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Interview with Victoria "SailorBee" Holden, Crunchyroll Soc. Media MGR

What does it take to actually make it in the anime industry? Crunchyroll's Victoria Holden gives some advice, while also reflecting on her first impression of Crunchyroll to her thoughts on the company today.

by kami_nomi
Jan 19, 6:46 PM | 4,283 views

Victoria Holden Sailorbee and Junko Takeuchi
(Victoria taking a photo with the VA for Naruto, Junko Takuechi, at AX 2015)

There’s very few people you hear referred to by name in the anime industry, but Victoria Holden, A.K.A SailorBee, is one you may happen to know. She’s the Social Media Manager at Crunchyroll, which means, in her own words, “I oversee Twitter, Instagram, FB, all of our FB fan pages, Tumblr, and whether we want to experiment with things like Snapchat or Vine.”

Having been raised by a dad who tried to convince her friends’ parents why anime has more plot than Western cartoons and a Zelda loving mom, Victoria was going to like anime one way or another. But getting into the industry took her passion to a new level. Now she’s helping one of the biggest anime streaming sites out there! She took some time out of her schedule to mention what she’s actually doing at the company, why she didn’t think the company was genuine at the start, and gives some advice for those who want to break into the industry.

Since you do a million things for the company, how would you describe your role at Crunchyroll?

Although Crunchyroll is big, my team is very small. We have two separate marketing teams, and my team is the Brand and Community team. We’re in charge of keeping a fan once they discover CR. Then there’s MAD, and they’re in charge of getting CR in front of people’s faces, which means paid ads or putting commercials on TV. They have a lot of experience, but they rely on us to guide them and let them know what people are looking forward to, clips to use, anime we should be talking about, etc. So not only do we have that responsibility of helping other teams, we have our day jobs also.

I’m in charge of Crunchyroll-hime, and the way the brand voice sounds. So whether we push out an update for an android app, or something like that, I have to check or write the copy myself to make sure it’s consistent with the brand. I’m helping to write the brand guidelines right now; I’m helping to create Crunchyroll-hime’s style guide, so anything she says sounds concise and sounds correct. When we talk to partners or publishers, I’m in charge of giving a presentation of our social media and brand voice with other brand managers. We all brainstorm and help each other out when it comes to contests or events.

I also host the Crunchycast and do the commercial spots you see the employees talking in. I go to conventions, host panels, premieres, and live content at the CR booth--I feel like I’ve been talking for like 30 years (laughs) But I do a lot of things there-I even do little mundane things as well.

Victoria Holden Sailorbee, Crunchyroll Hime
(Victoria at the Crunchyroll exhibit AX 2014)

You’ve been at Crunchyroll officially for 3 and a half years. What was the first thought that came to your mind when you first heard about CR?

I heard about Crunchyroll when I was 16 from a friend who was watching One Piece there at that time. I didn’t think anything of it because it was ingrained in my mind that the way you got anime was: you read about the VHS or DVD release in a magazine, you went to the store on that date, and brought it. So there was no need for me to seek out a service to give me anime because it was everywhere. So she told me, “Oh I just log in here. Here’s my profile, and this is how I watch One Piece.” And I remember her letting me borrow her account so I could watch a Korean drama... I think it was Boys Over Flowers.

Then I stopped using it and didn’t think about it again until I went to Fanime for the first time a year later and saw a CR booth. The way I distinctively remember this was, “Who are these people?” It was just a bunch of guys in t-shirts that...didn’t look like me. I dunno, they didn’t look like fans or somebody I wanted to talk to. They didn’t come off as very genuine. I just didn’t get a good impression, and the main thing I got was, “Oh, these people aren’t like me, I feel like they don’t even know what they’re selling to me and what it means to me,” stuff like that. So I steered clear of them and never thought about it again.

Then when I finally got an invitation to come to the office, I got there and they were all very nice, but the people there at that time were not me, they weren’t super fans, or maybe even casual fans. They were very like, "this is our job, we do a good job." I was like, "You guys are missing some secret sauce!" (laughs) "If you guys had somebody consulting you or behind the wheel that was passionate about this stuff and loved it, it would show, and people like me who saw your booth maybe would’ve stayed and talked to you, or been really excited about your service." That’s sorta the genesis of me getting in there and deciding that CR should be a by fans for fans company. The people that started CR loved anime, but the people they hired to man their social media and brand weren’t like them, so I was like, “No, everybody in this building should care about this stuff, and at least have an opinion, or like, learn about it, and then market it.” Not just think it’s a product and think of it that way. It’s not going to be effective.

What has surprised you while you’ve continued to work there?

It’s not a secret, and I don’t know when exactly it happened, but eventually we did get investors, and Otter Media sort of came in. When that happened, I was pretty scared. What was going to happen? Are they gonna replace us? Super micro-manage everything we do? And the biggest surprise was literally nothing: happened. They know that we know what we’re doing, they think we’re doing a great job, and they want us to keep doing that. So I still get to be myself, and Crunchyroll still gets to be a very fun, energetic, sometimes informal fan and part of the community. All they’ve done is empower us and given us more resources to do great stuff.

Crunchyroll, Victoria Holden at a panel
(Hosting a panel at Sakuracon)

What’s been the coolest moment at Crunchyroll?

There have been so many cool moments at Crunchyroll (laughs) I think every time I get to meet people that I idolized as a child, like meeting Junko Takeuchi, was very cool. And giving her presents, meeting a lot of voice actresses and actors has been really cool. I got to meet Touru Furuya, and I’m like a Saint Seiya freak and I like, cried--(laughs)

In front of him?

Oh yeah, 100%. (laughs) He was like, "Are you ok?" And I’m like, "I’m so sorry!" (laughs)

What should anime fans be looking forward to from Crunchyroll this year?

We have really ramped up our convention strategy-I feel like this year fans are going to experience Crunchyroll in a way they never have at conventions, and they’re actually going to be able to experience it from home as well. I can’t give any more detail than that, but we have our new convention manager, Adam Sheehan. He’s extremely experienced-he’s been in the industry for, I wanna say 10 years, and he knows it, he gets it, and he’s really involving all of us. CR’s gonna be a force in every convention.

What do you think are some key traits someone needs in order to break into the industry?

I think it depends on where your interest is. At Crunchyroll, since about 4, 5 months ago, we’ve been looking for sort of my second-in-command. I’ve been managing social media and the brand for so long by myself that new opportunities have opened for me, so I need someone to come on board and help me with this workload. We looked at 80 applications and there were a lot that were very, very good. We talked and interviewed so many people over the phone, in person, yet we didn’t actually find anybody.

At CR specifically, we’re looking for people that are genuine fans and passionate about this stuff, and to me, I really want somebody that has done their homework, or even somebody who’s been blogging for 5 years. At least they’ll have watched everything and know what’s going on in the community a bit. We have a lot of people apply that are like, “Oh I love anime!” we’re like, “What are you watching?” and their answer will be an anime that they saw on our website or just named the top 3. Or they’ll say they’re watching this and I’ll ask them a question about that show and they’ll get it wrong. So I feel a lot of people are like, saying they’re super super into it when they’re not. I’d rather you watch one anime that you’re super into and that you generally love and have an affinity for than tell me you watched everything, and have that be false. You have to know the product before you think you can work with it. Not just see me, think I’m having tons of fun, and this job is easy, but realize that I have this job because of how much I understand the product, and that’s probably the most valuable thing about me there.
Victoria, surrounded by fans
(Fansigns for Crunchyroll-hime at AX 2014)

Did you have any misconceptions about the anime industry before you joined it?

No, I didn’t. I didn’t know what to expect whatsoever-I had no conception of the anime industry before that. I was the end user, the consumer. I had no idea Crunchyroll was in San Francisco. I knew Viz was SF, but I didn’t know where even FUNimation was. I didn’t know where ADV was, things like that.

...I also thought that all anime was dubbed in Canada? (laughs) I dunno why--

From like Ocean?

Yeah, yeah, I thought everything was dubbed in Canada, probably because of Sailor Moon or something.

Inuyasha was dubbed by Ocean.

Yeah, Inuyasha!

My impression of the first couple months, like I joined just being a host on the Live Show, and then I took over all of their social media without them asking or knowing. They invited me to go to conventions with them, and I started going and just thought it was so high paced. You would go to these industry parties and talk to people, and everybody’s excited about anime and stuff. And then I got fully hired and it became my desk job and I’m like, “wait, this is real work, there’s like spreadsheets and numbers and metrics, this isn’t just partying and stuff.” I still think to this day it’s great, I get to do both now, I get to go to cons and I get to sit at my desk. So I still love it, and I don’t think my perception of it has changed much.

What are your expectations for this season? Anything in particular you’re looking forward to?

So far for me personally, Musaigen no Phantom World (Myriad Colors Phantom World), Boku Dake ga Inai Machi (Erased), and Gate: Jieitai Kanochi nite Kaku Tatakaeri will probably be the top shows this season. Oh, and also Fairy Tail Zero. Like, Fairy Tail’s audience is very... well, it’s never getting bigger, but never getting smaller either, and I feel Fairy Tail kids will eat that up and love it.

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