Lisa Mattson- The New Storyteller

As the Communications Director at Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Lisa Mattson’s position, in a sense, defines the expression “wears many hats.” Wine is her passion and the backbone of her work, and she uses digital and traditional marketing to move the brand forward. In an industry long viewed as more traditional than innovative, she has become known for her video story telling and social media savvy.

Before happily settling in at Jordan, Lisa was the director of communications at Napa Valley-based wine importer and marketer Wilson Daniels Ltd., event marketing manager at E & J Gallo Winery and news editor at “Wine Magazine” in South Florida. With 16 years experience in the wine industry, working in key positions related to marketing, PR, writing and digital media, Lisa has built a well-respected reputation throughout the industry.

In her new book, “The Exes in my Ipod: A Playlist of the Men Who Rocked Me to Wine Country,” you learn about a girl who struggles in love and works hard to get out on top. Lisa takes readers to a place where, while mostly fictional, they see a girl with possibilities. Working in marketing and sales in the wine industry myself, seeing Lisa’s success with Jordan and the communications world makes it ‘all’ seem a bit more attainable. Lisa inspired me – and during a time when more women are becoming power players in the wine industry, it was a real treat to interview her and share a little bit about her story.

Describe a normal day in your professional life. What goals are you working to achieve for Jordan Winery?
An average day in my life at Jordan is very diverse. I might come in and do some emails, and then Erin Malone (our digital media specialist) and I will set up for a photo shoot. The other day we set up a tablescape for California Home and Design’s website). Then I’ll run over to the technical tasting room and do a presentation about 2014 communications strategy, then go work on brainstorming for a new video. I will work on copy for an email blast, do some website updates, and send samples out to journalists. There is a little photography, a little marketing, PR, website, a little multimedia and social media – a little bit of everything so it never gets boring.

What was it like creating those two popular parody music videos: “Gangnam Style” and “Blurred Vines?” In other words, what was the process from conception to completion?
One of the great things about working at Jordan is that John Jordan (Jordan Winery CEO) sees that to keep your most talented, high-performing employees inspired, you’ve got to give them a lot of creative freedom and that keeps those people fulfilled and wanting to stay in their jobs. Both videos were collaborative. John and Erin both really wanted to do Gangnam Style. I tried to think about how we make it “Jordan” and have that angle that’s really important to me: it’s got to have some sort of story. You cannot just do something for the sake of copying someone else. That’s when I came up with the idea: it gets boring in Wine Country. Casually, Erin and I will watch footage and say, “Oh, yeah – this is what we can do in the winery for a parody. This will work, let’s try that.” Then Erin and I put together a plan, talk to everybody about it, and just do it.

John Jordan really wanted to do Blurred Vines. Lori Green, our marketing manager, came up with the idea for the storyline of the guy who is really geeky and into his wine list and he loses his girlfriend to the cool guy. From there I came up with the wording of how we would promote that as the “wine geek” versus the “wine dude.” It is an interesting and creative process; you’re testing the lighting, directing people, telling them to “do this, now move here, okay, now have fun.” It’s just a cool, fun thing to do at your job.

What’s your goal in creating those videos? Who are you trying to reach and is it working?
The goal is always about showing the winery and the wine world in a more fun, approachable way. I think those of us in the wine business forget how intimidating wine can be for people who don’t live it every day so we are always trying to demystify that snobbery. Part of the goal is when people come to visit, yes, they see the fancy chateau; but when they leave, they’re saying, “Wow! The staff was so friendly, we weren’t talked down to at all and we learned something about winemaking.” That is important to us in our hospitality, and it’s also important to us in those videos. We wanted to do something that was going to get people’s attention, something that will make people laugh and do something that will make people feel that wine is fun and makes them want to visit the winery or say, “I want to drink Jordan because they don’t always take themselves so seriously because every now and then (even though they’re serious about the winemaking), they like to cut loose and have fun.”

Getting the views and getting people talking about Jordan was part of the goal and while, sure, a couple hundred thousand views in the first few months would have been great rather than 30,000, we are new to this type of production. Hopefully, 2014 will be the year that we feel is more of a breakthrough for us as far as goals in hitting viewer numbers that we’d like to hit.

How do you stay on top of the “next big thing” to stay current and innovative for Jordan?
John Jordan’s philosophy is: if we are not getting better, we are getting worse. He asks the winemaking team: “How do we get better with each vintage?” It’s the same thing with communications. Just as Jordan is known for its consistency and the quality of the wines, we want to be known for that in the videos we do. We want to be able to evolve, be creative and not be pigeonholed into doing the same thing year after year. There are things that we will continue to do, like tasting-note videos, but we are just looking to raise the bar more because there are more wineries and people, in general, doing videos so there is a lot of content out there to compete with.

What helps you with your creative side when working on content or photography? Is there something particular that you do or perhaps refer to find inspiration?
My inspiration comes from a couple of different places. I spend a fair amount of time on YouTube and, of course, that doesn’t always happen during normal business hours. My husband watches a lot of YouTube, more than TV, so he will show me something and say, “Hey you gotta see this.” I’ll look at it and think ‘hmm … that’s really cool and interesting, and I think this is something that can be translated into another way in the wine world.’ That’s the way my brain works, that’s the journalism side of me: you have to think, how can my winery fit into that? You are always trying to adapt the story into your own so that it fits into a certain space. I do that a lot with videos.

We got inspiration for a video that we are going to do in 2014 about Rafael Robledo (Rafael was the first employee of Jordan. He has been there 40 years) when I watched this really cool video about these girls in Afghanistan about how they go to school to skateboard but while they’re there, they also learn. It was just how the video was shot and how inspirational it was that I thought that we could do a video shot this way, with inspirational music to it, and do it to tell Rafael’s story about the 40 years he has been with Jordan.

It was a completely different style of video but the way it was shot, the humanitarian side of it, is what people would watch and see in this guy and his family and how the Robledos and the Jordans have been together for so many generations.

The other side of things is the brainstorming, just the environment that we have at Jordan between Lori Green, our marketing manager, and I is very organic (we worked together at Gallo and she’s really bright and creative. I just really like her). Our offices are right next to each other and Erin’s desk is nearby, too. Yes, we have official brainstorming meetings, but every now and then one of us will stick our head into the hallway and say, “Hey, did you see this video? I really think we should do something like this.” And our eyes get big and ideas start flying from our lips. It will just snowball from there. That’s really where a lot of the inspiration comes from.

Is there someone in particular whom you admire in the industry or someone who simply inspires you (and why)?
I really admire Dina Mande who does the Paso Man videos. She does videos for the Paso Robles Wine Growers Alliance and does videos for the Wine Institute. She’s a very talented commercial-style filmmaker in wine. I would say she is definitely inspirational. There is also this guy, he calls himself Devin Supertramp on YouTube. It’s a lot of these guys that also shoot sports and videos that are not even related to the wine business. I think that that’s a great place for inspiration. A lot of my inspiration really comes from outside of the wine industry. Most of my creative research is done with businesses and videos that are completely outside of our world.

Do you have off days where you completely shut yourself out of the social channels? If so, how do you do it and why is it important?
Just because I’m not at work doesn’t mean I won’t answer an email if something comes in and I need to respond. I was just on Instagram after dinner because we hadn’t responded to some of the posts so I went on and did that. Mobile life is what it is, and you always have your phone with you and that allows you to do work even when you shouldn’t. Do what you love. It shouldn’t feel like work.

I see you’ve held signings and traveled for Jordan since your new book, “The Exes in my iPod,” has been published. What part does Jordan play, if any, in the release and marketing of the book, and how is this a win-win for both you and Jordan?
Jordan doesn’t really play a part in the marketing of my book. The first draft of my book was started a year and a half before I even came to work at Jordan. I did end up working Jordan into the book like I did with other wineries whose wines I have enjoyed over the years. I wanted to keep the book separate from my day job even though, like me, the book is about a small town girl who ran away to the big city to find herself and ended up dating an interesting string of guys along the way. I also didn’t want co-workers to think I was being favored or was leveraging Jordan for my own personal interests. This is also why I did my first signing at J Vineyards. My best friend is the brand manager there, there’s a big J bubbly in a break-up scene in my book, and Judy Jordan is a wonderful person. The team over there is very supportive of me. If I do any events where wine is poured I will pour Jordan, and Jordan donates the wines for those types of tastings. That would be the main promotional way that Jordan is involved.

Are there any challenges with juggling your day job at Jordan and marketing your book?
The biggest challenge is time. With my day job, I just don’t have the time to come home and do the same things for my book. I pitch publicists during the week and know how to promote but doing the marketing for my book is another full-time job. There really isn’t the time for that, and that is kind of a bummer but I didn’t write the book for the money. I did it because it was something I really wanted to do and a story I wanted to share. Hopefully, at some point I’ll have time to do the level of promotion that I should be doing.

Given that the book has a playlist related to your ex-boyfriends, does anything about this make things awkward between you and others who may not have seen you in that light?
Harley is based on me … there was a time many years ago when I started writing the book when it was a memoir. As the process went on, it became more apparent that turning it into fiction would be better for some of those relationships that maybe weren’t as exciting or didn’t have enough wine in them. It allowed me to sculpt the story and bend truths where I needed. There also were exes of mine who were not very happy about the book. It was just better and a little more freeing to turn it into fiction. Everything is a little different, not just the names but the nationalities and the relationships are different, too.

The playlist is in the beginning of the book. It really is my playlist. Everybody has their own playlist, songs transport people back to memories. There was a book that came out back in the early nineties called “Love is a Mixed Tape,” and it was a really sad book about a man’s wife dying young and I thought, someone needs to write something like this but more optimistic – embrace the beauty of the baggage. You shouldn’t turn the songs off because they remind you of your past, you should listen to them because they teach you how much you have grown.

What do you do to let loose and have fun?
One thing that I really like doing is having “hot tub think tank parties.” We put in a hot tub last year, and we have a couple of couples where one person is in the wine business and one is not (like my husband, he is not in the wine business). Those who want to talk wine can, and those who don’t aren’t forced to. We drink champagne and sit in the hot tub and try to brainstorm the next big thing. It’s still very entrepreneurial but it’s a lot of fun.

My husband and I love to take drives on the weekends, and we love to go wine tasting, too. Our latest thing is to go to one new winery a weekend in Sonoma County. We also love to go snorkeling. We spend time in Hawaii each year to snorkel. We try to do a little bit of something relaxing in our crazy lives. Today we worked but, after, we came home and went on a walk with our dog. We will probably hot tub later tonight.

Where do you envision yourself five years from now?
I see myself in the same place. I’m at the age now … I’ll be 40 soon. I’ve worked for big corporations, wine importers and wine distributors, had a lot of experiences in the wine world, and have been working in it since 1997. I feel like I have found a great place in Jordan. I do not have any aspirations to go and start my own company because at Jordan I have everything I could possibly want as far as creative freedom, the team, the support of the boss – and I make good money. I just hope we’re still leading the pack, still keeping people interested, keeping Jordan on the same path that we’re on in terms of the wines, which have never been better and what people are saying and thinking about us is all very positive. So, I hope it continues to go that route. Of course I hope my book sells more.

I bought my dream house two years ago here in Sonoma County so I am very content. I do hope that maybe by then I will have vacationed in Australia and Thailand, though. I am very lucky. Like what I say in the book: “Being unlucky in love doesn’t mean you’ll be unlucky in life.” I am the perfect example of someone who was the least-likely person you’d ever expect to end up in the wine industry joined up with an amazing career. That’s part of the reason I wanted to write the book. Hopefully it will be inspirational to others.

Just because you grew up in a town of 3,000 people, poor, and your dad’s an alcoholic, doesn’t mean your path is chosen or you just have to stay where you are and the cards you’ve been dealt is all you have. You can take control of your life and make a change. You have to take some risks like I did by moving to Florida with my pot-smoking college boyfriend when I was 20. I made a lot of mistakes in dating but I stayed optimistic and continued working hard and learning. I got into wine in Miami, and then one door opened, one closed, and another opened. My journey started in 1994 and here we are now 20 years later and I have everything I could ever want: an amazing husband, amazing life, great job. If I would have just accepted life as it was given to me, I’d probably be living in a trailer somewhere in Southeast Kansas but I didn’t want that for myself so I did something about it.

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