Successful Leadership in the Events Industry | How to Lead Your Team Through Disruption | Featuring: Martha Bunker, Former Head of Events, Fidelity Investments and Principal, MBConsulting

EPISODE 10: Successful Leadership in the Event Industry | PODCAST

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Show Notes:

On this episode of Pivot Points, we are joined by events leader Martha Bunker. She sits down with Elise and Tripp to discuss how to be a successful and impactful leader in the events industry. Martha offers her insight into hiring the right people, how to support them, and how the industry has changed. We also discuss the pitfalls many leaders can make and how to avoid them.

Transcript:

Elise Orlowski:

I’m Elise Orlowski, a Senior Video Director here at Cramer.

Tripp Underwood:

And I’m Tripp Underwood, a Creative Director at Cramer.

Elise Orlowski:

And at Cramer, we work with so many incredibly fascinating people from all over multiple industries.

Tripp Underwood:

We have so many great conversations, many that are just too good to keep to ourselves. So, now we’re sharing them with the world.

Elise Orlowski:

Right here from Cramer Studios.

Tripp Underwood:

This is Pivot Points.

Elise Orlowski:

Cut.

Tripp Underwood:

Welcome to another episode of Pivot Points. Elise, we’re going to do something that’s very near and dear to my heart today.

Elise Orlowski:

And mine.

Tripp Underwood:

And yours. Yes. And actually that’s part of the conversation is breaking down those silos. Marketing communication in our world, traditionally, there’s two main players when it comes to content creations. You have strategists and you have writers, designers, video directors, the kind of more creative team. The strategists will tell you how and why something should be done, and then hand it over to another team that then goes and executes it and kind of imaginative ways. But strategy, in a lot of different places, is kind of out on an island all by itself, which doesn’t really…

Elise Orlowski:

Or it can seem to be that way.

Tripp Underwood:

Or can seem to be that way, which doesn’t really jive with my type of thinking, because it should be such a cohesive process that involves everybody in the spectrum, which is a point of view that I learned very much from today’s guest, Angel Micarelli, our SVP of Strategy and Content. So Angel, welcome to Pivot Points.

Angel Micarelli:

Thank you.

Tripp Underwood:

Let’s talk about that. Creative and strategy traditionally often treated as two different animals. When in reality, we tend to think of them as two sides of the same coin. So, why do you think there is that separation, and how does that jive with your thinking?

Angel Micarelli:

Well, let’s step back and talk about what we’re talking about when we say strategy and content. It’s really in any campaign or any event experience, there are kind of three phases.

Tripp Underwood:

Yeah.

Angel Micarelli:

There’s the why. Why are we here? Why are we doing this? Why does the audience care? Why is our competition ahead of us? All this goes into figuring out your purpose. Then it goes into what are we going to tell the world? So, then it becomes messaging, and then how are we going to do it?

Tripp Underwood:

Yeah.

Angel Micarelli:

How are we going to engineer it? How are we going to bring it to life visually? So, it’s this continuum. And when it’s feels separate, when that first phase feels separate, it impacts the work down the line.

Tripp Underwood:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Elise Orlowski:

Down the line.

Tripp Underwood:

There’s ripples.

Angel Micarelli:

Right. Exactly.

Elise Orlowski:

And it makes it seem not as important or “Oh yeah, that’s where we started, but that’s not where we ended.”

Angel Micarelli:

Absolutely. A hundred percent. So, at Cramer, we’ve evolved to the point with strategy and content sit on the same team. Now, that doesn’t mean we don’t have people whose expertise is in channel strategy and others it’s content strategy, or it’s just pure writing. But we are signaling to our clients and to the entire team that strategy is here to make the creative effective and make their creative better.

Elise Orlowski:

Yeah.

Tripp Underwood:

Make it better.

Angel Micarelli:

Yeah.

Elise Orlowski:

I love what you’re saying about making the creative effective because I, for a long time, have definitely always believed in strategy as being the informer of the creative we do, especially when it’s in terms of a campaign or marketing.

Angel Micarelli:

Right.

Elise Orlowski:

And I find it such a good challenge, as a creative director, when there’s a strategy we have to really hit this one angle, and then you create good creative that ultimately becomes really effective.

Angel Micarelli:

Yeah.

Elise Orlowski:

And it’s often kind of, I think, something that I even have to educate on. It’s like, “No, we can’t just create this video campaign because it’s cool and eye catching.” That’s all great, but it has to have a strategic approach so that it fits into your whole marketing model. So, it’s interesting how it can seem siloed, but ultimately, it creates more creative content and also content that’s going to be really effective.

Angel Micarelli:

Absolutely. Absolutely. It does, and I’m so glad you said it that way because it doesn’t mean that you’re not creative. It just gives you a framework…

Elise Orlowski:

Yeah.

Angel Micarelli:

… to put the creative in, which I was saying, it’s kind of like writing a haiku. I love that.

Elise Orlowski:

Yeah.

Angel Micarelli:

I love having that structure because it actually makes me more creative in what I’m expressing…

Tripp Underwood:

Right.

Angel Micarelli:

… because I’ve got those parameters.

Tripp Underwood:

Yeah.

Elise Orlowski:

And to any creative boundaries ultimately create more creativity. If you have no boundaries or no limitations then…

Angel Micarelli:

Right.

Tripp Underwood:

I work that. I dislike the sandbox of “Write something good.”

Elise Orlowski:

Exactly.

Tripp Underwood:

Like, “Whoa”, that’s a heavy assignment. “Write something good that has to fit within this word count, and is really going to peak the interest of these particular people.” Those are some guardrails that let my creativity- As long as I can focus my energy towards something, I find it to be less intimidating as a professional creative, because…

Elise Orlowski:

Totally.

Tripp Underwood:

… “Do something cool” is such a vague statement that I’m like, “I can’t work with that. I can’t give you what you need with that.” So yeah, I appreciate it as a creative. I see it less as rules and more as support. So, I like that idea of kind of supporting “The strategy makes the creative better,” as you said, by focusing energy, and it’s also so just more efficient, you know? We’re busy…

Elise Orlowski:

Oh yeah.

Tripp Underwood:

… and getting busier. So, this kind of broad exploratory phase that maybe might have had the luxury in past times, I think, is also shrinking, which makes the work tighter, in my opinion, which is ultimately what we’re always trying to do.

Elise Orlowski:

Yeah.

Angel Micarelli:

Yeah.

Elise Orlowski:

Why do you think that stigma has come about? That strategy has lived on its own island. I wonder because, for me, it makes so much sense. It informs everything. It’s the basis of why we’re even doing an event or anything. But I’m curious, do you have any insight to where they’ve become these siloed islands?

Angel Micarelli:

I think one area is because we forget, sometimes- I say we as an agency business. We’re in the communications business.

Elise Orlowski:

Mm.

Angel Micarelli:

So, here at Cramer, we help with our clients’ communication strategy, how they’re going to market. We’re not working on their business strategy. I think often strategists have come up from the business side of it…

Elise Orlowski:

Mm.

Angel Micarelli:

… of marketing, as opposed to the marketing communications. That’s where that divide comes because the strategists are not creative people.

Tripp Underwood:

Right.

Angel Micarelli:

Here, the strategists are creative people…

Elise Orlowski:

Mm.

Angel Micarelli:

… because they understand how to get to the core of what our clients need to do to go to market, and how that can inform creative. I can tell you all about market demographics and points and all kinds of things.

Elise Orlowski:

If you include kittens, your campaign will do 99% better.

Angel Micarelli:

Exactly. But does that make any sense at all?

Elise Orlowski:

Sure.

Angel Micarelli:

So, the way we’ve been able to build our team is that we can work with the clients and figure out what is that emotional core that they need to go after. Emotion, strategy.

Tripp Underwood:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Elise Orlowski:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Angel Micarelli:

But that’s, at the end of the day, what is informing every experience, every campaign.

Tripp Underwood:

Yeah. And it’s almost like the- I’m sure it’s the five Ws, but the old journalism who, what, where, why and how. Traditionally, or maybe not traditionally, but in the journalism world, those are all kind of weighted the same way. Who, what, where, why, and how are equally important within that equation. I think what we’re talking about now is what and why maybe more important than how, and it’s kind of trying to think about that, of where you kind of spend your energy and your time, if you can’t focus on all five of those terms equally. And I happen to agree, spend your time up front, making sure you understand the who and the what perfectly, and then the how will become easier.

Elise Orlowski:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Angel Micarelli:

Right.

Tripp Underwood:

Exactly.

Angel Micarelli:

But I would say that they are equal, but in the right cadence.

Tripp Underwood:

Okay. That’s a good way to look at it.

Angel Micarelli:

So, the how is just as important, but you can’t do the how until you have the why and the what, and when we talk about what it’s the messaging. And if you go in that line and you keep the continuity, then you’ve got an effective product.

Tripp Underwood:

So, it’s more about process. Quit jumping to the how.

Angel Micarelli:

Yes.

Elise Orlowski:

Which is hard.

Tripp Underwood:

Which I think everyone is guilty of.

Elise Orlowski:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Tripp Underwood:

Especially when if someone’s coming and the final deliverable, what we work it on is a video. Everyone wants to see the video. Everyone wants to make the video. Everyone wants to get the video to the boss…

Elise Orlowski:

And this is how they want to make the video.

Tripp Underwood:

… and to their clients.

Angel Micarelli:

Yeah.

Elise Orlowski:

Yeah.Yeah.

Tripp Underwood:

So, they want to jump to how the video, what does it look like? And to your point, we will get there, but if we don’t spend the time up front, we’re either going to be backtracking last minute, and/or we’re just going to- we’re not going to be as impactful as we could be for what you want to do. So, kind of reminding everyone of we’ll get to the fun stuff, but there is some stuff up front that can be equally important if you know it does.

Angel Micarelli:

Completely. And again, this idea of having it integrated. So, having strategy and content integrated, it just shows that we understand what the end product is going to be.

Tripp Underwood:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Elise Orlowski:

Mm.

Angel Micarelli:

We know I get it. I get that you’re trying to create an impactful video at the end, or that we’re trying to have an audience experience in a ballroom that will resonate. So, what the information, the insights that, everything that goes into giving you that framework is in service of what you’re trying to accomplish.

Elise Orlowski:

Mm. I’m curious, so I’ve made up a term, when it comes to strategy. I don’t think this is a real one, but here I go, where I talk about sustainable content. Because I think, often, and I think this is maybe my background of just working in campaign structure so everything builds upon itself, but I feel clients can often come and be like, “I want to create this one siloed epic thing.” And I’m like, “Let’s build back here because if you want to create one thing, we could create sustainable content that has a lot of strategy.” And often when I call Angel, where you can create one thing, but then ultimately divide it and make 15 other things, or use that one idea to shoot something and create a bunch of different things and create the sustainable content. And I think that’s also the beauty of virtual. And now the content is living on and it’s not just one event, right? It’s on demand now, and we see it and you can experience it over and over again. But I’m curious from your perspective, going from in person, virtual, hybrid now, and then whatever the future holds, how have you seen strategy and content change because of the virtual landscape?

Angel Micarelli:

Such a good question because we’ve been living this, obviously, for the last year and a half. I think it’s an awakening to the value of the content, literally the value, so that if you’re going to create an asset, why wouldn’t you want to get more use out of it after…?

Elise Orlowski:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Sustainable content.

Angel Micarelli:

Sustainable content. I love that.

Elise Orlowski:

You can steal that.

Angel Micarelli:

And it’s clicked. I don’t know why we needed a pandemic to make us realize that.

Tripp Underwood:

That having a video that gets watched more than once may have some value since you’re paying the same amount of money for it.

Elise Orlowski:

Right. Right.

Angel Micarelli:

Exactly. I don’t know if it was worth the price we paid, but we’re here.

Elise Orlowski:

Yeah.

Angel Micarelli:

But as you say, it’s really shown everyone that, “Wow, you’re already creating this content that is built for online viewing. So, keep it going.”

Elise Orlowski:

Mm.

Angel Micarelli:

And you’re putting in this effort with a little strategy at the beginning. You can see how it could be used in more of a campaign format following the event.

Tripp Underwood:

And to your point, that the value of having somebody like Elise, who is a content creator and a visual medium, but informed by strategies, just thinking about it is already leaps and bounds of where you’d be if she just started the video and had to retroactively include someone.

Elise Orlowski:

But yeah, now we got to incorporate this.

Tripp Underwood:

Yeah, exactly.

Elise Orlowski:

It’s a means to start, not to backtrack onto.

Tripp Underwood:

Right. I love the idea of having that kind of thinking at the table at the very beginning, either if it’s from you or you working with somebody on Angel and my team to do it. I think it’s just a much more in informed approach that saves you the dust ups later, which is what we’re looking to do.

Elise Orlowski:

A hundred percent. I think my other question is, so I feel like a lot of clients come to us and sometimes they don’t have time for that strategic phase. It’s a little bit down and dirty. We need to make this campaign or we need to do whatever, which is our industry as well. It happens all the time. Sometimes you don’t have that runway.

Angel Micarelli:

Right.

Elise Orlowski:

But what would your advice be to clients or people that need to incorporate a strategic approach, but maybe don’t have as much time to really create it beforehand? What are some tools that you would suggest?

Angel Micarelli:

That there are internal resources you can tap into and doesn’t take long. So yes, if you’re going to do a major global campaign, should you be doing research with your audience? Should you be doing A/B testing, et cetera, et cetera? Of course you should do that because that’s the right way. If you don’t have time, tap into your sales people and just say, “Okay, we’re trying to reach these customers. Quick, give me some of your impressions on what’s going on.” Talk to your marketers, talk to your writers and your designers. Just say, “What are you seeing in the market with our customers?” Doesn’t take a long time, but getting perspective, that’s what strategy is, right?

Elise Orlowski:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Angel Micarelli:

It’s perspective, and as much as you can get will only make the work better.

Tripp Underwood:

And what a great way to build comradery in your own organization.

Elise Orlowski:

Yeah.

Tripp Underwood:

Too often, we maybe not don’t value people is not the right word, but just that idea of somebody sending you an email or coming by your desk and saying, “I’d love to pick your brain about this.” That just kind of makes you feel good. It makes the work better. And it kind of just pushes everything in the right direction.

Elise Orlowski:

And everyone has such a unique perspective…

Tripp Underwood:

Yeah.

Angel Micarelli:

Yeah.

Elise Orlowski:

… of what’s going on. Everyone taps into different parts of the market, different parts of their perception.

Tripp Underwood:

Yeah.

Elise Orlowski:

So, it ultimately makes for a more wholesome strategy as well.

Angel Micarelli:

Right.

Tripp Underwood:

Huge return on investment for a very small effort on the client side. Yeah.

Elise Orlowski:

Exactly.

Tripp Underwood:

I think that’s great advice. Great advice. Well, that’s about all the time we have…

Angel Micarelli:

All right.

Tripp Underwood:

… because strategy has taught me time is money, we have to keep things tight. And I think we’ve…

Elise Orlowski:

A strategic timing.

Tripp Underwood:

I think we’ve gone through the who, the what, the where, the why, and the how…

Elise Orlowski:

Yeah.

Tripp Underwood:

… perfectly, and I want to end on a good note. So Angel, thank you so much for joining us…

Elise Orlowski:

Yes, thank you.

Angel Micarelli:

Thank you for having me.

Tripp Underwood:

… and offering us your insight and perspectives. And thank you so much for joining us for another episode of Pivot Points.

 

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