How I got here: GQ’s Katie Philo breaks down organizational silos as head of social

Katie Philo of GQ shares the most underrated skills in social media. 

As Associate Director of Social at GQ Magazine, Katie Philo, manages a team of social media managers and multimedia producers as well as collaborates with editors, reporters, video, PR and designers to develop content packages and rollout strategies that are tailored for optimal performance on social media platforms. Notably, Philo holds the distinction of being the second woman to helm social media at the international monthly men’s magazine. 

The moment I’m proudest of in my entire career is when I:

Led record-breaking red carpet coverage for GQ at the Met Gala in 2023. I’ve covered a lot of red carpets, events and TV shows in my career, but had yet to make it to the famous Met Gala in New York City. I was lucky enough to attend the event to cover the red carpet and it was truly surreal to see so many megastars gathered in one place, dressed in some of the most fabulous outfits going. I interviewed stars such as Phoebe Bridgers, Jimmy Fallon and Pierce Brosnan, along with creating viral videos of Bad Bunny, Pedro Pascal and more. As a result of fast-moving capture, bespoke editing and specific-takes, I led a team whose coverage resulted in more than 2000% more video views than from the previous year. It’s always really exciting working in a fast, live environment, and even more exciting knowing you’re reaching millions of people while you’re doing it. 

The thing I’m most excited about for the future of my profession is:

Social Media is still a very new profession. Since I started in digital marketing more than a decade ago, the landscape has changed considerably – TikTok is now the fastest growing platform globally, but it didn’t exist when I was starting out. While it can be challenging to keep up-to-date with the ever-shifting platforms and tools, it also is a constant creative challenge and I enjoy staying on my toes. 

I am also excited about the shifting perception of social media in organizations. The old trope of the intern running social is – at least, I hope – becoming a thing of the past and now, brands that are really killing the game have fully fledged editorial and content teams running social. I am excited for a time when Social Media Managers receive the recognition they deserve for the many skills and expertise they bring to a team, but also the resources they need to do their jobs well.

A tool or a piece of software I cannot live without is:

Trello is my favorite place to build to-do lists. I love the way that you can add links, documents and URLs to the cards. I also find them incredibly helpful for managing and tracking my team’s work. Working in social media means you have a lot of balls in the air at any given time, and Trello helps ensure none are dropped. An honorable shout out to the entire Google suite, too. I’m a sucker for a well-organized, color-coded Google sheet and toggling between different content calendars on Google Calendar. 

The most underrated skill in my profession is:

Adaptability and curiosity. Working in social media means that you’re wearing a lot of different hats. On any given day, you can be a strategist, copywriter, project manager, video producer, director or editor, interviewer, analyst or publisher. Being adaptable and curious means that you are open to adjusting your workflows if Instagram changes their algorithm, or learning how to shoot and edit short-form video as it continues to be a cornerstone of many social strategies. Social Media Managers are the swiss army knives of any team and lead the way in breaking organizational silos.

One way I stay creative and motivated is:

Filling up my creative cup and seeking inspiration beyond social media feeds. When you’re in the business of output, you have to think a lot about the input. It’s easier to have good ideas when you’re expanding your horizons, especially when some of the best ones come from different paradigms. I love the idea of the “artist date” in “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron, which is essentially a weekly expedition to explore something that inspires or interests you. While I may not commit to this weekly, I go to as many concerts, galleries, movies, creative panels and long walks as I can. You’ll find me at at least one concert a week because I find musicians endlessly inspiring. I am also a member of BAFTA and absolutely love attending their panels and screenings. Creativity is so multi-faceted and it’s motivating to feel like I can extend my storytelling to other mediums. I’d love to write and direct a film one day.

One piece of advice I would give other people in my profession is:

Think about why you like the content you consume. Most of us are on social media, and you should be an active participant and notice when and why you like or engage with certain videos or memes. Social media should be social and intimate in nature, and often brands lose their way with brand marketing agendas, which is why taking cues from how individuals use social – how they share photos, write captions, produce video – should be a guiding light in any strategy. 

Above all, be kind to yourself. Social media is unique in that not only does your work receive immediate feedback, but that feedback is public! While you can make every effort to set your post up for success, there is just sometimes no rhyme or reason why it doesn’t hit. Being connected at all times for your job is challenging, so taking time to decompress offline is a must.

Isis Simpson-Mersha is a conference producer/ reporter for Ragan. Follow her on LinkedIn.

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