Movin' on up: Q&A with Francis Hilario of PBJ / by Joanne Jordan

Q: You have recently acquired a new position at the PBJ. How are you feeling in your new role and what have been the hardest adjustments to make?

A: I’m almost four months into the new position and, obviously, going from intern to full-time reporter was a huge transition, but it’s been amazing so far.

The hardest adjustment I had to make was definitely being able to balance everything — my schedule, sources, stories and priorities — but I’m getting there. Fortunately, I’m a relatively organized person. Now, if you’ll excuse me, some things on my desk are not at a 90-degree angle.

Q: Has your photography taken a back seat due to the new position or is it still in full swing?

A: My photography has definitely not taken a back seat. Fortunately, PBJ embraced the fact that photography is one of my strengths. We’re in an evolving industry (and world) that’s becoming more visual, and PBJ is hip to that fact. People don’t want to just read about events — they want to be immersed in it, and I’m glad I’m able to do that.

Plus, I think my photography work let’s us cover events that we may not have covered before, or may not have covered as in-depth before.

Q: Since you write about a variety of topics, is it hard to stay up to date with all the trends? What is your secret to staying in the loop?

A: It’s hard to keep an eye on every single thing but you try to do your best. Luckily, I have a great team surrounding me who send me things that relate to my beat or things they feel I may be interested in. We do it for each other, which is great, because it shows the camaraderie at PBJ. It’s one of the reasons I took the job — everyone wants you to succeed.

Q: How would you describe your interaction with social media? What percentage of your stories come from social media i.e. Twitter, Facebook, etc.?

A: I wasn’t a big Twitter user until I started interning for PBJ. I didn’t understand it, but now I find that it’s very useful. I’m still relatively new to Twitter, so I would say I still get a bulk of my stories the old-fashioned way: Talking with people from organizations, leaders and PR folks, scouring the Web and hearing things down the grapevine.

Q: What is your preferred method of contact when dealing with PR pros?

A: When it comes to them contacting me, I prefer email. It allows me to organize everything and take in the information at my own pace that a pitch over the phone can’t do. This way is especially helpful if it’s immediately clear the pitch isn’t something I would cover (so I could forward it to a colleague) or something PBJ wouldn’t typically write about. It’s a time-saver for both parties.

Q: Roughly, how many emails a day do you receive from PR pros?

A: About 10-20 emails a day sounds about right. Then again, that could be the amount of emails I get after I come back from lunch.

Q: What was the worst email you have ever received thus far from a PR pro?

A: I don’t have any specific examples, but the worst pitches are those where the PR person doesn’t send me pitches relevant to the industries I cover. I understand that they send pitches to many people, so it may be hard to keep track, but it’s extremely helpful for everyone involved if those pitches are directed to the right person. It’s all about research, to put it bluntly.

Q: What is your opinion on follow-up emails? Are they annoying to reporters or a helpful reminder when things get busy?

A: They’re helpful. Emails have a tendency of getting lost in the shuffle, so a friendly remind is always helpful. I prefer follow-up emails as opposed to phone follow-ups, too.

Q: What advice do you have for professionals entering this industry?

A: Come back to me in a year or so. But, from what I’ve learned so far, it’s that you have to find time for yourself. This goes for any industry, I suppose, but it’s very easy to work 24/7 in this job. Work as hard as you can, obviously, but take a moment to step back and relax, too.

That’s probably advice for someone who’s already in the industry, but for those trying to get in the industry, it would be to do anything you can to get your foot in the door. Doing internships is the prime example.

I’ve had some people tell me that doing an internship post-graduation is a waste of time, talent and my degree. Well, clearly not. You never know when you’ll be in the right place at the right time. Being an intern at PBJ wasn’t the sole reason I was promoted to full-time status, but it allowed me to show my skill set and abilities.

Q: If you could have lunch with anyone living or dead, who would it be and why?

A: Meryl Streep. Enough said. Think we can make that happen? Streep is hospitable, eats at restaurants and tours cities, right?