Treasures from the top

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No one wants to go to the same rubber chicken industry dinner year after year. So what do b-to-b media companies do to wow their most prestigious audience members and allow some special sponsors to share the glow?

ALM's premier event, the American Lawyer Awards, evolved from a gala celebration for the 25th anniversary of the publisher's flagship The American Lawyer held in 2004. Jack Berkowitz, senior VP at ALM, said the company felt a self-congratulatory event wouldn't be enough to bring people out. So ALM created its Lifetime Achievement Awards to spice up the event.

"Our editor in chief, Aric Press, came up with the notion of giving awards to our `A List,' " Berkowitz said. The "A List" was an existing editorial feature, but it hadn't previously been associated with an event.

Now an annual affair, the American Lawyer Awards will be held for the fourth time in October. "This is about recognizing the best in legal work, so we push ourselves to make this event better each year," Berkowitz said.

He added that a high-level event also "is a business, and it provides extraordinary benefits for the sponsors; so you have to charge the appropriate amount." At this year's awards dinner, the top-level exclusive sponsorship goes for $49,000—up from $35,000 in 2006.

"We don't skimp on this," Berkowitz said, adding that to maintain the feeling of an occaision for the industry, the number of major sponsors is limited to six.

The Center for Digital Government, a division of e.Republic that conducts research and provides advisory services on IT policies and best practices in state, city and county governments, is another organization focusing on adding value to its awards events.

Cathilea Robinett, executive director of the center, said it conducts surveys on how various local government bodies are adopting the latest technologies that are underwritten by sponsors and concludes with awards presentations. One, the Digital States Survey Award, "is presented every other year, and we really try to take it to a new level every time," Robinett said.

For the most recent Digital States Survey, in 2006, the center partnered with e.Republic sibling Government Technology to design a multimedia program for a single sponsor, Verizon Business.

The sponsorship included an elegant sit-down dinner at the National Association of State CIOs meeting in Miami as well as the launch of a sponsored microsite. "We provided it with great content that was updated weekly," Robinett said, adding that the site was up for three months.

The 2006 /2007-Digital States Survey was available for download; data about those who asked for the download provided Verizon with leads. In addition, a sponsored section appeared in the print edition of Government Technology.

Finally the center and Government Technology capped the program with two special events: Robinett and Verizon Business executives co-presented awards to Michigan Governor Jennifer M. Granholm, whose state topped the survey, and Tim Kaine, governor of Virginia, which came in second.

Other b-to-b media companies have also found multiple ways to use exclusive events to establish and strengthen relationships with their audiences.

At the Deal LLC, this kind of event was part of the debut of The Corporate Dealmaker magazine, said Martha Brown, VP-communications and development.

"Our strategy was to develop a community among corporate executives responsible for mergers and acquisitions as we were launching our brand," she said. "We needed to create an event that would engage these high-powered people in an interactive way."

Editor Ken Klee worked closely with his contacts to create an event that would be very interactive, Brown said. Like ALM, The Corporate Dealmaker limits the number of sponsors, she added.

The magazine launch and event were successful enough to warrant a second conclave in '06. For 2007, "we want to expand to a full day and invite more people," she said.

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