PBS39 Employee Spotlight: Jessie Heimann

Posted by Gerard Longo on

For this first installment of our new monthly Employee Spotlight series, we sat down with Jessie Heimann, PBS39's Marketing Director, to talk Brewfest, community outreach and the importance of public media.

How and when did you come to PBS39?
I have a weird story. I originally came in 2007, then I left for two years, and then I came back. I’ve been back for almost four years. It’s been kind of a long journey.

I came to PBS by way of a colleague of mine who took a job here years ago. She was here for a few months, and I got a call from her one day saying, “Would you be interested in coming and working for me at PBS39?” So, she took me away from the job that I was at, and I was excited to work in public media.

I left, and then I got a similar call when I was at a different job. A colleague of mine asked if I would ever consider coming back as Marketing Director. I had a great experience here, and was excited to have more of a leadership role.

What do you love most about working here at PBS39?
The thing I love the most is telling people in the community that I work for PBS39 and watching their faces light up. It’s a recognizable brand, and it’s a trusted brand. I immediately see people smile and say, “Wow, that must be an exciting job!” From there, the conversation just gets started.

Most people have had some experience with public media in the past. Either it’s that they love Sesame Street or remember Mr. Rogers or, as an adult, they love NOVA, Nature, Masterpiece or what have you. I always get a positive reaction, and I love working at a place that has that kind of positive impact on the community.

Why do you think it is important to support public media?
I think it’s important to support public media because so much commercial television, I think, talks down to kids and adults. I honestly think that people are craving something intelligent to watch. We watch TV to be entertained, and also to learn something. As human beings, we want to be engaged. We want to be inspired. So much of television leaves that part out. It may be fun for a little while, but really, what are the long-term benefits of watching certain programs?

I feel like it’s important to support public media because, without it, where would people go for that kind of content? Frankly, I don’t know where they would go. If people are watching it and enjoying it, it’s important to support it. It’s the whole community coming together that is going to make sure it sticks around for a long time.

For my kids’ sake, I love coming to work every day and doing something that directly impacts kids and adults. I can say to my kids, “Thank goodness there is this place for you to have fun and learn something.” My son learned to count from one to 10 in Spanish because of Sesame Street, and I had similar experiences. I feel good bringing that kind of experience to the masses.

There’s a lot going on at the station this spring, highlighted by the Fifth Annual PBS39 MicroBrew Festival (Brewfest). How did managing Brewfest become your project?
It was my predecessor’s baby, really. I wasn’t involved in the very first one; I was involved in the second one. After that, I took over. I have grown to love it. The first year, I was a little intimidated by it, but I love it. I love the different people who are involved in it, from the brewers, to the members and vendors. We get volunteers from the community, our own employees, and musicians who help us. It’s these different groups of people who come together because they like beer, and they love public media.

It’s a great event for PBS39, because it’s really a great way for us to connect to a different audience that doesn’t necessarily engage with a whole lot of our content. Maybe they just started watching Downton Abbey or NOVA and heard about this event. It’s really just a great way to get out into the community and talk to our members.

What is the most challenging part of organizing the event?
The most challenging part about Brewfest is managing the small details. The small things can wind up making big problems for me, like bringing signage, ice or tents. It’s not anything that’s rocket science, but it’s about making sure that I have a handle on all of those small details. The minute you forget something small, it becomes a big problem.

Plenty of people have registered to attend, and we have more brewers than ever. Preview what people can expect this year.
We have 40 breweries, and each brewery will bring two to three different types of brew. So, the people who are coming back will love that their favorite brewers are there, but they probably have a different variety than they have had in years past. People come back, year after year, because they love the experience.

Newcomers can expect to meet some new friends, and to be engaged with PBS39 and the brewers. Coca-Cola Park is a fantastic venue, and the people who work at Coca-Cola Park are wonderful to work with. We all come together to make a meaningful experience for people, and they love it.

Why do you think it’s important for PBS39 to reach out into the community, not only with Brewfest, but other events for all ages?
I think that’s really what separates us from commercial television. Number one, it’s the educational element. Two, it’s that we care about this and are a part of this community. You’re not going to find that just anywhere.

In addition to watching the great programs on-air, people come to rely on us for great programs in the community. Our mission is all about education, and about inspiring and entertaining people. That’s what we’re able to do.

PBS39 is all about community connections. It’s not just people interacting with us because they’re sitting at home with their families and watching TV. That’s a great way to interact with us, but I think it’s so important for people to feel like they really are part of the PBS39 family when they come to an event. When they donate their hard-earned money to support us, they become part of the PBS39 community. Frankly, without that community outreach and that connection, we would cease to exist.

Our education department alone reaches hundreds of thousands of kids through our Raising Readers programs and the footage they’re able to access online. There are tens of thousands of teachers that we directly impact every year, and that’s saying something. The education community trusts us, moms and dads trust us, and that says a lot about our brand.

Anything else you’d like to add?
The one thing that I want to get across is that we value the community. We want the community to feel like they have a say. My goal as the Marketing Director here, in addition to doing special events, social media and press relations, is to make sure that people in this community that people in this community are aware of what’s going on at the station, and that they can be a part of it if they’d like. We want to be sure that people know about Brewfest or the Raising Readers program. My goal for the next year is to make sure that people are more educated about what we do here, in addition to all that we do on TV.

More and more people are becoming aware of what we do, but we get tour groups, or I’ll go out to community events and tell them a bit about what we do, and they’ll say, “I didn’t know you did that.” That just goes to show that I have work to do in this community, and that’s good.

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