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Balancing the Grind with Katie Philo, Senior Manager, Social Media at Pitchfork

Katie Philo is the Senior Manager, Social Media at music publication, Pitchfork, where she leads the team across various social media platforms.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I currently lead social media for Pitchfork, a music publication owned by Condé Nast. My team is responsible for using social media to develop, engage, and inform audiences across a variety of social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

It’s also important to be clued up on emerging platforms such as TikTok and figure out ways we can use them to reach new audiences. While I set high-level strategies, I also dig into the daily processes by writing and editing posts, and defining the visual direction of social content.

As a longtime Pitchfork reader and music fanatic, this really is a dream job. I’ve been working in digital media for over a decade now, six years of which were spent in various roles at the BBC working across radio, online and TV.

Digital media offers so many exciting ways to connect with audiences and tell stories. The landscape has changed dramatically since I started my career, and this constant evolution and need to adapt is what keeps me on my toes.

2)  What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Like many companies, we’re starting a hybrid model soon. But, as I am still working from home, I’ll take you through a recent (particularly fun) day.

Fridays are often the busiest days for anyone working in social media, because you have the weekend on the horizon and two days to schedule content for. It’s also New Music Friday, so a lot of new music and music news drops that day.

I start around 9am and immediately get the New Music Friday stories up on Instagram, before sifting through the big stories of the day, selecting images and writing copy for Instagram posts in a scheduling tool. I then turn my attention to any remaining weekend scheduling left to do, which I try to work on throughout the week. I work with my fellow social team members on completing this and reviewing posts each week. 

Once I’ve worked my way through this day-to-day work, I spend the rest of the day in whatever meetings might be planned for the day (routine or future looking), and divide my attention between the daily ticking of social media, planning for longer-term projects or strategic work. For example, we recently announced the Pitchfork Music Festival 2022 line up (spoiler: it’s very good) and ticket sales, so I’ve been working on an overarching social strategy for the few months before the event itself. 

At around 3pm, I hopped on the Subway to a photoshoot for a feature with Sharon Van Etten. Working closely with some of my favourite artists is truly one of the greatest joys and privileges of my job.

I was there to capture some behind-the-scenes content to use on Instagram and TikTok. It was really fun being on set, especially as it’s something that we haven’t been able to do as much of during the pandemic. We wrapped around 6pm and I hopped on the subway back, and wrapped up my day.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

My role is currently remote, but I anticipate returning to the office in a hybrid set-up soon. My office is in One World Trade, so it’s funny seeing it every time I take a walk along the river in Brooklyn.

I’ve really enjoyed working from home and having the flexibility for life and work to coalesce. While the lines can sometimes be blurred, I’ve found that if I ever have to work late it’s much nicer already being at home and not staying in the office.

I’ve been very careful to create structure and routine while working from home. I go for a walk every morning to get coffee, which makes me feel like I have some kind of commute. I then tend to do some form of exercise or go for another stroll at the end of each day.

I make an effort to take lunch, even if it’s just 20 minutes, just to change gears and some space from my desk and notifications. Having these three pillars in my day makes time feel structured. I also find I am most productive in the mornings, so I like to blast through more strategic work then, and then save the afternoons for more routine work. 

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

Work-life balance means that work and life co-exist in harmony, with each adjusting or collaborating around your priorities in that given moment.

The pandemic has taught us that this kind of working is possible, and I really appreciate being able to balance appointments or time outside alongside my work, whether that means starting earlier or finishing later.

Without the 9-5 structures an office imposes, we’ve felt more empowered to build routines that work for us. This is especially true in social and digital media, which is always on, and inevitably requires out of hours or weekend work at times.

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

At the beginning of the pandemic I started taking photos on 35mm film on a janky old Minolta. It’s surprisingly changed my life in a number of ways.

Firstly, I’ve found myself exploring more parts of the neighbourhood, and New York generally, in a bid to take interesting photos. Secondly, it makes me more thoughtful and present about the moment I’m capturing.

You really do only have one shot, compared to 50 iPhone photos. I am old enough to remember a time before digital cameras and nothing beats the excitement of going to pick up your film, especially when you’ve forgotten what’s on it!

It’s become a really fun ritual of dropping off and picking up film, and I’m hoping to explore this new-found hobby further. I have started posting some of my favourite shots on Instagram here

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

Callings: A Celebration of Lives of Purpose and Passion from Storycorps’ founder Dave Isay really struck a chord with me. The book contains stories from people doing what they love. Some are paid well for their work, others not at all; some found their paths at a very young age, others later in life; many overcame great odds or upturned their lives in order to pursue what matters to them.

I’ve always wrestled with the many things that interest me and paths I could go down. This is precisely why I started my podcast When I Grow Up. It gave me the opportunity to understand the twists and turns in other people’s paths; hearing how other people connected the dots is always inspiring and soothing. I find it very exciting that the future is unwritten. 

I also regularly listen to How to Fail with Elizabeth Day. It’s an absolute gem of a podcast. We’re so used to celebrating success stories, and this podcast shines a light on the things that didn’t go to plan. I’ve shared Clemency Burton-Hill and Mo Gowdat’s episodes with so many friends.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

Trello is my go-to for organising everything at work. I find it so useful being able to map all my tasks – big and small – in addition to adding any notes or colour-coding. I also recently discovered the “Habit” app, which essentially helps you build good habits.

I find visuals really keep me on track, and nothing is more satisfying than checking off each habit for the day. I’m a sucker for a good old-fashioned journal too. This is the one I currently have in rotation.

I also fill in this five-minute journal every day. I love how it forces me to reflect on life’s seemingly small moments, like a sunny stroll with birds singing or a perfectly timed phone call from a friend. It really makes you reflect on the silver lining, even if it’s hardly discernible, it’s always there.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?  

The incredibly wise Heather Havrilesky, who writes all the advice I need to hear as Ask Polly. Whenever I have a problem or want a different perspective on something, I literally Google [insert question or conundrum here] along with “Ask Polly” and usually am met with an astute, soothing essay that hits the spot. I’m sure she’s already shared some great nuggets on this subject, but I’d devour a book if I could.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

I saw this video on TikTok the other day which literally said: “I’m here to remind you, it’s only a job babe”. I laughed out loud, because I definitely need to hear this sometimes. I care very deeply about my work and sometimes find myself sweating the small stuff. In those moments, I need a reminder we’re on this planet to live, and, as clichéd as it is, life is short. So, here’s your reminder: “it’s only a job, babe.”

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About Author

Balance the Grind is a work-life balance publication on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.