Elizabeth Baker Keffer has had a busy year. Last December, she took over Atlantic Live—the event arm of Atlantic Media, parent of The Atlantic, Government Executive, and National Journal. She had already worked for owner David Bradley for 24 years, most recently as publisher at The Atlantic. Now she’s developing new event models, such as salon dinners that bring advertisers such as Allstate, GE, and Microsoft together with journalists, policy makers, and Atlantic editors on a particular topic. Along the way she’s increased revenue for Atlantic Live by 10 percent.
How have your years with the company set you up for this position?
What I’ve seen is the intense interest that clients, sponsors, and advertisers have in big ideas and in integrated programs that create more of a three-dimensional message. If done effectively, it can help us stand out from other companies.
How do your events contribute to the company?
Atlantic Live delivers added-value programs for advertisers, so we produce events that are earned through an integrated advertising platform. We’re contributing close to a quarter of the advertising revenue, and that’s well into the seven ﬁgures. We’ve moved from having a loss at Atlantic Live to a proﬁt.
How do you increase brand awareness?
We think that Atlantic Live has had a major impact in promoting Atlantic’s name, since we always have our talent at the center. At the larger public events we get more media attention, like the Aspen Ideas Festival in June, where we had [Secretary of Homeland Security] Michael Chertoff interviewed by our national correspondent, Jeffrey Goldberg, in front of 1,000 people. It’s a way to give our talent and editorial a larger stage.
The smaller events that we’re getting well known for are the salon dinners [for 20 to 25]. It’s hard for us to promote those, because they’re by and large off the record. But there is always such a highly inﬂuential audience that attends that we feel like, even in a small circle, we’re reaching important people and increasing our exposure.
What has been the response to the salons from sponsors and advertisers?
A senior-level client will usually get the fact that there are some audiences that are hard to reach. But if you can create an experience that is unique and content-rich, it’s attractive to that audience. They immediately get that being a part of Atlantic is a way to be subtle about their outreach and about building very strong relationships. We also don’t want to take on dozens of partners, because we think part of the beauty of this is the feeling of exclusivity. We’d rather work with the same partners on multiple events across a several-year stretch, because we think that’s the right way to have an impact, since the dinners touch so few people at the same time.
Which Atlantic events from 2008 would you consider most successful?
At the Aspen Ideas Festival, which is our signature event, we had a record 11 sponsors. We also did a lot more this year to integrate them, ranging from Chevron’s pedicabs to Intel’s Segway scooters. The other event that comes to mind is the 100-person State of the Union viewing dinner, which we held in January at the Plaza hotel in New York before it reopened, with our correspondent Jim Fallows there to lead the conversation.