordPress VIP

The 2020 Democratic National Convention was the first virtual political convention in U.S. history. As the COVID-19 public health crisis accelerated, WordPress VIP helped convention leaders transform the event into a secure and performant digital experience that attracted a record-setting 35.5 million digital viewers.

Background

The Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) has come together every four years since 1832 to produce the Democratic National Convention, a multi-day event that culminates in the formal nomination of the Democratic Party’s candidates for President and Vice President of the United States.

Over the years, the convention has become a prime-time viewing event, attracting A-list celebrities and audiences in the hundreds of thousands who attend 50+ in-person gatherings.

Remarkably, the entire event is executed by a small team that scales from zero to over 200 people in less than six months and dissolves days after the convention is complete.

The DNCC’s rapid growth and lack of continuity make agility a key driver of success—and never more so than in 2020, when the team had just a matter of months to transform the convention into a fully remote and virtual experience.

We recently spoke with Andrew Binns, Chief Operating Officer of the 2020 DNCC, and Hannah Flom, Director of Digital Communications, to learn more about how WordPress VIP enabled their team to scale their website from a single channel to the epicenter of the most-watched convention in history.

“That’s why I love using WordPress. Broadly the platform is just so easy to use … And it was really easy to train people on how to make simple edits. ”

Hannah Flom, Director of Digital Communications, 2020 DNCC

Problem

Organizing a convention is a demanding enterprise in the best of times. It’s a high-profile event with marquee stakeholders, a tight timeline, and the added security risk of national politics. Producing the event during a public health crisis only intensified these challenges.

The biggest priority for the DNCC’s marketing team was an enterprise-grade CMS with usable software. “Most of my team was hired two months before the convention,” said Hannah. “We have so many people in the organization that use our website for a variety of different needs, like the comms and press team uploading press releases; from our digital team uploading graphics; to even our logistics team and housing team making updates to their pages,” she added. With so many contributors and not a moment to spare to train new hires, simple workflows were mission-critical.

Meanwhile, the DNCC’s technology team required best-in-class site performance and security. “We have nation-states attacking us constantly,” said Andrew Binns, “and the website is obviously the first thing that gets looked at because it’s the biggest public-facing thing; it’s a megaphone. We needed to make sure that was safe.”

This year, new requirements emerged alongside existing needs, like developing the first-ever remote delegate voting system. “Every four years, the Democratic Party goes through a platform committee process which establishes the national platform for the party. Thousands of ballots get cast in the system. That only usually happens in person. We had never built a [digital] system for it because it’s very difficult,” said Andrew.

With the convention pivoting to a virtual event, Hannah needed a content strategy to recreate the audience experience for remote viewers. “We had to figure out ways to not only get people to watch the convention but also make people feel like they were a part of something. How do you make a balloon drop from home?” she asked. “How do you make people feel like they’re really excited about this moment?”

And it all needed to happen in a matter of weeks. “Change management is more of a luxury in a longer time period than we have,” said Andrew. Hannah agreed. “Time is of the essence.”

“Everything from understanding how your edge servers and your CDNs work to how your security teams work and your pen testing works—all of it gave me a sense of calmness to say, ‘Okay. We have a partner who can just go handle this.'”

Andrew Binns, COO, 2020 DNCC

Solution and impact

The DNCC selected WordPress VIP as its official digital platform provider in March, before the impact of COVID-19 was widely understood. As large-scale events around the globe were canceled, WordPress VIP’s role expanded significantly from technology provider to strategic partner.

In a world of unknowns, WordPress VIP’s agile content management workflows, best-in-class security, and expert guidance equipped the DNCC with the secure, stable platform it needed to turn the 2020 Democratic National Convention into a high-performing digital experience.

A center-stage-worthy website
powered 15+ live streams

To attract as many viewers as possible, the DNCC ran a distributed content strategy centered on demconvention.com. “The website basically became the convention,” said Hannah. “We had 15 different ways folks could watch the live stream, whether it was on your Apple TV or your Amazon Echo or our YouTube page, which was also embedded on the website.” The success of this strategy drew the highest digital viewership in convention history.

Agile content management
with simple workflows

The simplicity of the WordPress editing interface saved precious time training new hires, and made it easy for dozens of contributors to ship content quickly. “That’s why I love using WordPress. Broadly the platform is just so easy to use … And it was really easy to train people on how to make those simple edits.”

Innovative solutions,
extensible architecture

WordPress VIP’s software provided the DNCC with the ability to adjust and change as new requirements emerged. For example, a combination of third-party integrations and custom coding enabled the team to build the first-ever remote Platform Committee voting system. Working with WordPress VIP and Featured Agency Partner WDG, Andrew’s team designed a secure system integrating WordPress with Google sheets to track voting in real-time.

Offloading maintenance
and security concerns

Hosting demconvention.com on the VIP Cloud eliminated time-consuming maintenance and security workstreams. “Everything from understanding how your edge servers and your CDNs work to how your security teams work and your pen testing works—all of it gave me a sense of calmness to say, ‘Okay. We have a partner who can just go handle this,’” said Andrew.

Scalable infrastructure for
its highest-traffic hours

The 2016 convention powered five incoming video streams; 2020’s powered 850. WordPress VIP’s robust infrastructure and automatic scaling made it the perfect platform to handle a digital experience of this magnitude. “We have to make sure the trains run on time and the video feeds don’t go down and the website doesn’t break and all of our content gets pushed out,” said Andrew. With 100% uptime, the partnership was a clear success. “Working with WordPress VIP made sure the site was secure and safe and always available.”

Stellar customer service

“One of the best parts about working with the WordPress VIP team was the customer service and responsiveness,” said Hannah. “We ran into some issues with the back-end of our site. Our web development team worked directly with WordPress VIP and they were able to get incredibly responsive customer service. They were able to solve the issue very quickly. And that allowed our team to upload all the content we needed to, which as you can imagine is a lot of content!”

In times of uncertainty, it’s critical to choose a partner with the expertise to meet today’s enterprise technology challenges and adapt to future ones. Said Andrew, “The security, the trust, the expertise, is what brought us to WordPress VIP.”

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