Most people know WWE’s Stephanie McMahon as a villain on television’s professional wrestling showcase but in reality, the 39-year-old wears many hats.
Besides being WWE’s chief brand officer, she is also mother to three daughters and wife to multi-time WWE champion Triple H.
In Singapore recently to speak at All Sports Matters – a sports conference held at Marina Bay Sands – McMahon talked about how WWE has been part of her family for over 50 years.
She is part of the fourth generation of McMahons working hard to take it to new heights globally.
She recalled: “My great-grandfather started off as a boxing promoter and then my grandfather was both a boxing and wrestling promoter.
“My father took over the business and turned it from a regional business (in the north-east of the United States) into the global phenomenon that it is today.
“We broadcast to 650 million homes globally in 180 countries and in 25 different languages.”
As WWE’s chief brand officer and the heiress to this dynasty, her role has evolved over time. McMahon has learnt the ropes the old-fashioned way, starting at the bottom.
She said: “I started off, basically, as an intern. From the time I was 15 or 16, I worked in various departments in the summer. I worked reception and answered the phones.
“Once I graduated from college, I went to our sales side of the business where I was an account representative and then I became part of the creative writing team, ultimately taking over the creative writing team.
“I ran our live events business, our talent relations business and then our talent brand business, and then ultimately, taking over over our digital business.
“Now as chief brand officer, I’m responsible for generating revenue as well as generating awareness and positive brand perception for WWE.”
VILLAIN ON TV, MUM AT HOME
Being a villain on television and mum to three young daughters, McMahon was asked if gets confusing.
She replied: “I guess, in WWE, I’ve grown up with multiple personalities. It’s no different to Greek mythology, where really, everyone has a dual nature.
“I am a villain on television which is a lot of fun. I much prefer to play the villain than the hero. It’s just so much more fun.
“I’m also a mum to three amazing daughters. They are 10, eight and six.
“And of course, my role as an executive in the company…I couldn’t do it without the incredible support system that I have at home, especially my mum (one-time television personality Linda McMahon) who is, right now, with my three girls sleeping over, keeping an eye on them.”
Her children are now even thinking WWE-style when they play with her.
McMahon recalled: “I just had a ‘match’ with my six-year-old (Vaughn). She made me announce her entrance, entering to Katy Perry’s new song, Rise. She completely understands it all.
“I was doing the three-count and wanted the match to be over and she pulled me up so she didn’t get the count till three!
“I said, ‘honey, you got to pin me’. She said, ‘I don’t want the match to be over’. So yeah, she gets it.”
SOCIA MEDIA CHALLENGE
Social media has changed the landscape drastically for pro-wrestling. With the Internet giving away spoilers before it’s shown on television, is kayfabe (the portrayal of wrestling storylines and rivalries as real) dead?
McMahon replied: “I don’t know if it’s dead but it’s certainly different. Social media has actually been more of a blessing for our business. The more people are talking about your brand, the more they want to be engaged with it, the more they’re talking to others about it, the more popular your brand is.
“So even if some of the spoilers get out, people want to see more.
“Spoilers can be positive but I also do think our audiences love surprises, so when we can surprise them , it’s all the better.”
She added that in this aspect, WWE is different from other companies who use social media to promote their products.
She continued: “Our audience cheers, they boo, they chant and hold up signs. Our audience influences what happens during the match. What we do is a lot of performance art and it’s a lot of improvisation.
“Social media gives our fans the opportunity to interact and engage even when they’re not live in the arena. And I think that’s the biggest difference because we’re not simply pushing messages and slogans out…we’re engaging with our audience and listening and responding to them.
“That’s what it should be – a conversation between us.”
McMahon also gave an interesting insight into how WWE sees social media as a vital tool for its global plans.
She said: “On social media, we have a strategy. Our performers stay in character and that’s on purpose, so our fans can continue to engage in the storylines 24/7 so they’re never disengaged from our product.
“For me, because I’m an executive in the company but also a villain on television, it can get tricky. We actually experimented on this.
“When I first launched my social media presence, I tried to do both. I tried to be in character. I tried to be my executive persona and what ended up happening was just confusing.
“Fans didn’t know what I was trying to say and they preferred to engage with the characters. It wound up being fairly negative, considering the fact that my character was such a heel (bad guy).
“Now that I’m using my executive voice, I have the ability to reach a broader audience and part of the success of the strategy, is that now we have over 700 million social media followers and that number grows every single day.”
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McMahon on Singapore
“I love Singapore! I was here about a year ago as part of the Eisenhower Fellowship. I had a wonderful time.
“Actually, I was here for eight days and I got to see most of the local sights and did the tour of the Singapore River. I even went to Sentosa and did all the touristy things like going on the Singapore Flyer.
“I had a great time. The people here are just so warm and engaging and friendly.”