In this PRS Employee Spotlight, meet Judy Schaefer - Director of Marketing. We asked Judy to walk us through a day in her life, recent projects at PRS, and share memories from her 15+ year tenure as a PRS employee. Step behind-the-scenes of the marketing department at PRS and enjoy the interview below!
How long have you been at PRS, tell us the story of how you landed here?
JS: I started at PRS in 2005. I was six months out of college working as a receptionist (through a temp agency), and I saw an ad in the classified section of the local newspaper for an “Office Support” role. I had heard of PRS Guitars before from someone who had worked there in “the early days,” and I was (am) a huge music lover, so it seemed like it could be a cool place to work for a bit while I figured out what to do with the rest of my life.
Throughout my tenure here, I have been Office Support, Administrative Assistant to Paul Reed Smith, Executive Assistant to Jack Higginbotham (President at that time), Marketing Logistics Coordinator, Marketing Manager, and now Director of Marketing.
Do you have a favorite “early days at PRS” story?
JS: One of my favorite memories is of a roller-skating party I helped organize the first year I was here. It started off as a fleeting comment at lunch, but I reached out to my childhood roller rink, and figured out how much it was to rent the entire rink out for a “birthday” party. We had pitchers of soda and pizzas…the whole bit. Some folks were pros and others had never skated before in their life. Oh, the pictures!
I think we got 50+ people to come, which I’d like to think is pretty impressive cause we only had maybe 120 employees total at the time. It was a super fun day. It also reminds me a lot of what we do now with the employee Fun Committee (that I am a proud member of)…finding fun and different ways to bring everyone together. The Fun Committee is now responsible for events like the Winter Blahs concerts, paint nights, food drives, Toy for Tots drives, and our annual summer/holiday parties.
What is an interesting project your team is currently working on or recently completed?
JS: The most recent big lift the Marketing team worked on was the 2023 model year announcement. That project takes about 2 ½ months of focused effort from the team. We cover everything you end up seeing in the wild: studio photography, situational photography, videos, graphic design, the website, social media messaging, etc.
What I love about PRS, is that we never do it the same way twice. We are always learning and pushing ourselves to do better. This year, that showed up in the SE DGT pre-release documentary videos. So much fun to make, and so proud of the team for making a truly exceptional piece of content. For this “flip,” we processed more than 100 guitars to produce seventeen videos and somewhere around 125 studio photos…it’s our busiest time of the year.
What is a day in your life like at PRS?
JS: I don’t think there is a “typical” day here for me – lol. Probably the most interesting part of my job is working within the product development team. While my team is working on what is coming out “right now,” the PD team is working six, twelve, eighteen, twenty four months in the future. Sometimes it messes with my internal clock, and I forget what year we’re in!
I love when Paul Reed Smith pops in to share a new pickup he has wound, a new switching scheme he has thought of, or an idea for a totally new product (hello, Horsemeat!). I also still do a lot of the copywriting for our new products, and as an English major, that makes me very happy.
What is a common misconception about PRS/Marketing that you would want guitar players to understand differently?
JS: My goal, always, is to better show who we are here. What is the role of Marketing if not to take what is happening in our business and accurately transfer that information to the world in a compelling and honest way? And I think there are a lot of misconceptions out there (certainly some of our own making).
For one, we are much more than Paul Reed Smith the man – though he is the most amazing leader and teacher we could hope for (love you, Paul!). But, as a life-long Marylander, I know PRS to be a bit of a beacon for musicians, artists, and creatives of all kinds. We can be pretty DIY but are very dedicated to the craft of making the best musical gear we can. We have tried to show that through our factory tour and From the Factory Floor videos, for example. Paul had the initial dream, and we all jumped on board. We keep showing up every day because it is easy to be proud of what we are all doing here. At this point, we don’t have to act like a first-generation startup because we still are one – not least of which is still having Paul Reed Smith here (and many other 30+ year employees).
Another thing I would like to show is what an interesting spot we are in as a company right now. We’ve grown a lot (especially over the last four years), and we are (still) the third largest electric guitar manufacturer in the United States. But, we are also millions of dollars and thousands/hundreds of employees smaller than #1 and #2, and I think that is a meaningful distinction. We’re in that interesting point as a business where we are “too small to be big and too big to be small.” The challenges before any company at this stage are unique, and I can’t think of a better group of people to navigate that landscape with than the employees we have here.
What are your favorite hobbies?
JS: I have a made a very conscious effort over the last few years to spend more time doing the things I love. The big ones are cooking, reading, writing, getting outside, and practicing yoga. I completed my 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training in 2022, and I started sewing my first quilt in about 15 years…we’ll see if I ever finish it. Big goals for 2023 include going on a solo overnight backpacking trip and skydiving!
If we gave you a private plane and two weeks, where would you travel?
JS: On a private plane, I would go back to New Zealand. A group of us went there in 2015. My BFF got his twenty-year gift from PRS that year, which at that time was a $2500 travel voucher. He picked New Zealand and a few of us joined in for a two-week RV trip across both islands. It is an amazing country. I remember researching how to move there from the RV the first week! The plane ride, however, would have been much better on our own jet.
What do you love most about working at PRS, and what’s the most memorable experience you’ve had here?
JS: A lot of my favorite memories here are probably not fit to print, but they are all favorites first and foremost because of the people I made them with. I came here fresh out of school, quiet as a mouse with no intention of staying very long. Eighteen years later – still here. That doesn’t happen without good people and a good, shared mission. I met my husband here (Private Stock Woodshop 4-ever), and I have made so many lifelong friends that I couldn’t imagine life without. I don’t know if it is possible to explain how special PRS is, but I consider it an honor that I get to call that my job.