Top 4 Considerations for Creating Visually Engaging Virtual Content

I think it’s safe to say that, in the last six months, we’ve all been on more Zoom calls, Teams meetings and webinars than we can count!  For marketing and communications professionals, the most urgent question right now is: How do you get your message to breakthrough in a time when screen fatigue is at an all-time high?

Though there is no replacement for in-person interaction, there are ways to do it well if you are willing to rethink your approach.  Since March, I’ve witnessed and participated in a paradigm shift within the events and meetings industry and what we’ve learned is applicable to anyone trying to reach a target audience in this environment.  Here, I share my top takeaways to date.

 #1:  Deploy Content in a Television Broadcast Style

Increasingly, we are seeing this approach to virtual events and video content.  I am a huge fan of this trend as it creates a lot of space for innovation and creativity.  In my experience, you can achieve this look and feel with these best practices.

  • Instead of your executives or speakers using a Zoom background or their living room as a backdrop, consider using a studio (many local A/V providers have setup studios for client use) or creating a temporary studio setting at your office or at a speaker’s home.
  • When planning out your broadcast or virtual event, try to break the content down into digestible segments with a clear start and end. Research tells us that the average human attention span is just eight seconds (!), so changing up what’s on screen often keeps viewers engaged. 
  • A mix of live and pre-recorded content can allow for transitions and set changes from segment to segment.
  • I cannot stress this one enough: Plan for rehearsal time. Executives and speakers who are normally great at the podium during a live event may not be used to speaking into a camera or on a set without no audience.  Budget in time (and space rental costs, if applicable) for a couple of run throughs, particularly if the actual program is going to be done live.

#2:  Get Your Technical Needs Straightened Out

Working with a quality A/V provider is the best tip I can give here, as they can take your vision and make it happen from a technical standpoint without you having to understand the nuts and bolts.  That said, some high-level considerations crowd sourced from my friends in audio-visual and production include:

  • Ensure that proper static lighting is used to ensure all presenters are properly lit with no dark spots or shadows.
  • If using a custom backdrop, beware of vinyl, as it may cause a reflection from the lighting. Keep it simple so as not to overload the viewer.
  • Do not rely on the microphone on the camera to capture your audio. Lavalier microphones will provide better quality.
  • Be sure to discuss the minimum bandwidth needed for your broadcast to ensure no break-up or latency.
  • Start with mapping out the experience you want attendees or viewers to have while tuning in and let that lead you to the right tech solutions.  For example, think about the level of interactivity you want with the audience, if any.  Platforms such as Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Zoom, Run the World and ON24 all have varying capabilities.

#3: Be Thoughtful About Your Backdrop

Ultimately, you want to make sure that what you are putting out to your audience looks polished, professional, reflects your brand and translates well from set to screen. That means providing a backdrop for live speakers or panelists that is unobtrusive, easy on the eyes and allows the audience to focus on the message you are trying to get across.

  • Stay away from recording in rooms that have windows or doors that let sunlight in. Natural light is great for in person meetings, but for live or recorded content, rely on professional studio lighting.
  • Drape is often a go-to for providing a professional looking backdrop.  It can be setup in an office or home just as easily as a studio setting.
  • The goal of the recording or broadcast and/or your company’s brand may dictate the best color drape or backdrop to use. For example, for a healthcare company or charity, light beige or white can convey softness and caring while an important corporate announcement may call for black, navy blue or presidential blue, which convey seriousness and professionalism.
  • To add depth and dimension to your backdrop, consider up-lighting it. A nicely painted wall, with artwork and tastefully styled shelves can also help give the background some depth.
  • Greenery such as potted trees and plants can help add some life to your set. Consider faux greenery for a no muss, no fuss solution.

#4: Stage Your Speakers Properly

Whether you need to stream a fireside chat, a panel or a single speaker, you’ll want the seating to be the at the correct scale for on screen presenters and provide the right tone for remote viewers.

  • Allow for proper distancing with multiple speakers in the same space.
  • Use neutral or traditional colors for seating such as tan, gray, blue and brown.
  • Stay away from black and white furniture – the presenter or panelists’ clothing may blend in too much with black furniture and white seating may look blown out on screen.
  • Consider the material used in the seating.  Shiny leather, for example, may not read well on camera. Chairs in a matte fabric or vinyl will keep the focus where it should be – on the people sitting in them!
  • Refrain from using glass tops on coffee and end tables as the lighting on set will likely reflect off of them. Instead use tables with a flat finish.
  • Make sure the seating is the right size and height for your presenters. For taller people, choose chairs that sit a bit higher off the ground. For a petite presenter, choose seating with a smaller profile that won’t swallow them up.
  • Have speakers being fed in from multiple locations?  National suppliers who have warehouses throughout the country, including CORT Events, can provide the same on-brand set pieces to speakers in different locations around the country for a uniform look.
  • To provide a higher comfort level for speakers on a panel or to allow for less distancing between them, consider placing freestanding clear dividers between chairs or barstools. 

Just as with an in-person press conference, activation or event, the challenge remains the same: creating engaging content that will capture the attention of your target audience and provide the desired marketing and communications outcomes. Luckily, there are many resources available to communications professionals to make that happen.  

Kellie Mayrides,CMP holds a B.A. from Elon University in Communications/Journalism and a Marketing Certificate from the Wharton School of Executive Education. Kellie is a Certified Meeting Professional with 17 years of experience in event marketing and design.  She has worked at CORT Events since 2017 and since the start of the pandemic, has been helping clients pivot from live events to top notch virtual meetings and broadcasts. She can be contacted at

Between You and MEdia… with Michelle Caffrey

As PR professionals, we all know the importance of building meaningful relationships with members of the media – reporters, producers, assignment editors, etc. But how does that happen, and where do you start? 

In this new section of the PPRA blog, PPRA members will share insight, tips and tricks, and fun facts learned from members of the media through informal interviews. You won’t have to wait for our “Media Mingle” or “Editors Panel” to get your tough questions answered and connect with the media. Our goal with this blog section is to continue engagement with our media counterparts in an informative and fun manner. So, between you and me – enjoy!

The Philadelphia Business Journal is the region’s go to source for business news. The weekly print publication is paired with a digital newsroom that publishes stories daily and offers exclusive content to subscribers. Hear from PBJ reporter, Michelle Caffrey, on how she works with PR professionals to turn pitches into published stories in this interview by PPRA member and past president, Adam Dorvin.

How did you get started as a journalist? I’ve been obsessed with reading and writing since I could physically do it, so I wound up writing for my middle school newspaper, the ‘teen section’ of my local newspaper, my high school newspaper and college newspaper. My first full-time gig in journalism was covering the wild local political scene in Washington Township, Gloucester County for the then-named Gloucester County Times, now the South Jersey Times. I don’t miss sitting in school board meetings until midnight, but that town still holds a special place in my heart.

Michelle Caffrey Headshot

Who/what inspired you to pursue journalism and what keeps you inspired? Watching reporters on TV on 9/11 made an enormous impression on my 12-year-old mind. I was terrified, and realized how crucial their role was in communicating important facts to the public. Now, I’m constantly inspired by the amazing work other journalists are churning out, especially those at local papers fighting never-ending cuts and layoffs to keep those in power accountable. Black and brown reporters who work incredibly hard, against systems designed to oppress them, to hold truth to power also deserve immense respect and inspire me every day.

How do you work with PR professionals? Often and respectfully. Reporters need PR professionals and PR professionals need reporters, there’s no way around it. At the end of the day, we’re both just trying to do our jobs the best we can. There’s always going to be conflict, since sometimes our goals are mutually exclusive, but I always try to hear people out, see their perspective, explain where I’m coming from and go from there. A little bit of mutual, professional respect goes far.

What advice would you give PR professionals looking to pitch you?  Since we’re a regional pub, make the Philly connection clear to me right away. If I don’t see a local dateline or area code in the contact info at first glance, I usually hit delete since a lot of national pitches end up in my inbox. Highlight the hook high-up as well. They hide at the end of a press release a lot. A straight-up personal email will also catch my attention much more than a generic release.

How many pitches do you get a day from PR folks? Depends on the day or week — please give me more things to write about during the dead week between Christmas and New Years, please — but between a dozen and three dozen. Some are relevant, but a lot aren’t, just because the Business Journal has a fairly narrow focus on stories that are important to the Philadelphia-area business community.

How much follow up is too much on a pitch—with someone you don’t have a relationship with, and someone you do? If we’ve been working together for years, and you know it’s a story I’d normally write (a well-known tech startup raising a big Series B round, for example,) feel free to keep bugging me, since there are a lot of times when I just miss an email or call when things are busy. If it’s a story that’s kind of on the fence of my normal coverage, I’d say two or three, max, check-ins and move on. Honestly, that goes whether or not we’ve worked together before, because the only way to build a relationship is to start one.

Also, if I turn a pitch down, please don’t try and convince me otherwise and sell the story anyway (unless there’s good info you’ve withheld, but why would you do that?) The number one reason I don’t respond to pitches that aren’t a good fit is because I don’t want to have to get into a whole debate and turn it down a second or third time.

How do you prefer to be pitched? What is the best way to make a pitch stand out?
Definitely an email. There’s so much noise out there it’s helpful to just have one place for pitches, and email is the easiest way to keep track of them. If we don’t have an established relationship though, I don’t love phone follow-ups. Usually if someone is calling me it’s because I didn’t answer an initial email, because it’s not a good fit for us, and a polite decline on the phone turns into one of those debates. I don’t always have the bandwidth to get into it. Oh and if I do pick up the story, please don’t ask me every day asking when it’s going to run, unless you’re giving me a heads up another outlet could scoop me. Things are always shifting and plans are always changing in a newsroom, usually a story is going to run when it’s going to run.

How do you step away from the 24 hour newscycle? What do you do outside of work?
In the summer I try to spend as much time with my family in Cape May as possible, but in general, my healthy coping mechanisms are running, yoga and reading. My unhealthy ones are bourbon and reality TV. It’s all about balance, right?

Can you share a fun and interesting fact about yourself?
I spent seven years working as a dental assistant on and off before getting my first full-time gig as a reporter. I like to think it helped me learn how to get people who are anxious or under stress to open up, pun kind-of intended.

Best way to contact:

Congratulations to Sharla Feldscher on the Release of KIDFUN: 401 Easy Ideas for Play

We all know our fellow member and PPRA Hall of Famer Sharla Feldscher is a legendary PR professional. Did you know that she is also an author? Please join us in congratulating Sharla on the recent release of an updated version of KIDFUN: 401 Easy Ideas for Play.

As the KIDFUN press release describes, “This ultimate guide to fun and learning shares amazingly easy, step-by-step ideas for learning through play without the use of electronics. It’s just what every adult has been searching for…hundreds of ideas for good, simple-to-do creative fun for kids to play on their own and with others. Great for playtime, rainy days, car trips, bedtime, bath and any other time kids need to have structured…and unstructured, old-fashioned FUN AND PLAY!”

Congratulations, Sharla!

Between You and MEdia… with HughE Dillon

As PR professionals, we all know the importance of building meaningful relationships with members of the media – reporters, producers, assignment editors, etc. But how does that happen, and where do you start? 

In this new section of the PPRA blog, PPRA members will share insight, tips and tricks, and fun facts learned from members of the media through informal interviews. You won’t have to wait for our “Media Mingle” or “Editors Panel” to get your tough questions answered and connect with the media. Our goal with this blog section is to continue engagement with our media counterparts in an informative and fun manner. So, between you and me – enjoy!

For more than 10 years, photographer HughE Dillon has made Philadelphians feel like celebrities with his event photos. From fundraisers to birthday parties to movie shoots, HughE has covered it all for his blog Philly Chit Chat and for outlets across the city as a contributor. Learn how HughE turned his passion for photography into a full-time job in this interview by PPRA member Alexa Johnson.

How did you get started as a “Society Photographer?”
I saw the publicity my blog generated in 2007 as I wrote about celebrities I photographed in Philly as well as in NYC, and various things I saw in Philadelphia while walking around. I thought ‘I bet this kind of media would be great to shine a light on charity events.’ At the time, magazines weren’t online yet, and only published once a month. The Inquirer published their society column every Sunday but it seemed to me they were only focusing on major society charity events with the same people. I wanted to create something that would highlight everyone, from the person who paid $10 to attend a charity event at a bar, to someone who paid $10,000, and as many folks from all walks of life as possible.

During the years 2007 through 2010, I covered the events for fun and content for my blog. Then I was laid off from my paralegal job in December 2010. With the support of my husband, I decided to try and monetize my blog. I announced to my readers that I had lost my job and now would become a party photographer, where people would hire me to shoot events and I would create content for my blog and place “one shots” from the parties in the newspaper as I had started to work with Michael Klein and Dan Gross by this time. It was an immediate success. People hired me, companies advertised on my blog and I didn’t have to look for another paralegal job. A few months after starting my business, Fox 29 and Philly Mag approached me to create content for their outlets in July 2011. A few years later, I got my own columns in and Metro Philly where they paid me for the content.headshot1

Who/what inspired you to pursue a career in media/photography and what keeps you inspired?

I was a fan of longtime Inquirer society columnist Ruth Seltzer and then David Iams. Philly Daily News’ Stu Bykofsky, Harriet Lessey, Dan Gross. The NY Social Diary and NYC society photographer Patrick McMullen (I always tweet at him that he’s my mentor in my head. He never responds, LOL).

What’s your most favorite event you’ve photographed?
Every single Diner en Blanc event has been very special. All the Big Brother Big Sisters Fashion Touchdown fundraiser where the Eagles players and their wives walk the catwalk with the latest fashions. I also loved shooting Virgin America’s First Philadelphia flight party in 2012 at the Palamor Hotel with guests like DJ Jazzy Jeff who spun for guests like Glenn Howerton, Amber Rose, Penn Badgley, Zoe Kravitz, The Roots, M. Night Shyamalan and lots of fun people from Philly.

What advice would you give PR professionals looking to work with you? How do you work best together?

As for PR professionals, I need them to understand that I created a nontraditional media business model where I shoot party photos, but the PR/Event/Business pays me to do so, and not the media outlet. The media doesn’t pay me. Clients should also keep in mind: I only need 90 minutes to two hours to shoot an event; and I always suggest the client keep their own house photographer because my photos are not returned to the client for at least 90 days.  My media outlets want the “exclusive” content first and each of them gets their own set of photos. The media outlets have the final say on editorial an d what runs.

As of 2020 I have 8 daily columns: Philly Style Magazine, Philly Voice, Philly Business Journal, Mainline Media News, Philly Mag, CBS3Philly, Fox 29 and Philly Chit Chat; occasionally my photos are placed in NBC10, Mainline Today and Jewish Exponent.

How many pitches a week do you receive?
About 400. During the months of September to December, and March to June I have to be hired to guarantee I cover your event. The other months (Jan, Feb, July & Aug) I’m less busy now so I might cover an event that isn’t a client and will put in a media outlet. For most pitches I try to promote them on one of my social media outlets, even if they’re not clients.

How do you step away from the 24-hour news cycle? What do you do outside of work?
I like to birdwatch, although I have no idea what the bird’s names are, I usually just tweet out “Oh, I saw a nice red one today, here’s a photo.”

Best way to contact:

8 Reasons We’re Excited for #SMDay2020

Social Media Day Logo-09

In under ten days Slice Communications will present Social Media Day Philadelphia 2020. Here’s a guest post from Leo Manning, a digital marketing strategist with PPRA member Slice Communications, with all you need to know to get involved.

8 Reasons We’re Excited for #SMDay2020

This year, the conference world is looking a little different. With the COVID-19 outbreak changing plans for all in-person events, it’s a little harder to find relevant networking and professional learning opportunities. However, Social Media Day Philadelphia 2020 is set to be one of the most exciting, and for only $20 a ticket, it’s a deal you can’t beat!

We’ve Gone Virtual!

One of the most apparent changes for this year’s event is that it is virtual. However, going virtual has allowed us to extend our reach even further this year. With speakers from across the country, we’re able to bring more marketing knowledge right here to Philadelphia – and all without leaving our couch!

Staying Social!

Just because we won’t be in the same room building doesn’t mean networking is out! Aside from chatting and engaging through social media (follow us at @smdayphl and keep the conversation going with #SMDayPHL), this year, we will be running a Slack channel! That way, attendees can engage with not only each other, but also our expert speakers! And speaking of networking…

Co-Mentoring Connect

We’re proud to start our new Co-Mentoring Connect! This program will provide professional development and networking outside of our annual event. Marketing leaders and practitioners will be matched to learn from each other and develop their social media and marketing prowess.

Supporting Local Business

All net proceeds from this year’s event will go towards Fuel The Fight, a homegrown initiative that raises funds to buy meals from local restaurants who are reeling from the coronavirus. These meals are then donated to essential workers on the frontlines.


Whether you have a question on the basics of social media or paid advertising, or a more specific topic like legal concerns on social media or digital accessibility, there will be experts you can talk to. The panels feature thought leaders from companies like Meltwater, Cisco, Accessibility Shield, Philly Mag, and more!

Flash Talks

For people who want bite-sized case studies, flash talks will be ideal! Instead of larger presentations, flash talks are presented in blocks of 3 and cover specific topics and campaigns, allowing you to learn three bite-sized, unique topics in only 45 minutes!

While some people prefer to just listen, some people learn best by engaging! This year’s hands-on workshops feature experts in everything from YouTube marketing to using employees to develop social media content!

General Sessions
Featuring national brands like LEGO, Cisco, IBM, Kroger, and more, the general sessions are 45-minute blocks showcasing higher level strategy.

So, what are you waiting for?
Get tickets for you and your team – right now, you can Buy 4, Get 1 Free!