Q&A With NEXT UP 2017 Presented By adidas Honoree Scott Wetherbee

July 6th, 2017 | by CollegeAD
Q&A With NEXT UP 2017 Presented By adidas Honoree Scott Wetherbee

Editor’s Note: New Eastern Michigan athletic director and 2017 NEXT UP presented by adidas honoree Scott Wetherbee took a few minutes late last week to talk with CollegeAD on a wide array of topics, covering everything from branding and brand standards to what he’s looking for when adding team members. The Q&A below has been edited for clarity and length.

CollegeAD: What are some of the challenges and/or how you see the communications field changing over the next five years?

Scott Wetherbee: The last 4-5 years I’ve seen a big shift already in communications and in what we’re asking of our communication departments has changed. What’s changed is the branding of the athletic programs, the messaging you’re getting out, how quickly you’re getting it out. Moving forward, how do we continue to get our message out through normal media, and then to constituents who don’t use the media but come directly to us. We tell our own stories, we are their source. So utilizing digital formats and social media and getting that message and being very consistent with what that is.

If something bad happens, getting out in front of the story and telling your story ahead of time as opposed to waiting until it breaks and you responding. I think those are the types of challenges we face every day that we’re trying to improve and figure out what’s best for each department.

CAD: At Mississippi State you were also overall branding, graphics, venue marketing and video elements for MSU athletic facilities. Can you talk about an impactful branding campaign across Bulldog facilities and what that entailed?

SW: We did a really good job of cleaning up old logos, looking around campus, looking around our facility and looking at our old logo. We’ve been very consistent with Hail State, FAMILY and using the M State within the FAMILY. So if you go into each one of our sporting events there is a consistent look, a consistent brand, and even campus has embraced that, those types of things have been very important to us. Taking that further outside of campus, using that message on billboards. I think that’s important across the board so when people are in an airport and see your logo they’re familiar with it. If we’re all over the board or use different logos or different messages people get confused.

CAD: What does brand consistency mean, and how you create brand consistency?

SW: Brand consistency is being very particular and not deviating from the look that you’re going to create. So when you are branding something, whatever that message or that story is it needs to be consistent throughout each sport. At Mississippi State we don’t allow our coaches to have different names or phrases that will go on posters, we focus on Hail State. Hail State goes on our posters, the M State logo goes on all of our schedules cards. Consistent branding is the same look, same feel, same story. Even when a coach goes out and speaks at an event, we’re saying the same thing. It maybe a little more specific about their sport, but they’re still talking about the overall message of the FAMILY and Mississippi State.

At Eastern Michigan, we’ve got to be very consistent with our block E, so that people understand and know what that block E means.

CAD: In your time at Mississippi State you oversaw Bulldog Sports Properties, how do you sync up your multimedia rights staff with your existing athletic department staff and ensure a good relationship?

SW: We’ve done a really good job of including our multi media rights staff, I meet every Tuesday with Learfield and go over if we have any issues, what are they trying to sell and I then will talk with my staff about some of the things we want to promote at a game or on the radio that they (Learfield) can attach a sponsorship to. We’ve already started meeting with Learfield, our marketing staff, communications staff, and video staff to map out what we are going to offer our fans this fall. What experiences are we creating that we can put a logo with or a sponsorship with, or what giveaways we can do? You’ve got to be hand in hand and transparent, they may try and push the envelope with us and want to do something, and vice-versa. If you’re not meeting and sharing ideas all the time, that’s where you run into issues.

CAD: Under your leadership, Mississippi State’s external unit became one of the most elite and recognized in collegiate athletics. Over a three-year span you hired 20 new employees cultivating a culture of innovation and brand consistency, can you expound on cultivating a culture of innovation?

SW: You have to hire talented people that like to think differently and let them do their job. We’ve done a really good job of evaluating if something works or not. If something worked the first year we make notes about why it worked. So for example, if attendance was up, why was it up? If it was down, why was attendance down, was it bad weather? What was it that made the event work or not work.

Allowing everyone in the department to add input or bring an idea to the table. No idea is bad, the culture here (at Mississippi State) is everyone has a voice and has the opportunity to give us an idea or thought. I want my employees to come in and enjoy work every day, a lot of our best times are around the water cooler thinking of ideas, letting people be free to think outside the box.

CAD: When hiring administrators, what are the traits you look in candidates throughout the hiring process?

SW: I want somebody who’s motor is always on, I’d rather have to pull somebody back and say slow down as opposed to having to go in an employee’s office and jump starting them. Fit is also important, how well is the prospective candidate going to mesh with the existing group. I’m not afraid to hire somebody for a year or two years, just as long as I know they are getting after it. I want to hire someone that wants my job because I know they will work really hard to try and replace me.

I let them do their jobs, I don’t micromanage, all I do is stop them and see how they are doing on a daily basis. Just to make sure everything is going okay, I find out about their family or home and get to know them. Typically opening up that way gets your employees to work harder for you.

CAD: Why was Eastern Michigan the right fit for you and your family?

SW: I really thought some of the things that they had challenges at, I fit on helping bridge that gap. From an outsiders perspective, I thought they needed help getting attendance up and ticket revenue and I feel each place I’ve been we’ve been able to create good experiences and have our attendance increase and revenues increase. I also thought facilities need help. I have experience with facilities, we’ve done a lot of enhancements and new facilities at Mississippi State, I also did that at East Carolina.

There is some angst between the facility and the staff and I had a really good relationship with our campus at Mississippi State and been very active and involved, I want to help break down some of those barriers. So I thought I could be a good fit in that regards as well. Lastly, branding, I try not to waver from what our brand is going to be. We need to strengthen the brand regionally then focus on going nationally, making Eastern a destination, a good brand, a strong brand that people are excited about. We’re excited to come back home!

CAD: How did Scott Stricklin’s leadership prepare you from this opportunity at EMU?

SW: I would not be the athletic director at Eastern Michigan if it were not for Scott Stricklin. He took a chance on me, I had only done marketing and ticketing at East Carolina. When I had the opportunity to come in as a senior associate athletic director for external he handed it to me and said here you go, and oh by the way we’re working on a contract with Learfield and were working on a contract with adidas, I had never done contracts but he trusted and had faith in me and we worked together.

There are a couple things that Scott did on an everyday basis that helped me prepare to be an athletic director. Just the way he views things, when you walk around a stadium with Scott, the first time I walked around everything he talked about was nothing I saw. I was amazed at the attention to detail to make a great experience for fans and so by the time I was done with my three years with him I would walk through a stadium and see with his eyes and understand where he was coming from. Secondly, he really showed me how you can care for people and actually have an impact on people’s lives and not be over barring. He would always walk down our hall and stop and check in on people, not because he needed anything or wanted anything, he was generally checking in on them making sure everyone was ok and you felt like such a family because of that. When I get to Eastern, I’m going to walk around a lot, I want to be visible and let people know that I’m going to be there because I know how much that meant to my staff and me. That’s just great leadership, he has a passion inside of him, if I’m half the AD he is we’re all in good shape. I’ve been very blessed to work for him.

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