Communication is challenging in any company or organization. Personalities, ideas, and thoughts are balanced by the leader of the group. Those in leadership positions, try to have everyone moving and working towards a common goal when developing a strategy.
Katie Gwinn Hewitt has experienced this first hand. Katie is Assistant Director of Communications for the University of Michigan Athletic Department. College Athletic Programs have many moving parts. Every day is a new challenge and opportunity to share your programs message through the university audience and beyond. Katie and I discuss steps in developing a successful communication strategy. These steps are applicable to any athletic program or business.
Self-Awareness is the ability to examine your strengths, weaknesses, and mental processes. Developing self-awareness is not easy. It’s takes time and honest reflection. Depending on your personality, identifying your weaknesses can be humbling. Learning from previous jobs and experiences is invaluable. Building my self-awareness has helped me develop in my current role and grow as a person. This is the reason I ask professionals to reflect on their past.
In 2016 Michigan’s Football team became the first college program to wear “Jordan” branded apparel
Michigan is one of the largest athletic departments in the country. The Wolverine Student-Athletes have succeeded on and off the field for decades. As of 2017, they currently sponsor 27 Varsity Sports. A strong structure is needed to support this program as a whole. Katie provides very sound and valuable insight below.
Nick Cipkus: What is the key to developing a successful communication strategy for an athletic program?
Katie Gwinn Hewitt: In my opinion, the key to a successful communication strategy is knowing and owning your message. As a SID (Sports Information Director), it’s imperative I work with my coaches to fully understand and communicate the values and ideals of that program. From there, developing a communication strategy is much easier. At this point, I know what is important to the team. These ideals can be hard work, championships, team and/or academic-focused. Knowing the message is essential to building and maintaining the sport-specific brand, as it gives value to all communication efforts. For example, one of the teams I work with has a guiding value of “family.” “Family” becomes the underlying message in most of our communications. It’s not cheesy or fake, it’s a real message. The team really believes in this message and that makes it real to fans, recruits, etc.
Nick Cipkus: What are two things you wish you would have known before your current role?
Katie Gwinn Hewitt: I wish I had known the real gap between working at a Division I school and working at a Division II school is very small. I went to a smaller Division II school and began my professional career there. Making the jump to a large Division I school was a little intimidating. However, I’ve found that while there are big differences in the amount of media coverage, the day-to-day operations are very similar to my previous jobs in DII. I wish I had been more proud of my Division II experience when looking for jobs. My DII experience has served me very well since I joined the University of Michigan. Working under pressure and being able to balance multiple tasks and responsibilities has been crucial to my quick adjustment.
Nick Cipkus: What are two resources (books, resources, etc) you use to improve as professional?
Katie Gwinn Hewitt: The two resources I have found most valuable are Twitter and my colleagues at Michigan. I’ve learned so many things from engaging in Twitter chats, following different users, and accounts. These have all helped me grow and learn as a professional. However, the biggest resource would have to be my colleagues at my place of work. I’m very lucky to work alongside extremely talented people who are willing to push the envelope. They believe failure is okay as long as you learn from it. I understand how lucky I am to have people who are willing to teach me new things, contributing to my growth as a young professional and adult.
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