Hearst Foundations: Washington Week Online

Every year the Hearst Foundations provides students from every state with a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And “once-in-a-lifetime” isn’t a descriptor we use lightly. The Foundations have made over 21,500 grants to nearly 6,000 organizations, totaling more than $1.3 billion in funds awarded. 

This year, BCom was entrusted to produce their 59th annual flagship program — The United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP) — entirely online for the first time in USSYP history. 

The program was established by the U.S. Senate in 1962 with the goal of deepening students’ understanding of the federal government and giving them direct access to those who lead it. 

Every year, USSYP student delegates meet with various leaders within the Pentagon and U.S. Embassy, Supreme Court justices… and even the President of the United States.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic stretching into spring of 2021 tossed in-person meetings with the POTUS a bit out of the question.

Enter, BCom Solutions.

This massive undertaking required intricate technical maneuvering and vigilant attention to detail — as the program agenda changed daily, sometimes several times a day and involved principals from all branches of the United States Federal Government. 

Interactive Website

Our team built a website to serve as a hub for all USSYP information, events and digital media. Privacy was paramount, as this website was intended to be used solely by student delegates, their military mentors and members of the Hearst Foundations staff and board of directors. 

The website housed an interactive map displaying the student delegates and their bios alongside a grid of Washington Week keynote speakers — including some of our nation’s most respected civic leaders. 

The website also contained the event’s daily agenda, which we updated regularly to include the most relevant information. 

We coordinated the Washington Week delegate experience using Zoom, simultaneously streaming the event to the website’s home page, where our VIP guests were able to watch the whole thing live.

Video: Produced, Live and Interactive

In addition to the Washington Week programming, USSYP connects student delegates from all 50 states with their respective U.S. senators for meaningful dialogue, photo opportunities and Q&A. 

During a typical year, this experience would take place in a meet-and-greet format. Given the virtual format of the 2021 event, our digital production team hosted individual Zoom meetings between each U.S. senator and his or her student delegates. These meetings took place in weeks prior to and following the event.

Though the 2021 Washington Week was a live virtual experience, pulling it off required many pre-produced video components. Our video team produced a video introducing each of the 104 student delegates and their home states, as well as a video reel highlighting conversations between students and U.S. senators.

Live Stream + Event Production

This was Washington Week Online — not Zoom school. Our goal was not to deliver a series of routine video meetings. We were on a mission to engineer an unforgettable virtual experience.

We used elements of music, design and video pre-roll to bring this event to life for both the delegates and headlining guests. Daily speakers included public figures such as astronaut Former Commander of the International Space Station Captain Scott Kelly, Chief Medical Advisor to the President of the United States Dr. Anthony Fauci, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and more.

Besides hosting, facilitating and streaming Washington Week, the BCom team also provided rapid-response technical support to the delegates, foundation staff and distinguished guests throughout the event.

Our team certainly doesn’t Zoom with the President of the United States every day. And patching the International Space Station into a morning meeting is not a matter of routine in our office. 

But rapid-response technical coordination and high stakes event production is nothing new to our seasoned team of creative and digital strategists. Our team seamlessly facilitated the first virtual Washington Week experience in USSYP history.

It was our privilege to work with the Hearst Foundations to provide exceptional students across the United States with this unforgettable experience.