My first real job involved beta testing video games for Compact Disc Interactive, otherwise known as the Philips CD-i. This understated black box – an all-in-one movie, internet, and gaming machine – predated the PS3 and XBox 360 by 15 years. It failed, commercially, due to some management kerfuffles, a stupidly high price tag, and a consumer base who wasn’t ready for one device to take over every TV-related function. But it set some solid paving stones into the unrefined dirt that Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft would all step on years later as they built their flagship consoles.
I had this awesome experience (which for better or worse fueled my lifelong video game obsession) because my Dad, John Gray, was the president of Philips Media Professional. He was responsible for the development of new titles, sourcing of hardware, and myriad other fancy corporate executive things that I never fully understood. I just knew that I got to play video games before anyone else did, because my dad had a kickass job. The archived NewsWire article about his original appointment can be found here, for anyone interested.
I have a soft spot for family business. I wouldn’t have gotten into IT or homebrewing (and I guess in turn, never started this blog) if my dad hadn’t taken his vocational machete to the thicket long before I got to the jungle. He taught me to appreciate work and fun in the same way he always did, and I owe much of my success to his mentoring.
Caroline Sisson is the daughter of Hugh Sisson, the founder and owner of Heavy Seas Beer. She’s just like me, really; given a chance to see into (and appreciate) a world that those on the outside find fascinating, because of her ties to her father. I know there exist a sort of jealousy and disdain for that kind of inborn nepotism, but Caroline seems to echo her father’s love of the business and the beer.
I asked her some questions.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and your role at Heavy Seas.
My name is Caroline Sisson and I’ve been working in the marketing department at Heavy Seas for just a little over a year. I got into the beer business mainly because my father, Hugh Sisson, is the founder of Heavy Seas Beer and I grew up learning about/exposed to the craft beer culture.
I’m a graduate of Susquehanna University with a business marketing degree. I do a lot of different things within the company, which keeps my job exciting:
- I handle our social media
- I write & publish our monthly email newsletter
- I post & promote our beer events and work events
How did growing up with a Dad who owned a brew pub/brewery affect your opinion of beer? Where you predisposed to good beer? Did you have a “bad phase” in college that maybe your dad wouldn’t have been so proud of?
Growing up, I thought it was really cool that my dad made beer for a living, but I don’t think I really “appreciated” or realized how cool it was until college. While I was still in college, I would work brewery tours and some events during my breaks, so I was exposed to craft beer at a younger age than many of my friends. But I definitely was just like everyone else; a broke college kid who could only afford Natty Light on the weekends for $12 bucks a case or whatever it was at the dingy little beer store in the small town where I went to college (and my dad knows about this phase). After I graduated and started working for the brewery, that’s when I really started learning and experiencing the wonders of craft beer. I’ve learned a lot in my time, and have been fortunate enough to attend national beer events like the Great American Beer Festival and SAVOR, where I’ve tasted some amazing beers. I love craft beer now, and have realized that “once you go craft… you never go back”.
Give us a day in the life of a social media manager at a brewery.
I usually start off by looking over our events calendar and reviewing what’s coming up, so that I can plan tweets, FB posts, etc., accordingly. I spend time looking over each tweet or post to see if it was effective. For example, how many retweets or favorites did I get on Twitter, or how many people liked or shared a FB post. Our ultimate goal is to reach as many people we can. I also spend some time monitoring others breweries on social media to see what works for them.
Do you have a specific strategic plan, or do you have a more organic approach?
Overall, we try to make every tweet, post or anything shared on social media unique to Heavy Seas. By that I mean, it reflects our personality, our interests, our goals, things that we are excited about, etc.
Do you think social media is important for a brewery beyond promoting events and appearances? If you had to rank the importance of the social media platforms, which would be at the top, and which would be at the bottom?
Absolutely – I think social media is a great way of connecting and interacting with our consumers; the people who drink and appreciate our beer. I’d say that Facebook & Twitter are tied for first. Although I tweet on a daily basis, and post on Facebook on a weekly basis, both are strong tools that we use to communicate to our followers and share information. Instagram is another area where we want to grow.
I know a lot of craft enthusiasts use Instagram. How do you feel about #beertography? Do you like to see shots of your beer out there in the wild?
Definitely! I can’t always retweet or share every photo taken of our beer, but it’s flattering to see people enjoying our product so much that they want to take a picture and share it with the social media world.
What’s your favorite thing about interacting with the beer community?
Making friends with people who love craft beer & share a passion for it.
Is there anything specific you’d like to tell the beer drinking world?
Life is too short to drink shitty beer.
Caroline often attends Heavy Seas events, and I’m sure you’ll run into her if you’re planning to attend any of the upcoming shindigs connected to Baltimore Beer Week. Caroline has also kindly offered to answer any questions you guys might have, so ask away in the comments. I’ll compile them and send them to her for follow-up.
Here’s a picture of me and her at my visit to the brewery (just so you can recognize her if you see her in person):
I’m the one wearing the hat. No, not that one. The one on the right.