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41 | Angel Micarelli, Cramer: Atomizing Content to Drive Attendee Experience

  • March 25, 2021
  • 31:10

Angel Micarelli, (SVP Strategy & Content, Cramer) opens up about her passion for helping clients realize their event vision through creative messaging and integrated multi-channel marketing.

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Top Takeaways

1

CONTENT IS THE ROOT OF DRIVING ENGAGEMENT: “So often the engagement conversation starts with people going right to technology. Let's do a poll. What app are we going to use? Technology is really useful, but it's not what drives engagement. Engagement is being involved. If you think about it, when you watch a movie you're engaged, you're not building with an app, you're not doing a poll. You're engaged because you're involved. It is entertaining. It is interesting. So that's where we have to start. You have to focus on the content.”

2

ATOMIZING EVENTS AND CONTENT FOR MAXIMUM EFFECT: “It's taking one hero asset, one piece of content and then blowing it up. So for example, this podcast, we could take the whole podcast. That's the hero asset. We could take sound bites from it. We could take video clips, we could transcribe it. We could take quotes from the transcription and put them on Twitter. So it's taking one asset and optimizing it. And then you're getting a lot more ROI on whatever creative you're doing at the same time. I never liked to look at a piece of content as a standalone. I like to think of how can we use it to its maximum effect...Instead of the event being one moment in time, it should be part of a communications continuum.”

3

THE NEW VIRTUAL AND HYBRID EVENTS TEAM: “One thing that I have come to appreciate is the need for a broadcast team. So, when you're doing a virtual event, if you want it to be beyond a Zoom call beyond a Webex, if you want it to be something entertaining and engaging, it's really a TV show. At the same time, we do a lot of speaker coaching. That's going to become even more important. We're not expecting people to be actors, but if you're in the virtual realm, again, you're a TV personality, and you have to be able to communicate for that medium, which is different than being on stage. So, having people on the team who can coach performances is another addition that we hadn't seen before.”

ABOUT Angel Micarelli

Angel Micarelli is an experienced writer who has leveraged her passion for storytelling in marketing and events. After graduating from Harvard, Angel went on to help brands tell their stories and connect with their audiences through carefully crafted messaging.

As the Senior Vice President of Strategy and Content at Cramer, Angel helps their clients realize their vision through marketing and events. With over 20 years of experience, she offers clients the unique talent of conveying complex products and technologies with clarity and creativity. Her track record of successful integrated branding and multi-channel marketing programs includes working with industry leaders such as Siemens Healthineers, Fidelity, ADP, UPS, and IBM.

Episode Transcript

BRANDON:
Hello, and welcome back to In-Person, brought to you by Bizzabo. In case you and I haven't already met, I'm Brandon Rafalson. And in each episode of In-Person, we explore the world's most staring events, and the people who make them happen. From virtual and hybrid events, to content campaigns and video, Cramer is a leading events in content marketing agency. Our guest today holds a unique role at the intersection of these two worlds. As an experienced communications leader, Angel Micarelli offers clients the unique talent of conveying complex products and technologies with clarity and creativity. Her track record of successful integrated branding and multi-channel marketing programs, includes working with industry leaders, such as Siemens Healthineers, Fidelity, ADP, UPS, and IBM.

BRANDON:
Prior to joining Cramer, Angel's tenure at Seidler Bernstein allowed her to work exclusively with healthcare and life technology clients to turn business goals into actionable campaigns, skillfully moving from strategy, to execution, to create award-winning programs. Angel was also Vice President at AECOM Healthcare, a full-service marketing communications agency.

BRANDON:
In this episode, we examine the future of events through the lens of content. Angel shares why it's essential to think about event programs with the why in mind, in a model for figuring that out. She also shares her thoughts on aggregating and atomizing event content as part of larger marketing programs, what the hybrid future of events spells out for how brands engage their audiences, and the skill sets needed for the events of tomorrow. Let's get to it.

BRANDON:
I am curious, you have a background in writing. Could you share a little bit more about how you found that passion in writing, and whether that was maybe at a younger age, like reading and writing, or through university finding something that peaked your interest?

ANGEL:
Well, I was always a big reader, but really didn't start writing until I went to college. And a lot of people assumed that I was an English major, but I actually have a degree in history. What that discipline taught me was to think critically, and to take a position, and to make my case in a really compelling way, which is a lot like what we do with clients now, so in a way the journey from being a history major to working in marketing makes a little sense. Then I just absolutely fell in love with the power of words, and honestly appreciate having to do it a business context. Because, not saying fiction is easy by any means, but when you have to make a message about a piece of air quality equipment sound great and get the customers to pull on their heart string, that's a writing challenge.

BRANDON:
Yes, it is. And, you're preaching to the choir for sure. I have a background in history myself. American studies, but ended up parlaying that into a career in marketing. And I know many folks in the world of events might start off in disciplines that aren't exactly aligned with putting on unforgettable experiences.

ANGEL:
Absolutely, which is so often when I see young people going to college and they're fretting about what they're going to major in, I definitely fall in the camp of just do what you love. Honestly, you'll find your path.

BRANDON:
I love it. So, you mentioned how this background in writing can make a task of making the audience really care about the nuts and bolts of air filters, a lot more successful. Are there other ways that you found this background, this passion in writing, helps you and creating marketing programs today?

ANGEL:
Yes. Because, writing is messaging. And, the message is really what drives marketing. It's been a long time since writers and designers were separated at agencies, which is a wonderful thing. But even still, there have been times in my career where the look or the design of something really was the lead, and that's backwards. You have to know what you're saying, why you're saying it, which is the strategy part, before you can really think about what it looks like. Now, when it all comes together, that's the magic. But the words and the message really matter.

BRANDON:
So, now in your current role of Senior Vice President of Strategy and Content at Cramer, it's something that is, I imagine, very much top of mind for you and your day-to-day. Could you share with us a little bit more about how this focus on the messaging and on what matters factors into your current role at Cramer?

ANGEL:
I'll say something about my title first, because it's actually unusual to be Head of Strategy and Content. But, I honestly can't think of a better way to show that everything that we do is based in the business purpose. It's all business-driven, that content can't live without strategy, strategy is just words on a page without the content, so it's a really terrific marriage. We apply that to everything we do at Cramer. Now, at Cramer, as you know, we're an event and content marketing agency, so we do a whole spectrum of communications for clients.

ANGEL:
But no matter what we do, we have a methodology that we use. We call it PRISM, which stands for purpose, relevance, identity, strategy, and message. And it's something we go through, it's an exercise we go through, whether we're designing an attendee journey, or developing a marketing campaign for a product launch, we go through that so we understand why does this exist in the universe? Why does this event, why is it happening? Why is this product existing? What's its relevance to the audience? What makes it special? So that's the identity. And from there, we have all that then we can create a strategy. What's our go-forward plan? What's our focus? And then, the message. And from there, with that foundation, you can make anything.

BRANDON:
That seems extremely useful to have a framework like that. And so was PRISM coined within the Cramer organization?

ANGEL:
It is. Who doesn't love a good acronym? But it really has proven very flexible and very useful, as I said, no matter what kind of initiative, whether we're doing a rebrand, or we're doing a national sales meeting.

BRANDON:
So right now, in your role as the SVP of Strategy and Content, you're working with different teams, I imagine, at Cramer to go through this PRISM process, to bring to life, as you said, either there might be some content initiatives or event initiatives where content is front and center.

ANGEL:
Absolutely. The great thing is all my colleagues have bought into that idea, have bought into the idea that you need to have a foundation and appreciate it. There was a time when the creative brief was like, "Ah, this is Strategy trying to tell us Creatives what to do." I know, because I'm on that side as a writer. But it really is actually liberating to know what you're creating for, what you're creating to, why you're doing this.

BRANDON:
I bet. And I imagine, in conversations with other folks in the world of events on this show and elsewhere, it's something that's really come up time and time-

BRANDON:
... on the world of events on this show and elsewhere, something that's really come up time and time again is trying to really solicit the why from internal stakeholders. If an event needs to be planned internally, externally, why? What are you looking to do with it? Something that is, I guess, really relevant to this conversation today, but events are so centered on content. It's about the community, it's about the connections and the conversations that happen there, but the content is the catalyst for it.

ANGEL:
You are just on the same page as I am. It's absolutely true and it's even more relevant in the virtual world, with virtual events because when we are all together in a physical place that has its own energy, that has its own draw. If you're at a live conference, if you're not crazy about what's going on on the main stage, you can leave and you'll bump into somebody at the coffee line and have a conversation and that's terrific. We don't have that in virtual events. What we're putting there has to be relevant, it has to be entertaining and it's been a challenge, but I think once people stop and really think about what they're putting out there and how high quality it needs to be, the bar gets raised and we all start thinking that way.

BRANDON:
For sure. I think this kind of speaks to a larger point around engagement, especially in this virtual medium. Like you said, we don't have those opportunities. At least now we don't really have those analogs to those opportunities to bump into somebody in the coffee line. Obviously, putting in a ton of thought into those experiences, whether they're going to be live or on demand is key, but at the end of the day right now a lot of organizers are still really struggling to find ways to engage their audiences. Are there things that you have found to be successful in some of the programs that you've worked on or in some of the approaches or strategies that you've put together with your team?

ANGEL:
This is a subject I'm very, very passionate about. I am glad you asked. So often the engagement conversation starts with people going right to technology. Let's do a poll. What app are we going to use? That is absolutely part of it. Technology is really useful, but it's not what drives engagement. You need to step back and break it down and think, okay, what is engagement?

ANGEL:
Engagement is being involved. Sometimes that's physically, emotionally, intellectually, all of the above and that sounds pretty hard to pull off virtually, but if you think about it, when you watch a movie you're engaged. You're not building with an app, you're not doing a poll, you're engaged because you're involved. It is entertaining. It is interesting. That's where we have to start. We have to focus on the content. We have to focus on the people, both the audience and what we feel that they need to hear and want to hear. Also, how it's delivered because that's a whole different thing, to do a keynote virtually as opposed to on the stage and then we bring in technology and we say, okay, this is what we want to accomplish. What's the best way to do it? Ah, you know, a poll. That would really be great. That's how we look at technology. It's essential. Absolutely essential, but it's not the place to start.

BRANDON:
That's such a great point. It's essential. It is the infrastructure. It's the venue for so many of these virtual events and moving forward in the future will be equally important with hybrid events that have virtual components, but it's a means to the end and it's not the end goal, it's just how we get there. You mentioned this idea for instance of polls being one way that we might be able to satisfy a need or engage with an audience, but it depends on going through the pre-work and thinking, what is the best way to engage with an audience? Are there other approaches that you found to be successful or that you're considering for the future when it comes to engagement?

ANGEL:
Yes. On the subject of technology, there are so many advances now it's amazing how quickly things have evolved. As far as tools that most folks are very familiar with right now, there is the humble chat option on platforms. We have seen speakers use it to such good effect. It does take some skill to get the audience involved with the chat and being able to respond immediately, but once you get the rhythm of it and the hang of it, it's terrific because people truly do feel involved because they see the reaction right away and then they say, oh, okay, this is live. Now I'm involved. That's where the engagement goes.

ANGEL:
Some other things that are interesting, networking for example. Really impossible to pull off virtually, let's just all admit that, at least in the way we used to do it. We talk now about, it's not networking, it's matchmaking. If we can purposefully put people together and then give them the opportunity during the event to maybe watch something together on the side, just like a watch party and be able to share their own comments with each other. That's a way to engage. It's a good way to use technology. We're looking at lots of different ways to aid, but not be intrusive. Again, the whole technology thing, you don't ever want it to be a burden. You want it to amplify what you're trying to accomplish.

BRANDON:
I think one thing that sticks out from what you just mentioned is very much a reframing of a lot of ways that we've traditionally approached events. From the fact that the speaker, I mean maybe at some really lively conferences there's an interplay between the speaker and the audience a little bit more, but when it comes to live sessions that are virtual, it almost becomes table stakes to have that, almost. I mean, I mentioned this from our perspective. Over here at Bizzabo we've posted two flagship virtual summits and they both had a lot of registrant's and attendees and overall folks left feeling like they learned something, but what we heard was we really want to interact more with the speakers. With our next virtual event, which will by the time this episode airs will have already happened, that's an approach that we are really trying to take is, great. Let's have lots of opportunities for attendees to connect and interact with the speakers.

ANGEL:
What's so interesting about that is at a live event, they don't assume they can do that. If you have a big name person up there, most attendees don't assume they can interact with them, but there's an intimacy that happens on the screen that's really different and it breaks down a barrier because you're so close. Trevor Noah may be there, but he's like one foot away from me. I think it opens that door to the audience saying, yes, I can be a part of this and I want to be.

BRANDON:
Yeah, it's this total reframing of that speaker attendee interaction and that's just one part of it. The other one that you mentioned is this idea of reframing networking and how folks connect. It's not networking, it's matchmaking now, which I think is a really interesting way of thinking about it.

BRANDON:
One other thing, I guess, in terms of content, as we're talking about this, I know you have mentioned in the past this idea of atomizing content. Could you share a little bit more about what that means?

ANGEL:
Yes, this is a term that's been around for a while. It was first coined when content marketing became a thing, which was probably about 15 years ago. It's very simple idea. It's taking one hero asset, one piece of content, and then blowing it out. So, for example, this podcast. We could take the whole podcast, that's the hero asset. We could take sound bites from it. We could take video clips. We could transcribe it. We could take quotes from the transcription and put them on Twitter. So, it's taking one asset and optimizing it. So, atomized to optimize because who doesn't like a good rhyme there? And then, you're getting a lot of more ROI on whatever creative you're doing. At the same time, you can also take a lot of smaller pieces and then aggregate them. So, it's kind of the opposite of atomizing. You can take a bunch of blog posts, put them together in an ebook with an introduction that ties them together. I never like to look at content or a piece of content as a standalone. I like to think of how can we use it to its maximum effect.

BRANDON:
It seems especially relevant now that so much of virtual events, so many of the sessions are recorded and they're living on afterwards. I mean that was happening with some live events in the past, but it's pretty much the norm now.

ANGEL:
It's another exciting thing about what's going on is that because of that it's finally dawned on most everyone that you should keep the conversation going because we have this platform, people they're normalized to being on the virtual platform. So, instead of the event being one moment in time, it should be part of a communications continuum. And one of the ways you continue the conversation is to keep giving content and giving people a reason to come back and interact with your brand. And then, once they're doing that, you can create a community around the content and extend that. And that can extend to in real life. And so the possibilities are huge. And the idea now that you'd have an event that was one or two days, and then that's it until next year, I don't think anybody should be thinking that way.

BRANDON:
What's a piece of advice that you would give to other content specialist or strategists who are working hand in hand with their colleagues on the design and production side of events?

ANGEL:
Two things I would say, one is to the content producer, whether it's a writer or a writer-designer team, understand the technology. So, find out from that event producer, what are the possibilities? What are the limitations? Because it's not going to do any good to come up with this terrific presentation that isn't supported by the platform or supported by whatever technology is being used. And work with the event producer because at the end of the day it's such a marriage of the creative of the substance of the content and the actual production and the technology. The other thing would be to explore different ways to present the content so it's not just still images. It's not just a PowerPoint presentation. Maybe it's a short video. Maybe it's putting two speakers on together to banter back and forth, panels, whatever it might be. Think about the format. Think about how it fits into the event production. And then how do we bring the content and creative in to bring it all together?

BRANDON:
I'd be interested to hear your perspectives a little bit more about we understand now how virtually maybe there may be a cadence of sharing content with somebody before the event starts and leading up to it, the event itself, and then afterwards, kind of building that community. How do you imagine that might look and what comes next when we start having these in-person elements combined with these virtual elements?

ANGEL:
Well, that is the big question right now, isn't it? What's hybrid going to look like? I'm glad that you said that the virtual will continue because we firmly believe that, absolutely. Even when face-to-face comes back, it will continue. So, what does that look like? There's again, opportunities. So when we're back with live events, there's opportunities to create unique content that you couldn't anywhere else. And then, that content gets translated into the virtual community, bringing the virtual community into the face-to-face. That's going to be a very important piece of hybrid moving along. How can we make the virtual audience feel a part of the onsite? How do we connect the onsite audience to the virtual at points? I think with hybrid, we do need to think of it as really three experiences: it's the experience you have on-site, it's experience you have online, and then there are the places where they will intercept. And I think when we have spots during an event where the online audience and the in-person audience feel connected, that's going to be a huge win and that's going to be what defines a great hybrid event.

BRANDON:
That's a great point of really the audiences. It's tempting to think about hybrid as just streaming those in-person experiences. And that's what was done in the past. And I think many folks in industry have probably, a lot of folks listening to the show, are starting to think that's not the way to go moving forward. It poses some questions about how and what that might look like to both create meaningful experiences for in-person and virtual audiences. And to also afford them an opportunity to connect.

ANGEL:
The other factor that will add interest is for events that charge, what will they charge for the virtual as opposed to being in person? What will they offer the audience on-site that they can't get online, but what kind of experience are you getting online that will make it worth someone's time to tune in? This is where the attendee journey and mapping out the attendee journey is just going to be so critical. We need to know at every step of the way where we're engaging the audience, how we're engaging them, and do that from registration all the way through the event and then beyond.

BRANDON:
It's a total re-imagining of how we think about events and the processes for them. The question for you is how do you see this reshaping the teams that are producing events? Any thoughts on how that might change the skills or the personnel that event teams are bringing on?

ANGEL:
That's such an interesting question. One thing that I have come to appreciate is the need for a broadcast team. So, when you're doing a virtual event, if you want it to be beyond a Zoom call beyond a Webex, if you want it to be something entertaining and engaging, it's really a TV show. And so at Cramer, we have a broadcast studio and what I've seen is the engineering behind it, the technical direction, all those things are critical in order to-

ANGEL:
-ction, all those things are critical in order to bring the vision of the event to life. Thinking more like a broadcast, when you're thinking virtual events, changes the dynamic of who you need on the team. At the same time, we do a lot of speaker coaching. That's going to become even more important. We're not expecting people to be actors, but if you're in the virtual realm, again, you're a TV personality, and you have to be able to communicate in that way for that medium, which is different than being on stage. We've had folks who were terrific in a ballroom, but that's because they're feeding off that energy of the crowd, and then they kind of fall flat when they're on screen. So, having people on the team who can coach performances is another addition that we hadn't seen before.

BRANDON:
Oh goodness. Yes. I mean, before it was, "Here's where you're going to walk on stage, here's your mic, you know, here's your cue time" and all of that. And there might be some coaching here or there, but there's also something about just how easy it is to stage virtual events these days and how many of them we're seeing. But these events aren't always receiving that same level of treatment or preparedness when it comes to the sessions.

ANGEL:
It always reminds me of when PowerPoint came out and suddenly everybody was a designer because you could put in a little clip art or anything, but take one of those and compare it to one that is professionally designed, you say, "Oh, okay, there is a difference." So just because you can do it doesn't mean you're doing it well.

BRANDON:
We're recording this episode in March, which is Women's History Month. You know, on LinkedIn and internally at our respective organizations, it's really a time to reflect and celebrate women in the workplace. I'm interested to hear from your perspective, how have things changed throughout your career? And are there any specific observations or changes that come to mind?

ANGEL:
I would say that the biggest change for me is seeing the integration of family into work life. I know it varies from company to company and I happen to work at a very, very human friendly, I'm not even going to say family-friendly, human-friendly company. But things have really changed. Years ago, I was working at a company where there was a woman who wouldn't put pictures of her kids on her desk. When my son was born, I remember feeling guilty when I had to leave to pick him up at daycare and that's wrong. That is just wrong. And that's not the way I'm seeing it today. I'm seeing families acknowledged and celebrated, and dads just as much as moms talking about their kids, being involved, and leaving a meeting to go pick them up. And that's good for everybody. So that is one change that I'm so happy to have seen.

BRANDON:
Amazing. Very cool to hear about the human-friendly environments over at Cramer. If you could give an earlier version of yourself, one piece of advice, what would it be and why?

ANGEL:
It would be this, when you don't get a job, don't worry about it. Just think of it this way, try to learn anything you can from the experience. It was someone else's time for that job. And there was something else out there for you. Because you know, when I was in my twenties and I would be applying for jobs and I didn't get it, I would just be so crushed, so crushed. But it always worked out because the job I did get was actually the perfect job for me at that time and on and on. So just get out there, keep trying, don't get discouraged if you don't get it, celebrate it when you do, and just keep positive and keep moving forward.

BRANDON:
That's so important to hear. Rejection's hard, especially when it's like, it's a job that you're really excited for it. You envision yourself in that career and in that role, it's hard.

ANGEL:
It is so true. Oh my gosh, it is so true. Which I don't know whether it's right or not, but at the time I would take comfort in the idea that, "Okay, maybe that person wasn't better than I was for the job, but it was their time for it and they needed it in their life. So I'm good. And I'll get the next one that's right for me."

BRANDON:
Final question I have for you, Angel is, who's someone who you look up to either in events, in writing, in marketing or business in general?

ANGEL:
Well, I have to say my mentor, Dr. Sandra Buford, who was my boss many years ago. She is the one who really started to teach me about finding my voice at work. I don't have to be the loudest one, I just have to be confident in what I'm saying. Because obviously I'm not a very aggressive-sounding person, but she really helped me find my voice. She helped me find balance in my work and my life. She's got her Ph.D. in Organizational Developments, so I've learned a lot about how companies work and how people interact from her and have applied that throughout my career. So shout out to Dr. Buford.

BRANDON:
Thank you so much, Dr. Buford, and thank you Angel. It's been great chatting with you. If our listeners want to keep up with Cramer and all the work that you're doing there, how can they do so?

ANGEL:
They can go to cramer.com. That's Cramer with a C, C-R-A-M-E-R. We have a lot of cool videos up there, a new broadcast studio, lots of content, yay. And some interesting blogs and case studies and eBooks. So, it's definitely worth spending some time on the site.

BRANDON:
Thank you, Angel.

ANGEL:
Thank you, Brandon. So nice to talk too.

BRANDON:
A huge thanks to Angel for joining us and thank you all for listening. That's it for this one. If you're interested in checking out the audience-centric events that I alluded to in the show, you can find that event at events.bizzabo.com/ reimagine-experience. Or, if you type in "Re-imagine Experience Bizzabo" into Google, well, that will do the trick too. In-Person is a production of Bizzabo. This episode was co-produced by Rachel Rappaport and edited by Brian Pake. If you like In-Person, please do all the things that podcasts tell you to do, subscribe, rate, review, and share the show with your colleagues and friends. If you'd like to share some feedback with us, please drop us a line at in-person@bizzabo.com. You can also find full transcripts of the show along with key takeaways at in-personpodcast.com. Until next time, I'm Brandon Rafalson, and this has been In-Person.