For Kristine Coratti Kelly, the Washington Post is more than just a newspaper: “We really think of ourselves as a national and international media brand, which is different than a few years ago.”
That change began in 2016, when Kris started as Vice President of Events and Communication, helping to run Washington Post Live, an event series that brings together the bold names you know and the emerging voices critical to understanding the national and international issues we face today. Kris shares her top advice for putting on events that spark dialogue on the most pressing global concerns of our time.
Don’t be afraid to try something new
Creating a live, in depth journalistic experience — as opposed to doing more standard events — was at the top of Kris’ agenda when she began the job. “My first goal was to really make them think about Washington Post Live as another news platform,” Kris notes. “Just like there are all these different ways that our content lives or that people get our content, that live platform could be a powerful one.”
As the Washington Post Live team began to conceptualize what their events would look like, Kris realized tapping into their main resource would be key: the reporters. “If you don’t have that buy in from the newsroom, if you can’t utilize the power of your Pulitzer Prize winning reporters, then I didn’t feel like we could win without them,” Kris says
The audiences, the chance to see the behind the scenes angle reporting was an exciting opportunity that set the Post’s events apart from the average panel discussion. “They want to feel like they’re in the room for this incredible reporting that they read on our pages every day,” says Kris. “When people realize, oh, wow, the interview that normally happens over the phone that I read sound bites from — I can actually see the whole thing unfold in front of me. That’s a really exciting prospect.”
Harness your strengths
Making use of the power of the journalism and knowing the excitement that would build inside the Post’s events, Kris was also thoughtful about the potential to reach a broader audience. “We have this incredible digital platform. It would be mind boggling if we didn’t take advantage of it,” she says.
That means knowing who to invite — and who will spread your message. “We really curate the audience because we want them to be relevant to the topic that we’re discussing,” Kris says. “We can create an atmosphere where they’re talking, they’re meeting each other, they’re getting excited so that in the room, they’re tweeting about it to an audience who’s going to follow them because they care about the topic that’s happening on stage.”
A recent event on criminal justice reform proved the benefit of having a curated audience, and helped to spread the reach of the Post’s event even farther. “We had all these experts and the right people in the room who people follow when they want to learn about a topic,” Kris explains. “They’re tweeting. And Kim Kardashian West ended up retweeting someone who was actually inside our event.”
“That just blew up the impressions on social. But that’s sort of the idea — that you utilize all of these audiences to spread the journalism you’re creating.”
Allow space for change to happen
Finally, Kris highlights the importance of really thinking through the physical space of your event. “My event person who oversees our whole logistics group came up to me and she said, you know, I feel like the way we’re set up, it gives people too much space to find these little niches and not interact,” she recalls.
“The second we changed that, it was like we were putting on different events,” Kris notes. Thinking about creating opportunities for conversation completely changed the way the Post’s events unfolded, and changed Kris’ overall approach.
“I was focused on content,” she says. “And then I realized, oh, wow, no, actually, there is a strategic value to thinking about where you’re putting these things.”