Anatomy of a Ragan event: Lessons in teamwork and experiential excellence

Gratitude for what makes a communications event communicate the right messages.

As the leaves fall and the increasingly crisp air brings more time indoors, savvy communicators understand how this shift in focus is an opportune time to refresh and renew intrapersonal relationships with partners, colleagues, teammates and your larger workforce.

Such are the deeper psychological underpinnings of seasonal content and outreach — recognition and gratitude initiatives not only make sense because we’re in the season of giving, but because this is a time when positive reinforcement is often in short supply. The holidays reflect the value of family, community and good fortune for those who have it in abundance, and they can also accentuate the absence of such privileges don’t exist. Building relationships now with those who might not have a support network of their own is both the right, and the smart thing to do.

To this end, Ragan’s purpose — to educate and inspire communicators with training, news, networking and experiences that advance their careers through the highest-quality information and experiences—feels palpable as we enter the final lap of in-person programming for the year.

Our community that has showed up to learn, network and hang out at Communications Week’s flagship Future of Communications Conference in Austin included conference attendees, speakers and members of Ragan’s Communications Leadership Council all. That week in Austin, this community didn’t just sit in on an array of informative and enlightening sessions, but also volunteered to host speed mentoring UT Austin’s Moody School of Communications, got to know each other on a boat cruise, toasted one another to the newly minted Brandi After Dinner cocktail (so named after our Future Comms host, the incredible Brandi Boatner) and so much more.

We at Ragan continue to extend our gratitude to all those who have come to speak, teach, listen, learn, read and share, both at this event and across every area of coverage and experience.

The most common feedback that the Ragan team has received centered on how neatly every element of the event came together. People consistently told us that the content was substantive, the food scrumptious, the vibes inspiring, inclusive and supportive.

This brought on a realization: Many other brands offering programming for communications professionals are either solely event brands that handle logistics and execution of an event, but they don’t know the material. Others may have substantive programming but lack the reach or the experiential execution to make the event one for the books. At Ragan, we have a team that does both, and for that we also offer our gratitude to the team as a whole.

And in the interest of extending what we’ve learned together to our readers, we’ve taken the time to share a behind-the-scenes look at who and what brings events like this to life

What (and who) makes a communications event communicate?

In having the subject matter experts, promotional and production craftsmanship operating at a high level, Ragan can scale our events each year while keeping them intimate enough for audience questions and interactivity. This is more than a brand differentiator in the marketplace, it’s also how we make sure we’re able to iterate, improve and grow the quality of our efforts based on what our audiences want to see. And in doing so, we aim to foster a genuine dialogue with the wider Ragan community.

While Ragan’s fantastic content team — the team writing this article —is often blessed with credit and congratulations for making the magic happen as the brand representatives onstage, it’s the behind-the-scenes work of our colleagues that makes such memorable gatherings even possible.

Ragan’s marketing and production team, led by CMO Amy Urban, understands not only the breadth of material that Ragan covers, but the myriad audience segments and personas who seek continued education, learning and development. This group’s ability to synthesize, understand and educate the rest of the brand about where members of community are at in their careers informs our content and programming strategies alike.

Of course, their ability to strategically target the right audiences who will benefit from our work and bring them together in person is no small feat, either — especially in an age when travel budgets are down and leaving home can be more of a burden than it once was. To this end, our marketers are experience architects who understand the psychology of what makes an experience memorable — understanding how people-first logistics and strategies shape moments that nurture community and create an environment conducive to learning. Our social media lead captures the magic as it unfolds and ensures everyone can follow the footprints back to engage with us.

This is all reflected in the incredible work of Ragan’s design team, which also sits under the Marketing function and demonstrates a continued, unwavering mastery for branding Ragan’s events with images, fonts and other visuals that truly pop (there’s even some merch on the way in 2024).

Two members of Ragan’s marketing team also work with our council team directly, introducing prospective comms leaders to our Communications Leadership Council and its myriad of member-exclusive services, which include comped events and member lounges, dedicated luxury retreats, monthly think tanks, exclusive content and so much more.

This council team, led by Head of Councils and Chief Growth Officer Mary Buhay, goes above and beyond to provide white glove concierge services, training and resources to members, while our marketing colleagues who work with councils offer a bridge between what the senior leaders who make up our councils are experiencing and how their needs can be reflected in our member resources, along with our general content offerings.

Ragan’s sponsorship team, led by Director of Business Development Hannah Lavelle, continues to bring in sponsors who “get” what makes the Ragan community special, providing actionable wisdom and advice that our audiences expect while giving sponsors the space and platform to make new connections that generate new customers. Their commitment to trusting the Content team’s editorial judgment and protecting the overall attendee experience ultimately makes each sponsor’s presence at our events a win for both sponsor and attendee.

Of course, there are many members of the Ragan team who yield a daily influence on our employee experience despite seldom attending a Ragan event in person. Our HR, accounting and development teams continue to help administer and accommodate the unique hybrid arrangements that allow colleagues to work from home, travel frequently for events, and still have an office based in downtown Chicago that’s always accessible. Were it not for HR administering our generous benefits and time off policy, the work/life balance around events would be precarious, to say the least. Our Accounting colleagues help us expense travel and accommodations while managing subscriptions, licenses and contractor payments to make all the recurring expenses and moving pieces feel more manageable. Our development team helps fortify our website backend to get event agendas, surveys and resources out to our audience as quickly as possible.

All of this talent works symbiotically under the direction of Ragan CEO Diane Schwartz, whose journalism background and knowledge of the comms function has proven invaluable in shaping the next generation of comms experts, both internally and externally.

Working at Ragan affords one the privilege to witness how an incredible community of talented colleagues and friends sets the tone for a similarly incredible and engaged external community to foster and grow — a lesson that any communicator can take to heart.

COMMENT Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive the latest articles from directly in your inbox.