While many people in the produce industry are born into it, Cristie Mather took a less traveled route.

She made career stops at three nonprofit organizations and before joining the Pear Bureau Northwest in 2006.

Mather is used to the grins and raised eyebrows when colleagues hear that she spent a couple of years working for Hugh Hefner’s online editorial staff. She said the ribbing is worth the experience she gained.

Her time at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in Portland, Ore., also helped hone her marketing and electronic media skills, which were part of the reason Kevin Moffitt, president and chief executive officer for the pear bureau, hired her.

“Her public relations skills and writing ability really impressed us,” Moffitt said.

Moffitt said Mather’s enthusiasm remains just as strong and infectious as she approaches her sixth anniversary with the Milwaukie, Ore.-based bureau.

He said the most recent example of her abilities was the execution of the bureau’s campaign for the 2011-12 season.

“She pulled together an integrated campaign that tied together magazine ads, social media, retail promotions and sampling events across the country with chefs and food bloggers,” Moffitt said.

“She has great foresight into social media.”

Mather agreed that the 2011-12 campaign is one to be proud of, but she said she still has a lot of work ahead of her.

“In 2006 we did consumer research and found that only 8% knew how to properly check pears for ripeness,” Mather said.

So Mather and the pear bureau stepped up efforts to encourage consumers to “check the neck.”

When the results of a 2010 consumer survey showed the number of pear-savvy consumers had doubled, Mather was pleased, but still challenged. She wants the percentage even higher.

Another challenge Mather works on every day is making sure mainstream media understands all things pear.

Toward that end she has redesigned the pear bureau’s website and moved the content management of the site in-house.

Now, has 30,000 unique visitors a month, which Mather said helps make it the largest website dedicated to pears.

“We have seen a significant increase in accurate information in media reports,” she said.

Her next step is to put the finishing touches on the bureau’s mobile website, which launched in mid-March.

About a third of the visitors to the pear bureau’s website make the cyber trip via their smartphones, so the mobile site has been a priority for Mather.

“Cristie doesn’t hesitate to use innovative methods to reach consumers,” Moffitt said. “She is always looking to learn something new and pass it along to others.”