Traveling the seas, hooking exotic fish off of distant shores—it’s a lifestyle most would be envious of. But working where others vacation is harder than it looks. As the Digital Marketing Specialist for Seakeeper, a company that produces a gyroscopic stabilizer that eliminates up to 95% of boat roll on rough water, Jackie Fry ’12 does more than take great photos and catch fish. She’s connecting industry insiders with ordinary anglers, crafting an image as much as cultivating a brand while leveraging modern technology and data to cast an ever-broadening net.
Auburn Magazine caught up with Fry in time for summer to talk about work, Auburn and life on the water. These are excerpts from that conversation.
AM: A lot of your career has focused on or is related to water and the ocean. Were you drawn to that kind of lifestyle, or did it happen coincidentally?
JF: Growing up, I spent my summers and any free weekends going to the Alabama River, where we would spend the days tubing, bass fishing or just playing in the river or woods. Like most from South Alabama, I also spent a lot of time visiting the beaches along the Emerald Coast from Gulf Shores to Destin. I even lived in Destin for a summer in college. As much as I’d like to say all that time spent on the water or outside drew me to a career in the marine and outdoor space, I’d have to honestly say that it happened coincidentally.
I graduated college in a recession and after a few unsuccessful attempts, I took the first real job opportunity I could. It did not take long to realize how much I missed home and being outdoors. Thankfully, my job provided a tie to those things. As time passed, I couldn’t imagine working in a different industry.
For several years you previously worked for Bonnier Corporation, which publishes a lot of water-related magazines. What did that experience teach you?
I originally began working with every single magazine and event team within the organization, which in 2014 was around fifty brands based in multiple states and three different time zones. Those brands also included magazines focused on photography, motorcycles, food, hunting, flying, working mothers, scuba diving and more. I learned quickly that every brand is different, and so is each person within those teams.
Knowing your audience and how to speak to them in their language is key. Everyone has their different style of work and when it comes down to it, it’s working to find how you can you be the best coworker to accomplish a mutual goal. A rising tide lifts all boats, right?
Do you have any favorite memories from your time with Bonnier?
After being with the company for four years, I’d yet to travel for my job and my first trip was to Irvine, Calif. to meet with our Motorcycle Group in person. The highlight of that trip was riding to lunch on the back of a bike going 100+ mph in the middle of breathtaking canyons.
In 2017, I visited New York City for the first time in my life after being selected for FOLIO Magazine’s 30 Under 30 honoree list. I remember calling my dad looking at the Statue of Liberty from the Battery. It was a place I’d dreamed of visiting for so long, and getting to go on my own merit was special and rewarding.
Later in my time with Bonnier, I’d [become] more integrated with the editorial teams, versus being on a centralized team in a more advisory role, which gave me the chance to travel internationally on editorial planning trips. My first editorial trip was with the Marlin team to Tropic Star Lodge. It’s 150 miles southeast of Panama City, Panama, in the remote Darien jungle. It’s a word-class fishery that offers a variety of species.
While there, I caught my first Pacific sailfish as well as the unique roosterfish on the same day in especially rough weather. On the same trip, I spent two and a half hours fighting a 154 lb. yellowfin tuna. It was, and still is, my largest catch to-date. With a mix of adrenaline and exhaustion, I cried happy tears with my two coworkers who are expert anglers after they’d coached me through the long fight, and we finally got it aboard. It’s a tradition to push someone in the water when they’ve caught their first billfish. At Tropic Star, they make you walk the plank instead, and I did so proudly.
I did everything I could to prepare before the trip. I took lessons from a guide, read tons of how-to articles and watched more videos than I can count. Hunting bonefish can best be described as humbling. Those fish aren’t called “the flats phantom” for no reason. I ended the first day without a single fish. To say I was hard on myself would be an understatement. After many failed attempts and some not-so-gentle direction from our guide, on day two I finally caught my first bonefish. Later in the day, I caught two more back-to-back wading in the flats. I was on the boat that day with editor-in-chief Glenn Law, who’d caught his first bonefish on the fly at the same resort thirty years before. The reward of having it all come together in such a beautiful place with great company was a memory I’ll never forget.
What projects at Bonnier are you the most proud of? What was the most challenging?
In my first couple of years with Bonnier, we migrated more than sixty websites from different CMS platforms on different versions to a single, in-house platform we called Sandcastle.
In this process, I learned a ton about the unsexy side of social, like having your metadata set up properly so when content is shared to social, the correct information populates.
One program I was able to bring to fruition was Marlin Magazine’s version of March Madness, known as “Marlin Madness.” Instead of basketball teams, each bracket consists of fishing tournament winners from the past year in four divisions: the East Coast, West Coast, Florida and International division. It had existed in a previous form a few years before I managed it, but needed serious improvement. With sixty-eight teams being voted on during a rotating time frame of six weeks, there are a lot of moving parts. We were able to garner a title sponsor both years, which was a big win. I was able to not just improve the overall user experience, but also drive long term revenue for the brand with the leads generated.
How did Auburn help you get to where you are now? Do you have any favorite memories from your time on the Plains?
I grew up not far from Auburn in a small town called Monroeville, Ala. I’d spent summers at basketball camps at Auburn and visited many times with friends who had siblings enrolled there before graduating high school.
Being a Panhellenic Pi Chi Recruitment counselor my junior and senior years is one of my favorite memories. It is not a lot of people’s versions of fun to spend a week in the August sun with thousands of incoming freshman girls. The group of other Pi Chis both of my years were such fun, smart and unique women that they easily put that experience near the top of my list.
One of my professors and internship director at Auburn, Ric Smith, would invite a few students to his home for dinner each semester. One dinner I remember well wound down with him and a couple of my classmates playing guitar. They ended the night singing Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue.” That song always reminds me of that night now.
You recently joined Seakeeper as the Digital Marketing Specialist. Is it different marketing a specific product versus a sort of lifestyle-type brand?
Absolutely. The publishing industry is in a tough spot and has been for a while. The freedom to fail did not exist in the way that it does at Seakeeper, simply due to revenue and staffing constraints. In that environment, you definitely learn work ethic. I’d been given advice that I might find working for a customer-facing product company boring, but Seakeeper isn’t your average product. It carries that “wow” factor and has disrupted an industry. Owners who have a Seakeeper would argue it’s a lifestyle. They’re able to enjoy more time on the water because of it. They’re proud to tell people who boat with them about the product.
Due to COVID and limited travel, I have yet to see our manufacturing facility in Mohnton, Penn. Because the tolerances are so tight, the flywheel and each half of the sphere that will enclose it are made specifically for one another and can’t be swapped out. Like fingerprints, no two Seakeepers are exactly alike. Seeing them come together in real life will be really cool.
It’s taken a few years, but the importance of shifting focus from quantity to quality has finally come. Spraying people with tons of emails or scheduling five to ten posts a day is a thing of the past. What’s the good in that if none are quality? There is so much noise on the internet now that it’s important to have the right message in front of the right people.
The smartest way to do that is showing them more customized content online, sending them “drip” or automated email campaigns, or targeting them with a paid social campaign based on their own previous actions. It’s also more important than ever to not ignore the basics. Voice search is only continuing to rise. Websites and emails should be able to be read easily on mobile devices. How can people get in contact with you? These are all simple things but do get overlooked still.
What’s the hardest part of working in a water-related field? Your favorite?
Like in many industries, there are not a lot of women. That can mean proving yourself as knowledgeable—over and over and over. That being said, the women I have had the pleasure to work with in this industry are among the smartest, hardest working and driven individuals I know, regardless of gender. Making a connection with one of those dynamic and driven women at Bonnier is what parlayed my taking a position with Seakeeper years later. I’m proud to now say that five out of seven of my immediate team members are women.
Hands down, my favorite part of the marine industry is being able to connect with people. Everyone has a fishing story to tell (whether it’s 100% true or not). Good ones can be about catching a species that has evaded you for years, or about days where the bite was bad but good times were had. Being on the water is good for the soul, and getting to share that with others is something special.