A familiar face in the community will occupy a new position created to help grow Spartanburg County’s economic and cultural capital.
The Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce announced Monday, May 15, it has hired Will Rothschild to serve as vice president of marketing and communications.
Rothschild, 44, originally of El Paso, Texas, previously served as communications manager for the city of Spartanburg.
In his new role, he will be tasked with creating a unified communications strategy for all of the five entities under the Spartanburg Chamber’s banner, including the chamber, the Spartanburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, Economic Futures Group, One Spartanburg, and the Downtown Development Partnership.
But in a broader sense, Rothschild will be one of the leading standard-bearers of the community’s vision for a more vibrant and prosperous Spartanburg.
He officially assumed the new role on May 15.
“During phase 4 of the creation of the One Spartanburg vision plan, in partnership with Market Street Services, we conducted an assessment that was entirely dedicated to an objective reflection of all of our marketing efforts,” said Allen Smith, president and CEO of the Spartanburg Chamber. “What we found out is that we don’t nearly do a good enough job of telling our story. But one of the bright spots was the city. One of the things I told Will during the interview process is that this is not about marketing the five entities of the chamber. It’s about marketing Spartanburg… We think he’s the right person to do it.”
Smith said the One Spartanburg community development strategy called for the creation of an executive marketing and communications role at the chamber as part of its five-year implementation plan.
But officials quickly realized that a higher-level position needed to be created in order to maximize the impact of the community’s message.
“Ten years ago, we didn’t have a product,” Smith said. “ The only way we’re going to be able to sell [the community] is to communicate the value proposition of the Spartanburg market. … I often hear people say, ‘I didn’t realize all of this was happening in Spartanburg.’ We’ve got to do a better job of telling our story.”
Rothschild attended Appalachian State University and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in mass communications from the University of North Carolina at Asheville.
In 1993, he went to work as a sports reporter for the Watauga Democrat in Boone, N.C.
Two years later, he joined the Asheville Citizen-Times. He served as a sports reporter, sports copy editor, and assistant sports editor during his time with the newspaper.
The Spartanburg Herald-Journal hired Rothschild in 1999 as a sports copy editor. He became assistant city editor the following year and later a features and projects editor.
He accepted the position of bureau chief at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in 2006.
Rothschild eventually stepped away from journalism to pursue marketing and communications.
In 2008, he ran as a Democrat for the S.C. House District 32 seat, but was defeated by Republican Derham Cole Jr.
The following year, Rothschild teamed up with his friend, Baker Maultsby, to launch their firm Rothschild and Maultsby Media.
In 2011, the communications manager job at the city became available and Rothschild decided to throw his hat in the ring.
“When I worked with Baker, one of our clients was the city,” he said. “It gave me a little insight into their needs. They had gone through a transition and I felt like I could be an asset to them.”
Rothschild said upon his exit from journalism in 2006, he and his wife, Carey, decided to move with their two daughters, Alex, now 17, and Sarah, 15, back to Spartanburg.
As a couple, the Rothschilds have each carved out their own niche in the community, seeking out opportunities where they can have an impact.
“We missed the Carolinas,” he said. “There’s just something special about the town your kids are born in—the relationships you build.”
Will Rothschild received praise from local leaders for his efforts to hone the city’s message.
“We tried to do a number of things to help citizens and stakeholders engage with the city, making sure they know what’s going, so it’s not just easy, but fun,” Rothschild said.
Rothschild’s team at the city included Multimedia Content Specialist Christopher George and assistant Kensley Drummond. The team led the implementation of initiatives such as updating the city’s website, broadcasting city council meetings on social media, beefing up the city’s activity on social media in general, and being more available to media outlets.
“One of the things I noticed when I first started at the city was that it was a professional institution,” Rothschild said. “That’s fantastic, but one of the negatives is that institutions tend to have their own language. One of the biggest things I focused on was changing the way we talk. It’s a cultural change that we needed to make in order to eliminate the distance between the community and us… I’m really proud of what we were able to do in terms of engagement.”
Rothschild said he tried to be creative, but was also focused on only spending taxpayer money on things that would “move the dial.”
“I hope to bring that into this job,” he said. “We spent five years building an audience, tweaking the message, and creating a platform. City leaders really empowered me to run with it and I can’t thank them enough. Chris and Kensley have been amazing. In my mind, Chris is the best digital creative mind in Spartanburg.”
As of Monday, the city had not announced Rothschild’s replacement.
“Will is a great guy and has done a terrific job for us, modernizing our approach to a number of things and bringing a good positive spirit to our efforts to keep the community informed,” said Chris Story, assistant city manager. “On a day-to-day basis, we will miss him, but we’re pleased he will remain a member of the broader Spartanburg team. We think he will do great things. The chamber is a key partner for the city in the big picture.”