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45 | Sean Doyle, Pinterest: Designing Inclusive Experiences and Driving Culture Through Internal Events

  • May 19, 2021
  • 45:20

Sean Doyle (Experiential Marketing Lead, Pinterest) gives us an exclusive into Pinterest Presents and Knit Con and discussed the importance of inclusivity and company culture.

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Top Takeaways

1

ACCESSIBILITY AND INCLUSIVITY AT EVENTS: “We had a real focus on accessibility with this being a digital event. So we started with providing accessibility prompts during registration, asking if attendees had any kind of specific accessibility accommodations. And we used accessibility color palettes in our design to make sure that everyone could have the same experience throughout our creative. And then we used human-generated captions across all content of which there were 127 sessions and we embedded local sign language interpretation across as much of the content as possible.”

2

CREATING HIGHLY ENGAGED AUDIENCES: "Community is super important for our creators and we run a whole creator community for them, which is part of our business site where people can create a profile, ask questions on the boards, meet each other, and learn from each other. Our events play a big part of that too. And the discussion at our creator events is always very active in the chat with people sharing tips and following each other and connecting. It's not simply about listening to everything that we have to say.”

3

INTERNAL EVENTS AS A CULTURE-DRIVER: Knit Con is Pinterest's largest and most important employee event of the year. It involves Pinterest employees gathering together to inspire each other with classes like building a mechanical keyboard or practicing jiu-jitsu, or crafting cocktail bitters. And the goal ultimately is for employees to leave these classes with a bit more knowledge on a certain topic, and have the opportunity for them to kind of more deeply connect with our company mission, which is to bring everyone the inspiration to create a life they love.”

ABOUT Sean Doyle

Sean Doyle is an experiential event marketer who has leveraged his passion for events to tell brand stories and amplify their messages. Since graduating from the Cannes Lions School, Sean has worked in multiple different creative capacities and has helped many clients and companies successfully connect with their audiences through event marketing.

As the Experiential Marketing Lead at Pinterest in Europe, Sean creates live events and experiential marketing campaigns that engage their community of advertisers and creators. With over 30 years of experience, he consistently finds creative ways to tell the Pinterest brand story and drive comprehension of how Pinterest inspires hundreds of millions of people to build the lives they love.

Episode Transcript

Rachel Rappaport:

Hello, and welcome back to In-Person, brought to you by Bizzabo. In case we haven't already met, I'm Rachel Rappaport. And in each episode of In-Person, we explore the world's most daring events, and the people who make them happen.

 

Rachel Rappaport:

Today we’re chatting with Sean Doyle, the Experiential Marketing Lead at Pinterest Europe. You might have heard of them before, Pinterest is a social media platform, visual search engine, and go-to destination for inspiration. 

 

Rachel Rappaport:

Sean is an experiential event marketer who has leveraged his passion for events to tell brand stories and amplify their messages. Sean has worked in multiple different creative capacities and with a background in agencies, he’s helped clients such as Slack, Facebook, PlayStation, and Jaguar successfully connect with their audiences through event marketing.

 

Rachel Rappaport:

Now, as the Experiential Marketing Lead at Pinterest, based in London, Sean creates live events and experiential marketing campaigns that engage their global community of advertisers, creators and consumers. He also wrote a chapter in the Event Professionals Handbook called ‘Work hard, play hard and be kind’ and he’s a mentor to up and coming event professionals in the UK, through the Elevate mentoring program.

 

Rachel Rappaport:

In this episode, we dive behind the scenes into Pinterest Presents, one of their flagship experiences and Knit Con, Pinterest’s annual internal event which fosters inspiration and creativity. We talk about the importance of accessibility and inclusivity in events and resources event planners can use to transform their events and reach a broader audience. Plus, we’re discussing how Pinterest nurtures their community of creators to create a highly engaged audience.

 

Rachel Rappaport:

Let's get to it. Here's Sean Doyle, and our host Brandon Rafalson.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Before we get into that first formal question, there is something I wanted to chat with you about Sean. And that is the fact that you contributed a chapter to The Event Professional's Handbook.

 

Sean Doyle:

That's right. I think he bought it, must've been like four or five years ago now, but it was actually a colleague of mine at the time, a guy called Kevin Jackson, who had spent a lot of years at Jack Morton and then GP Johnson. He'd come in to join our board at Clive, the agency I was at. And he had this idea to bring together a group of event professionals from agencies, brands, associations, venues, et cetera, to kind of create a collection of stories as such all to go into this book, which is called The Event Professional's Handbook, which is aimed at kind of aspiring event professionals and really kind of giving them information and stories about what they might need to be successful in the industry. So I contributed a chapter called Work Hard, Play Hard and be Kind, which was at the time a phrase, which was on this piece of art, which was above my desk. And I thought it really summed up the industry. So yeah, that was fun. It's a book that was available as a kind of hard copy, but also a Kindle or audiobook as well.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

That's so cool. I had no idea. When was it published?

 

Sean Doyle:

I think it must've been four years ago. Maybe five. Yeah. You can check it out on Amazon.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

I think that's a good segue to our first question here, which is, you've been in the creative and events world for most of your career. What initially sort of inspired you to pursue events?

 

Sean Doyle:

Yeah, I mean, it's interesting growing up. I can't say that I had even known much about the event industry or thought about it as a career as such, but I always loved writing and storytelling and also building things. And I got super excited by design too. So I guess I always thought I would kind of end up in some kind of creative role, but ultimately I think I thought that might be the media. I considered studying journalism, I thought about design, interior design, furniture design, but ultimately I decided to take a year out before college or what I thought was going to be a year out, should I say. So it was at the age of 18 I actually ended up landing this entry level sales role at a corporate hospitality company. And this business, they owned the rights to all of the boxes at the major stadiums and sporting events in the UK.

 

Sean Doyle:

And I was literally given a phone book essentially. And the role was to find people to buy these packages, to entertain their clients. And to be honest, it was a bit of a baptism of fire, because a playbook for success in this role was to really talk up the sporting fixture and like build a relationship with your clients by talking about their favorite sports or their team.

 

Sean Doyle:

But I think it's fair to say that my knowledge of sports was very limited and I also didn't have a huge interest in it either, but I did find some success because I actually found that I was able to get quite excited and also get other people excited about the idea of creating this kind of brand experience, these kind of special moments through these hospitality experiences for their clients. It was from there that I actually met the person who actually inspired me to pursue a career in events because the company had, aside from these kinds of hospitality packages that they provided, they had won this other bespoke contract to produce the major events for a big tech company and an automotive brand, as part of that project they needed to build this large semipermanent structure as they called it, which I later was ultimately a kind of phrase for describing a very expensive marquee.

 

Sean Doyle:

But they brought in event director from this top London agency to produce the program and build out this new bespoke side of the business. And this structure that they were building ultimately needed to hold 2000 people for a very glamorous awards dinner. It also needed to be versatile enough to do conferences and also host like a number of other kinds of events throughout the week. And I was quite excited by this opportunity. So alongside my role in selling these hospitality packages, I put my hand up to volunteer to kind of work on the production. I remember being really fascinated by everything I was learning during that process around production and even food and drink and entertainment. Vicky Hartley, who was the person I mentioned, she had just such an incredible vision. And I really enjoyed learning from her.

 

Sean Doyle:

And the onsite experience of the build it was a great memory. I remember it being extremely intense. We all remember those kind of onsite days. There wasn't that long ago, very long days with multiple vendors coming in and out and what that time felt like hundreds of different event crew all over the place.

 

Sean Doyle:

But Vicky was kind of in her element, essentially, overseeing all of this. And it was a really well oiled machine that I was completely in awe of, but ultimately it was the opening night of this program where things really kind of clicked for me, just seeing the guests arrive, who the staff and the clients of this brand who were hosting the event. Just kind of seeing their face when they realized that this world had been built for them, right. This whole experience had been put on for them. And that was just a really special moment. And actually, I still love that about creating experiences is kind of seeing that moment when all of your work is unveiled to the world and the world being your guests.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

It sounds like quite a journey from initially taking on this sales role and just kind of trial by fire, being thrown at it, having to sell boxes and tickets for sports, that it was a subject area that you weren't as familiar with, but this opportunity opened up for you to really be involved in curating and designing this experience. Sounds like you had a great leader guiding you throughout the process?

 

Sean Doyle:

100%. Yeah. And I mean, I think, it just goes to show that sometimes you just need to put yourself out there and put your hands up to try new things. And it certainly worked out for me. I was really inspired by the work that Vicky was doing. I haven't looked back kind of built a career in this industry and really love what I do.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

You spent over 15 years at experiential agencies before you eventually ended up at Pinterest. So how did that sort of experience designing this 2000 person event then sort of set you up on a trajectory to work with agencies and what was that like designing all of these sorts of experiences for a living?

 

Sean Doyle:

The experience of that event was amazing, but ultimately the company did decide to kind of really remain that focus on this more kind of packaged hospitality thing that they had been doing for years. So I had realized I had a passion for this more kind of creative and bespoke side of events. So I did my research and quickly realized that agency life would be a great way for me to be able to kind of learn the ropes and work my way up. And I remember reading lots of stories about all of the amazing venues and productions and experiences that were happening in London. And also I could get a glimpse, a little bit of what agency culture was like, and it sounded like such kind of fun and vibrant and creative world. So ultimately I decided to move to London and pursue that.

 

Sean Doyle:

And I landed a role, which was a kind of hybrid of operations and account management at this super small agency called Silverleaf Productions. And I was employee number four. So as you can imagine in like a small business, you end up really getting involved in everything. And it was super fast paced. I think I spoke to my first client on day two, and then with the help of my colleague, we actually met this client face-to-face to view venues on day four. And by the end of the following week, we had already confirmed this event, which was an annual kind of client entertainment event for Morgan Stanley. And it took place at this really beautiful historic venue called The Painted Hall, which is part of the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich and it is just one of the most beautiful places. I think it's known as Britain's answer to the Sistine Chapel. I always recommend people go to view it when they come to London. It's a great day out in Greenwich itself is also beautiful.

 

Sean Doyle:

I remember distinctly thinking to myself that if I was going to be successful in this industry, I needed to really prove that I was going to be of value to my clients. And they were ultimately the experts in their own businesses and their brands, but I could become an expert in all of the things they didn't know. So from there on, I didn't really look back. I was out at industry events probably four nights a week, every week, I think for multiple years. And the first few years of my career for sure, I was meeting everyone I could and trying to get to know everything about the industry. Like know every single venue who were the great vendors and really have my finger on the pulse of the industry.

 

Sean Doyle:

And to be honest, I had a great time doing that, of course, and I met some amazing people, but ultimately it did serve me really well because I was able to develop some great clients and do some really cool things. But the agency remained relatively small and I was hungry to continue to learn and do bigger productions and I also wanted to get a bit of international experience too. So that's when moved on to my next agency, which is the place where I'd spent the last 11 years before coming to Pinterest. And funny enough, it was after being approached by their agency boss at the time someone called Vicky Hartley, who you might remember me mentioning a moment ago. So I started there as an account manager and I went on to run all of creative services. We rebranded the agency twice. I launched new divisions and new offices.

 

Sean Doyle:

And in the end I was on the boards and I oversaw a team of around 50, which were kind of inside the agency and also embedded within our clients internationally as well. And you asked how I would describe it and I guess there's just like so many terms.

 

Sean Doyle:

It was intense, fun, eye-opening, exhausting at times, but like ultimately so, so rewarding. It was all of those things and so much more. I think I learned so much and I got to experience so much. I got to work with incredibly talented people from colleagues to clients. I got to work on everything from car launches to fashion shows, to international incentive programs and experiential stunts. I literally got to travel the world to do what I love. We produce events in over 35 countries. We launched products, we engaged clients, motivated workforces. And ultimately I got to learn how to use events and experiential as a marketing tactic to really have a great effect on the bottom line for a business. Ultimately, I just have so many great memories from agency life, and I think it's an incredible way for anyone looking to get into the industry to kind of cut their teeth.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

It definitely sounds like quite a roller coaster from your first week at Silverleaf to working with Clive afterwards?

 

Sean Doyle:

For sure it was a journey. Yeah.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

So a ton of experience working on all sorts of different types of events, how would you say that this experience working on the agency side prepared you for the work that you've been doing at Pinterest? And what are some of those, I guess, key learnings or takeaways that you were bringing with you to Pinterest?

 

Sean Doyle:

Like I said, I think working in an agency, you just get the opportunity to cover such a breadth of experience. And often I think when you work for one particular business, you're focused on a core audience. So maybe it's external customers, but even if you drill down further, that might be B2B or specifically B2C.

 

Sean Doyle:

And even if you do touch both of those audiences, you're probably not dealing with your kind of internal audience as well. I love the fact that I've been able to work across all of those audiences plus so many different industries and I can take different learnings from each of those when I bring the Pinterest brands to life, whether that's on stage or IRL or now virtually. I think the other thing I'd say is I learned the importance of investing the time to bring your vendors in, really bring them in, in particularly your agency. So briefing them properly, onboarding them, immersing them in your team and your culture. I think we often hear from people that a good agency is an extension of your team and that's true, but I really believe that you have to invest the time in those relationships. And once you do, then that's when the results really pay off.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

So everything from building a team to thinking about different ways of engaging different audiences, I think it all kind of comes to a head when we talk about this recent flagship event that was produced by the Pinterest team, Pinterest Presents. This was a global virtual summit for advertisers, really a huge big foray into the world of virtual and broadening the audience of Pinterest. Can you walk us through, what was that process like for first deciding on the event and then planning such a large scale virtual event?

 

Sean Doyle:

As you know Pinterest Presents took place just recently in March and it was our first ever global advertisers summit. And we were promising a glimpse into the future from the place where people go to plan their futures, right? So we decided to host the event because engagement on Pinterest has been at an all time high with searches and saves up 60% and 40% respectively last year.

 

Sean Doyle:

This along with the growing reputation as a place for people to come and discover new products and to shop meant that there was a lot of appetite from advertisers who were keen to understand more about the opportunity for them on Pinterest. So we decided to create a moment that brought together our latest audience insights, exciting ad product news and shopping announcements with latest customer success stories and outside thought leadership too. We really wanted to kind of wrap this up in an entertaining and inspiring way that immersed our business audiences in our vision for the future of advertising.

 

Sean Doyle:

So our goal was to create something that was global in scale, but really local in flavor. In total, we broadcast eight versions of the show in three languages with each show being made up of... Yeah, it was part sprint part marathon, I think that's fair to say. 60% of the content in each show was local thought leadership. And then that was coupled with 40% of global content, which included, messages from our leadership and also some very exciting celebrities.

 

Sean Doyle:

We kicked off in Australia and New Zealand and then moved across to Europe and finally wrapped the day in the US, Canada 18 hours later. So it was a full on day that's for sure. But the digital data of the event really enabled us to kind of open up this event to a much wider audience. And we had over 30,000 advertisers registered to attend. When else could we get our CEO and founder to be able to individually address customers in seven different countries or have our CMOs speaking three different languages to our audience in one day. That is the power of virtual events, they're right in front of you.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

No, that's a huge undertaking. And this combination of both local and global content, it sounds like you had some of that core content that was being distributed in different time zones, but then you were also finding ways to create content that was relevant for a specific time zone for an audience there?

 

Sean Doyle:

Yeah, that's right. I mean, the whole event was positioned and targeted for our kind of like top priority monetized markets. A big part of what we wanted to do was to make sure that customers in those markets understood that Pinterest was relevant to them. So it was important for us to talk to them about our local insights around their audience, and also bring in local thought leadership, whether that's customers or people from culture or the industry as well to kind of help us tell that story.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Wow. And this was packaged primarily in just a one stream that was opened up to different audiences at different times.

 

Sean Doyle:

That's right. Well, it was actually six different streams or eight different streams should I say because you could join the non-English speaking versions in either native language or also in English as well.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

One question that pops up is there's a sea of different virtual events out there right now. How did you and your team differentiate the Pinterest Presents experience to kind of stand out from it?

 

Sean Doyle:

Yeah. I mean, that's a great question as well. I think, like you say, there is totally a sea of these events that we could all be at for most of our days. Right. And we decided when we were creating this experience that ultimately our viewers were probably going to be like us, right. They're probably suffering from screen fatigue in some way.

 

Sean Doyle:

And we wanted to make sure that we were working extra hard to make sure that we got their attention. And with that in mind, we set out to create an experience that felt much more like a kind of highly produced TV show rather than a traditional event that happened to go digital. In fact, we actually banned the word webinar from our planning very early on so that we could make sure that our whole team and our agency were very much aligned with the creative vision for the show as we were recording it. And we then went on to your storytelling and animation and brought in some really exciting talent to craft our message. And the other great thing about creating it in this style was that we were able to produce a series of trailers for the event, right? So we were able to release these mini clips in a kind of cliffhanger style, which was really fun and got people excited and intrigued to tune in on the day.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

You already mentioned how they're not only speaking to different regions, but also bringing in different languages and really opening up the accessibility of the event to the audience in a number of different ways. I know this was generally an underlying theme for Pinterest Presents was accessibility and inclusivity. What were some other ways that this was front and center?

 

Sean Doyle:

For Pinterest we've often been described as one of the last positive corners of the internet, and it's not something that happens by accident keeping a platform with over 475 million people coming to every month as a inclusive and positive place. It takes hard work and deliberate action, but it's also super important for our users who come to be inspired. And often quite frankly, they need a break from the demands of filtered social feeds. And it makes a great space for our advertisers too who are increasingly aware of the effect of the environment in which they show up for their brands. So we've been building inclusive product features into the Pinterest experience for a number of years. We want to ensure that when users come to Pinterest, they can see ideas that represent them. And we want that same approach to come across in our brand experiences and our events too.

 

Sean Doyle:

So whenever we show up on a stage, whether that's participating in an industry event or hosting our own moment like Pinterest Presents, it's really important that we're creating an experience that's inclusive and accessible for as many people as possible. So we set out to ensure that our lineup of speakers and guests is of course, as diverse as the audiences that we serve. And we had a real focus on accessibility with this being a digital event. So we partnered with Sinéad Burke, who is a disability activist and founder of Tilting the Lens. She was one of our keynote speakers and she spoke to marketers about the importance of designing their products and their services to be more inclusive for everyone, with a focus on accessibility and just going beyond just representation in ad campaigns. And then during that relationship, we also started to work with her to consult on the event and the content to make sure that we were making Pinterest Presents as accessible as possible.

 

Sean Doyle:

So we started with providing accessibility prompts during registration, asking if attendees had any kind of specific accessibility accommodations. And we used accessibility color palettes in our design to make sure that everyone could have the same experience throughout our creative. And then we used human generated captions across all content of which there were 127 sessions and we embedded local sign language interpretation across as much of the content as possible. And then beyond the event, we also partnered with Sinéad to create a dedicated accessibility board on Pinterest, which was made available to marketers in the UK, Canada, and the US which was a kind of co-created board of resources and content where marketers could learn more about accessibility and diversity and being inspired to bring some of that to their own work.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

That's great to hear. I mean, it's a topic that we recently covered on one of the virtual events we held, diversity and inclusivity, especially the new opportunities that emerge in the virtual and hybrid space. And I remember some of the conversation from our audience at the time as they were looking for other resources that they could leverage to help guide the design of the events that they're producing. It seems like a couple of great examples here of bringing in a third-party consultant of consulting with DICE or some sort of governing organization that can provide guidance or a recommendation of how a current events is set up. These both seem like two valuable options.

 

Sean Doyle:

Yeah, 100%. And I definitely put my hands up I was no expert in this before we started doing it ourselves. We learned a lot along the way. And it's really important to bring in outside expertise. You mentioned DICE, we were proud to receive 100% recommendation from DICE. And for those people listening that don't know what DICE is, it's the charter for diversity and inclusion at conferences and events. And the feedback that we had from that accreditation and the accessibility work that we did has been incredible. So during the day or the long day social media was like really a light, with praise from people who some of them told us, this was the first time they had ever really been seen or felt included at an event. We even have people telling us that they were in tears watching.

 

Sean Doyle:

And we had so much feedback from clients telling us that they were really starting to think about accessibility in their own brands off the back of Pinterest Presents, which is a great result of course, to have been able to inspire other people to think about this too. One point that Sinéad made during the planning was we were talking about sign language inclusion. And she mentioned that when she brings this up or suggest this to companies she's often met with this kind of message of, "Oh, okay, we don't have any deaf people in our audience, not sure we need to do that." And her response was, "Well, of course you don't, but you never will if you don't start to make accommodations for them." And I thought that was really powerful, especially as digital events are really allowing us all to kind of open up our events to wider audiences and people that we don't have relationships with yet.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

That's a really great point of sometimes as organizers, we kind of need to take that first step to like, make that change, make it more of a norm. Sometimes our audience will ask us for these things, but other times we need to kind of go out on a limb and provide it.

 

Sean Doyle:

Yeah. And who doesn't want to be a leader in these things?

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Definitely. So, I mean, we're talking about virtual events largely, but I know that virtual and even in-person is going to pretty traumatically shift as we kind of go towards this more Hybrid future where virtual and in-person is meaningfully integrated. How do you anticipate this shift to Hybrid will impact accessibility for attendees? And are there any specific events that Pinterest is planning down the pipe with hybrid in mind?

 

Sean Doyle:

I think it's really interesting most people in the industry, our team is super excited to be able to get back, to bring some kind of IRL moment to our events, that's for sure. Because although we are a digital platform, so much of Pinterest is about inspiring people to actually get offline and try something new in their lives. Kind of like surprising yourself with new possibilities of what you could do or be. And events and experiential provide a really unique opportunity for us to be able to bring discovery and the art of trying to life. That said, the growth of digital obviously allows us to open up our audience to a whole new group of people who for many reasons, maybe they can't necessarily travel or be there in person. But I think when it comes to hybrid, we can't just rely on this digital, this virtual element, being the answer to accessibility.

 

Sean Doyle:

I think we really need to make sure the experiences that we create and that comes down to the venues that we choose. The way that we design our spaces and the production, the things that we build. We need to make sure that they continue to be as accessible as possible as well. Otherwise, we're not really being fully inclusive. We're actually just providing a different option for people rather than actually including them. That said, using what we've learned from digital, that's certainly going to mean that we can include a greater number of, and diversity of speakers and guests, which ultimately is going to be great for everyone. And I think it's going to be really interesting, how do we bring those virtual participants into an event to make sure that they feel truly included rather than these kind of passive viewers watching from afar. And I guess that's opportunity for us all to get creative. It's quite exciting.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Yeah. That's definitely the challenge of how do you just not tack on a streaming experience, but actually make those people who are watching from home or from their office or wherever they are, feel like they can participate, they can connect with other people there. It's a TBD.

 

Sean Doyle:

It is. But I've heard some great ideas being thrown around, including some of your guests on your podcast. So I'm definitely excited for Pinterest to rise to that challenge.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

We just spoke a lot about Pinterest Presents in the ways that it took a very inclusive and accessible approach to addressing an audience of 30,000 plus advertisers. Let's talk about another community that Pinterest serves, and this is the community of creators. When you think about this audience of creators and creative community, how does engagement factor into it and what sort of levers are you and your team pooling to bring that community together?

 

Sean Doyle:

The creator audience is such an exciting one to work with because ultimately at the heart of it, these people are the ones behind all of the great ideas that you discover on Pinterest. And because we've been developing the platform and launching new tools, that mean that pinners are users. They're increasingly coming to Pinterest to find inspiring people.

 

Sean Doyle:

So our creator audience is really growing. And the Pinterest creator is very much a special kind of creator because they're really focused on inspiring others and helping their followers to try new things. But because of the creator ecosystem on Pinterest is so new, they're hungry to learn from each other and understand what works here versus on other platforms. So community like you mentioned, is super important for our creators and we run a whole creator community for them, which is part of our business site where people can create a profile, ask questions on the boards, meet each other, and really just learn from each other. But of course our events play a big part of that too. And the discussion at our creator events is always very active in the chat with people sharing tips and following each other and connecting. It's not simply about listening to everything that we have to say.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

What sort of events are created to bring these creators together, to help facilitate the exchange of ideas between them and to also share kind of what's going on behind the curtain over at Pinterest?

 

Sean Doyle:

First of all, we take part in a number of kind of key industry events, but we do also host our own events as well, such as the Pinterest Creators Festival, which was a really exciting project that we launched last year. Plus we run regular workshops for them, and there's a combination of inspiring thought leadership, but also practical how to sessions, where these creators can come and learn from each other and grow their skills.

 

Sean Doyle:

But as I mentioned, we find that they really love to learn from each other. So it's not always about us showing them what to do or how to succeed instead, showcasing, up and coming Pinterest creators or very successful Pinterest creators. And they will often host these workshops and these talks alongside us. And we've also had some success recently with after show kind of networking events too. So I think a lot of us people miss that chance to chat about the day, meet other people. So we started to experiment with having creators host post event discussions on Clubhouse, which has been really well received by the audience. And it's definitely something that we're going to experiment more with.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

I love that approach so much of not only creating experiences as Pinterest and hosting these experiences as Pinterest, but also collaborating with your creator community to then go and host these events, these conversations themselves.

 

Sean Doyle:

I think we have an important role in helping these creators build their own community and find their people.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

It makes me think about, and other industries or spaces, how organizers might be able to tap into thought leaders in that space, influencers in that space to kind of be advocates of their community.

 

Sean Doyle:

Yeah. I think it's just kind of the way the world's going, isn't it? Right? Like people just love the authenticity of hearing from real people.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

From your perspective, Sean, what's one takeaway or a piece of advice you'd give to other organizers out there who are looking to engage their community in a similar way that Pinterest is?

 

Sean Doyle:

It's fair to say people probably get a bit nervous around how to build community in these virtual events. Like how is online commentary or discussion going to go, especially when it's happening as part of a visible or public event and such. And I actually think that nervous this is understandable because we all know that non-moderated online conversations with people hiding behind usernames and profiles, they have the potential to turn negative and actually even toxic in some cases. And no doubt though that allowing for a kind of two way conversation with your audience and amongst your audience with them to be able to talk to each other, it's going to foster engagement and community. But there are ways for you to encourage conversation and to keep things healthy and positive. And that's definitely something that we've had to think about at Pinterest.

 

Sean Doyle:

So for example, we recently launched our creator code, which is a set of guidelines that we ask creators to adhere to and sign up for before they publish content on our platform. Ultimately ensuring that Pinterest remains a positive and inspiring place. And that code includes a few basic principles about being kind, checking facts, being aware of triggers, practicing inclusion in the content that you share and ultimately not to harm. Right? And we use the principles from the creator code to publish our own code of conduct for events as well. So that's the kind of information we make available to attendees when they want to sign up to our events or take part in a discussion. So I'd say if it feels right for your audience, be brave enough to allow them to participate in the event and in the conversation rather than just being passive viewers. But I think it does go back to what I mentioned before about that deliberate action that a brand or a platform could take to really set the tone for the kind of community that they want to build.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Let's pivot over to internal events. There's a lot of discussion on this show in particular about external events and creating events to engage prospects and customers, but internal events have always been important. And especially I feel during this past year and a half or so when employees have found themselves distributed in some cases across the globe, and it's been a little bit harder to keep in touch and keep that company culture alive. So our entree to this conversation is going to be about your own special relation to the culture at Pinterest and a flagship internal event there starting with how were you introduced first to Pinterest and what stood out to you and drew you in, in terms of the culture?

 

Sean Doyle:

Yeah. Well, I love this segue, thank you. First of all, I think it's fair to say that I was a pinner myself anyway, since the early days, I think I've been creating boards on Pinterest for over 10 years. I've used it in my personal life to renovate a house. I'm actually going through that again now. I've used it to discover fashion and find things to cook, et cetera. And I'm sure I don't need to tell your listeners that Pinterest can also be the creative event planner's best friend, right? I'm sure we've all created many boards for pictures that we're working on or collaborated ideas on Pinterest boards, but it's also a great way to collaborate with your clients as well. I used to use it to kind of uncover new ways of doing things and event to really bring a brand to life.

 

Sean Doyle:

So anyway, as you can probably tell, I was already a big fan of Pinterest, but interestingly when I decided to leave my last role, I was ready for a new challenge. I didn't really know what that was. I wanted to take some time out. I knew that I was looking for an adventure, so I decided to take six months out and go traveling. And honestly, I was not expecting to have to think about work for quite some time. But funny enough, one of the last briefs that came into the agency, probably the last client I actually met, it was would you believe it? Pinterest. It came this brief from their internal comms team and they were looking to create this AMEA wide version of their flagship employee event, which is called Knit Con. And during that process of working on that proposal, I really learned a lot about the culture and I really loved the ambition in this brief so much.

 

Sean Doyle:

So it kind of like excited me in a way that hadn't really felt for quite some time. Anyway, long story, we did the pitch and we won it, which is great, but I had actually left before the event happened. I was away traveling and I do remember thinking to myself, what am I going to do with my next move? And I do remember referring back to the Pinterest culture and thinking to myself, well, somewhere with a culture like that is something I could probably get quite excited by. And lo and behold, when I got back, I saw that Pinterest were advertising to grow up their marketing team in Europe. And obviously I jumped at the chance to apply for the experiential role and the rest is history.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Wow. It seems almost like Providence, the chance encounter with the Pinterest team and really getting such a great sense of the culture and values of the company. So you mentioned right there, Knit Con, could you share a little bit more about what exactly Knit Con is and sort of the purpose of this employee event?

 

Sean Doyle:

Yes, I definitely can. And the timing is good because the event is taking place next week and we are all very, very excited. So Knit Con is Pinterest's largest and most important employee event of the year. That's like more than two and a half thousand people, that's everyone at Pinterest. We stopped working for two full days to celebrate inspiration, creativity and have hands on learning moments where we learn from each other. And I guess the best way to describe it is like an in real life version of what Pinterest would be. And for us as the inspiration company, we need to be inspired too, right? And this event is a key reminder for all of us of the inspiration that our platform provides for so many of our pinners every day. I guess I would describe it as a different kind of company event.

 

Sean Doyle:

It involves Pinterest employees gathering together to inspire each other with classes and examples like building a mechanical keyboard or practicing jiu jitsu, or even crafting cocktail bitters. And the goal ultimately is for employees to leave these classes with a bit more knowledge on a certain topic, and have the opportunity for them to kind of more deeply connect with our company mission, which is to bring everyone the inspiration to create a life they love.

 

Sean Doyle:

So this year emotional wellbeing is going to be at the heart of a lot of the talks for Knit Con, but we're also hearing from external speakers too. So there's experts and some of the topics that really represent what the world has been through over the last 12 months, and what's coming up over the next year. So things like health care in the wake of the pandemic, we'll be hearing about the future of work, inclusion and diversity in the workplace, with speakers representing LGBTQA+ equality, racial injustice, as well as the Time's Up movement and plenty of exciting guests from recent popular culture too. I'm very excited.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

It definitely sounds like there are going to be some great speakers there and all those topics seem extremely timely. I love that approach of like really bringing Pinterest IRL, what that would look like. And definitely seems like quite an experience. You mentioned that it's going to be happening in a week. So this is where it kind of gets funky in terms of time and publishing schedule. We're recording this right now at the end of April, Knit Con is going to be going live in the beginning of May. This episode itself will be published later in May. With all that in mind, it's going to be a little funky listening to this afterwards, but this is going to be the first virtual Knit Con ever. How are you looking to really bring that Pinterest community to life through this virtual medium for the first time, in addition to those speakers and all those topics you mentioned?

 

Sean Doyle:

First of all, I used to say Knit Con is run by our incredible internal comms team. They've tried various different formats of bringing everyone together. And this year, of course, they are going totally virtual. So this is the sixth year and classes are going to be taught online by 85 employees and creators across multiple time zones around the world. It's actually as you know taking place next week, which like you say means they will have happened by time this broadcast goes out. But hopefully if this is what to check it out, then they should check out the life at Pinterest social channels. Maybe there'll be some interesting pictures of how it went down, but the team have put together four virtual events essentially across APAC, European, US, East Coast, and West Coast time zones to make sure that we are being globally inclusive and everyone is being shipped their own branded Knit Con box, which is full of useful items.

 

Sean Doyle:

Plus some delicious treats from Pin Cuisine because who doesn't miss all of the amazing food and drink that we used to get in the office. And ultimately I'm sure food is just still such important part of an event, right? So we've also been given a budget to get supplies for whatever classes we wanted to decide to attend during the event. And it's very much this kind of choose your own adventure type of thing. And I personally, having looked at the agenda, very excited for painting with wine. So intrigued, yeah, I know, right? Also, I'm quite intrigued by dancing with robots or dance like a robot.

 

Sean Doyle:

Yeah. I think that might be one of the sessions there, so I decide to have my camera on unless of course it comes after the painting with wine then we'll see. Alongside those classes, I mentioned speakers. So there are, I think almost 60 inspirational sessions to choose from. And we have people like chef David Chang and the actress, Dominique Jackson, who stars in Pose, which is, if you haven't seen it one of my ultimate lockdown Netflix binges definitely recommend it. And we also have the founder of Black Lives Matter Canada and also a real CIA agent who is going to come in and talk to us about misinformation. So yeah, it's definitely going to be difficult to decide which stage to attend when, but we can't wait.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

I'm hearing this right now. I'm not an employee of Pinterest, but man, I want to attend this. This sounds like a ton of fun. I mentioned earlier how it can be especially important for internal events to bring different team members together who might be distributed in different ways, but why do you think in 2021 more so than ever before internal events are so valuable?

 

Sean Doyle:

I've always said this, I think from my agency days as well, but I've just always really believed in the importance of a business investing time in their employees with events and experiences like this. So having an engaged motivated workforce can obviously be a key differentiator for our business and could really also contribute to the attraction and retention of top talent too. So I think like you mentioned now more than ever, it's important for a business to make time for their people to invest in themselves, give them the time to invest in themselves. And the fact that we're all being given two days away from work to be inspired and spend time on ourselves and connect with others. That's super valuable, and as an employee it's very motivating. If you think about Pinterest, like we have more than two and a half thousand people now around the world.

 

Sean Doyle:

So from the US to the UK, Japan, Brazil, Australia, and beyond. And as you can imagine, like over the last year, we've had plenty of new people start who have never met a teammate and maybe they've never experienced a Pinterest office. So moments like Knit Con, even though they're remote, they allow us to be intentional about building inspiration and connectivity into our culture. Like just as we do into our product. And I would say it's really about your mission and values being something that you live and breathe, not just the words on a canteen wall, in an office that you don't even go to right now. So I think company culture is just one of those things that can set a business apart from its competition and events they make that culture tangible.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Just two more questions for you, before we wrap up this interview. Who's someone you look up to in events marketing or business in general.

 

Sean Doyle:

I have been lucky enough to work with some pretty awesome leaders, both in the past and also present. But I think I have to choose someone who's inspiring me right now. And I think about someone called Amy Kean, who is actually the co-founder of DICE the organization I mentioned earlier.

 

Sean Doyle:

So I first became aware of her work when I noticed that Amy was shining a light on the kind of lack of diversity and inclusion at some of the industry events, right? So she coined this great phrase manels, which is all male panels at these industry events. And I then obviously connected with her during our accreditation process for Pinterest Presents. And I discovered that she also runs this program where she helps people from non-traditional backgrounds to kind of find their voice. And she tries to get people to celebrate their imperfections rather than be focused so much on trying to fit into this kind of mold where everyone needs to be the same. And I just really love how she champions authenticity and diversity. I think our industry stages, they're becoming a lot more interesting because of the work that her and her team do.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

That's huge. Yeah. I had no idea that Amy Kean was behind driving that change. And of course is a co-founder of DICE, which we mentioned as a great resource for organizers looking to think about their events a little bit more deliberately when it comes to accessibility and inclusion.

 

Sean Doyle:

Tons of great resources there as well for people looking to kind of be inspired about how to make changes in their event programs.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Check out DICE. If you could give an earlier version of yourself one piece of advice, what would it be and why?

 

Sean Doyle:

I actually don't think there's much I would change to be honest, but if I had to give myself some advice, I guess I just remind myself to put myself out and continue to try new things. Because even if sometimes it's easier not to, you just never know how you might surprise yourself or what you might discover.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Words to live by and it sounds like you definitely have put yourself out there in the past, making the leap at 18 years of age into the world of events or experiences. How can our listeners keep up with Pinterest and all of the great work that you are doing?

 

Sean Doyle:

Sure. Yes. So I would say check out business.Pinterest.com. From there, you can look into the kind of advertisers section, or if you were more of a creator audience, you can explore that section and both have newsletters that you can sign up to. So we'll be hosting numerous events across the rest of this year for both audiences. And I guess the newsletter is the best place to make sure you hear about those and receive those invitations that you can sign up to.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Fantastic. Thank you so much, Sean. It's been a real pleasure getting to chat with you to hear about your experience in the agency side, bringing in all the way home through Pinterest and beyond. So thank you so much.

 

Sean Doyle:

Awesome. Thanks Brandon. Thanks for having me.

 

Rachel Rappaport:

Thank you again to Sean, for joining us, and thank you all for listening. If you enjoy listening to In-Person, there are several ways that you can show your support, subscribe, rate, leave us a review, and share the show with your colleagues and friends.

 

Rachel Rappaport:

If you'd like to share your feedback, 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-person-podcast.com.

 

Rachel Rappaport:

In-person is a production of Bizzabo. Today's episode was hosted by Brandon Rafalson, co-produced by Brandon and myself, and edited by Brian Pake. Music by Ian O'Hara, until next time, I'm Rachel Rappaport, thanks for tuning in.