Craig Erlich, senior vice president and general manager at George P. Johnson Experience Marketing (GPJ), got his start in a family-owned marketing company that specialized in direct mail and database management. 

The company was flailing when Erlich joined it; he helped turn it around, pulling it out of bankruptcy and successfully selling it to a publicly owned company. Wanting a change after the company’s sale in 1999, he turned to pulse220, at the time a small special events company started by his wife, Renee, and a partner, both of whom wanted to transition out of the business. Erlich took over— and found that the contacts and skills he’d built in his previous job transferred tidily to his new one.

“It was a really easy transition, because a lot of the experience I’d built up in marketing was applicable in events,” Erlich says. “And a lot of the clients were the same. There was an advantage to having those relationships, understanding what those folks think, what they need, and just delivering it in a different medium.”

The company soon evolved into a corporate events firm that creates brand experiences through meetings, events and live marketing. It grew from three employees when Erlich took over to 30; the company expected to generate $20 million in revenue last year, and clients have included Pepsi, General Motors, Quicken Loans, Gatorade and Meijer, among others. (In the fall, pulse220 announced its sale to GPJ.)

“We’re very, very fortunate that we get to work with some amazing brands,” Erlich says. “It’s really important to us to service our clients and do the work we want to do. Our vision is only to work on stuff that we love.”

Realizing that vision, he says, requires staying focused on the people who work for him.

“My No. 1 job is attracting, retaining, motivating and inspiring our people,” he says. “My goal is to help them reach their full potential. When I do that, I know I’m hitting on all cylinders.”

Erlich is a past board member of the Michigan Chapter of Meeting Professionals International and a member of International Special Events Society Metro Detroit. He runs, does yoga and enjoys sailing. His No. 1 interest, though, is his family: He’s been married to Renee, an executive leadership coach whom he calls his “rock,” for 23 years, and loves spending time with their three children.

“My philosophy in business emanates from my philosophy in life,” he says. “It’s so important to make every moment matter.”

As CEO of Miami-based Loni Paige Events, Loni Paige has launched and managed experiential campaigns for high-profile brands such as Bacardi, vitaminwater, T-Mobile, American Express and Target. While many people used quarantine cocktailing as a coping mechanism during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was the bars and everyone’s favorite mixologists who needed their own shot of help. Paige set out to do her part by creating Mixology Mixer

 

League City CVB manager Stephanie Polk shares her career journey.

Originally from Kentwood, Louisiana, Stephanie Polk, TDM, CTE, first made her mark on the travel and tourism industry as director of marketing for the Beaumont Convention & Visitors Bureau. There, she helped to elevate the city as a destination for recreation travelers and business groups. Wowed by her accomplishments, in 2020, League City brought her on board to lead its marketing efforts. She shares with us highlights and advice from her experience in the industry. 

 

Event planning and experience design go hand in hand. Just ask Maria Moyano, experience designer for the Museum of Ice Cream (MOIC), based in NYC. “I think that everything is an event. You can go have coffee, and that’s an event. Everything is also an experience. You feel happy, and that’s an experience. It’s about what you are trying to get out of the event—and then how does an experience elevate it,” says Moyano.