Ryan Phillips, Dayton: INFLCR Client Feature

This fall, INFLCR is highlighting our clients across college athletics, and their successes and lessons learned empowering athletes on social the past year. Thanks to these featured clients for not only empowering your athletes, but also being a champion of the INFLCR app and platform!

In this Q&A, we’re featuring Ryan Phillips, Coordinator of Digital Strategy and Marketing at the University of Dayton.

What was your career journey to get to this point in your career as Marketing and Digital Strategy Coordinator at Dayton? 

After graduating from the University of Dayton in 2016, I started my career at the University of Washington. I was a marketing and Gameday Experience Assistant for the Huskies. After 6 months in Seattle, I found myself heading back to my alma mater to work as a Marketing and Game Operations Coordinator. I came back to Dayton with hopes of working towards my Master’s degree while working full time. 

After a year and half, I received a promotion to Marketing and Digital Strategy Coordinator.  Since that point, my role has really changed and grown as the department’s emphasis on digital has grown. Also, I finished up grad school last August and graduated in December 2019 with a Master’s in Business Administration.

What are the top 3 pieces of career advice you have? 

The first thing you have to do is get uncomfortable. Find ways to make yourself uncomfortable. The more you are able to push yourself in the uncomfortable zones of your professional life, the more you will grow. 

Next, I would say find ways to compete. I truly believe that every single person has some competitiveness in them (even if it is just a little bit of it). Find positive and healthy ways to compete on a daily and weekly basis. 

The final piece of advice is to enjoy the moment. Your career is going to be what you are doing for a good portion of your life and will include a lot of ups and downs. If you aren’t having fun and enjoying it in the moment, you will find yourself like Andy Bernard in The Office. Don’t miss out on fully experiencing “the good ole days.” 

How has COVID-19 impacted your current role? 

For us, we quickly realized that digital was going to be the main source of communication between our department (and teams) and the general public. My role shifted away from a lot of the normal gameday responsibilities that I usually have to a deeper focus on the digital side of things. 

In more specific terms, the time I usually spent on planning out promotions and ways to increase attendance at games transitioned to spending time thinking how to strategically grow our followings on social media and creating engaging content for our current followers. In addition to that, I began to focus on ways to educate others on best practices for social media and brand building. 

What are some of the changes and how have you adapted to continue executing your responsibilities? 

The biggest change was the sudden focus and attention on social media. Before, our coaches and others in the department knew it was important. But, once the pandemic hit, it became one of the top priorities. The value of a strong presence in the digital space became vital for success. So, in turn, our focus on educating staff and generating content (for both recruiting and general social media) became a huge priority. 

For me personally, the biggest change was that I went a lot more hands on with creating content. Our department lost our full time graphic designer right before the pandemic hit and we weren’t able to replace her before everything went into lockdown.

So I had all of my normal responsibilities on the digital strategy side while also becoming a part time graphic designer. That challenge definitely made it tougher to do some of the monitoring of the social channels on the back end (looking at growth numbers, engagement numbers, ect…) that I was doing on a regular basis before the pandemic.

In addition to that, we also had to figure out the best way to make sure we could continue to capitalize on the momentum that our Men’s Basketball team had generated throughout the season. Fortunately, our partnership with INFLCR helped with both of these things. INFLCR allowed us to more easily monitor the numbers. Also, the easy to access content allowed us to create a lot of content for our players, coaches, and others to post on a regular basis. I believe that we have been able to keep the momentum rolling through this pandemic through delivering consistent, unique content. 

At the end of the day, we didn’t really have a lot of time to think about how we were going to get all the new work done. We knew we had to do it. There was no other option. We just had to get it done. Our team did an incredible job of making the new normal work and accomplishing the goals we set for ourselves. 

Who is someone you look up to within your industry? 

This industry is chalk full of incredible people who are doing cutting edge things on a daily basis.

On the creative front, Zach Swartz from Ohio State and Dave Bradley from Duke are doing incredible, cutting edge things on a weekly basis. They both have found a way to create high level, engaging, consistent content with their teams. Beyond that, they both seem to have a really good handle of who their audience is. Their ability to truly understand your audience is something that I think we all should be striving for. 

Beyond the creative world, I think there are some athletic directors who are doing an incredible job as well. As someone who wants to be an athletic director one day, I look up to people like Danny White at UCF, Ross Bjork at Texas A&M, and Neil Sullivan here at Dayton.

These leaders, along with many others, are setting an incredible example of what leadership looks like and how to manage the incredible task of running an athletic department. Their ability to adapt to change and create consistent success across the board helps them really stand out as someone who is just doing it right. If I can be half as successful as these leaders, I will be very fortunate. 

If you could change one thing about the content industry, what would that be?

Honestly I feel that I am not as plugged into the content industry as I should be to make a fair suggestion on a change within the industry. So, I will look at the big picture.

In my opinion, I believe the content industry deserves more of a seat at the table in high level conversations within athletic departments and other organizations across the world. So often, it feels like the folks who are in the content industry on a day in, day out basis are just being told what to do by others who do not fully understand the in’s and out’s of it all. The level of input that creatives can bring to the table should not be overlooked or undervalued by organizations. The content industry is, in today’s day and age, the main connector between your organization and the general public. They are, in my opinion, the most valuable people on your staff.

At Dayton, we have recently (over the last year or two) started to have a seat in conversations with teams and the department as a whole. The conversations range from recruiting to overall strategy to anything else you can think of. That simple inclusion has been a game changer. In turn, we have been producing content at a higher level than ever before.

In addition to that, we are operating as a much more cohesive unit because we all understand the “why” of every single project or piece of content. The ability to be involved in the conversation creates a feeling of value for the content team. That, in turn, makes us want to work even harder to produce high level, quality content on a consistent basis.

Keep up with Ryan:

Twitter: @rjphillips09

LinkedIn: Ryan Phillips

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