Chris Perez

Media Minds: Chris Perez

At Red Fan Communications, our public relations professionals have the pleasure of building relationships with talented media experts covering various topics in cities all over the country – but we’d be lying if we didn’t say that we live in one hell of a city to call home. Chris Perez, founding editor of Citygram Austin Magazine – an innovative, application-based publication covering all things Austin, Texas – certainly wouldn't disagree with us there. Citygram’s digital platform provides a new way for us to discover and access information from the comfort of our mobile devices without losing the depth and quality that’s expected of print media.

Chris founded Citygram Austin, which connects visitors and locals to Austin culture, local businesses and trends, in June 2013. Our team had the pleasure of working with Chris shortly thereafter. In addition to serving as founding editor, Chris is the chief digital officer for Citygram Austin, leading the publication to be recognized as a first-of-its-kind mobile magazine app that successfully blends interactive editorial and advertising through a focused, digital-first strategy.

No stranger to innovation, Chris has nine years of experience as a hardware engineer and technology interface for IBM. He has a master’s degree in electrical engineering from University of Michigan - Ann Arbor and a bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics from Austin College in Sherman, Texas. He has been the lead inventor for three U.S. patents.

Our team was excited to sit down with Chris and learn what makes him tick.

What makes a good story?

A good story is thoughtful, intelligent and provides something unexpected. A good story is something you get caught up in, something that you can’t be easily distracted away from, and something that provokes thought and conversation.

You are an electrical engineer turned journalist. How did you get your start?

I applied for an open writing position at Apartment Therapy in October 2011. They were seeking writers to talk about tech and lifestyle apps and, being an engineer and gadget geek, that was definitely my space.

I was putting together three to five articles per week when I started. Having regular writing opportunities at a popular blog really helped me learn and develop my writing quickly.

This was also the first time I started taking pictures seriously, and that really was the game changer for me. I was able to tune into a creative side of me that for years didn’t have an outlet or channel. Having a scientific approach to things helped me make sense of the concepts quickly and being both a photographer and writer opened the doors for me to step into larger roles.

When did you know you wanted to make a shift in careers?

I probably had that first thought about six months into the Apartment Therapy gig. People around me started asking because I think they could sense how involved I was becoming with it. I wasn’t quite sure of the best approach for making a shift, though, because it was such a drastic move away from my engineering career.

When I got the idea for Citygram and was able to develop some of the concepts, is when I became ready. People believed in my vision, and I had something that I felt layered my skills in engineering and creative, which I felt was important. I didn’t want to completely abandon the education and career I had worked toward my whole life up until that point.

What story in your career are you most proud of?

One story that stands out is the article on Outbox, a local tech startup that would digitize your physical mail, which I wrote about for our first issue of Citygram. I did an interview with one of the founders, took photos and portraits, did a long-term review of the service, and eventually did the graphic design and development. Being involved with all the aspects of a story to that degree made it extra special, and since it was in our inaugural issue there was this satisfaction from seeing the vision of Citygram come to life.

What's your biggest pet peeve as a journalist?

Sensational headlines and misleading content. In a world where everyone is competing for clicks and likes this has become the ugly byproduct, and it’s unfortunate how commonplace it is becoming, even amongst respected outlets.

What do you find most rewarding about your job?

Helping people – from mentoring our intern class to putting together features that compel someone to check out a local business we believe in, to writing stories that inspire and encourage people. Having an opportunity to affect some kind of change through awareness and teaching makes it all worth the hard work.

What famous historical figure do you wish you could interview and why?

Albert Einstein. I feel we live in a society that throws around the word ‘genius’ too loosely, and I would have loved the opportunity to interview the man whose name is synonymous with the word. As a physics undergrad, Einstein is also somewhat of a hero, and it’d be a thrill to be in his circle and witness his thought process and work ethic.

There are several great quotes from Einstein, and it’d be a dream to capture some of his thoughts around today’s issues and technologies.

Citygram Austin is an incredibly unique platform. How did you know an app was the way to go?

As an early adopter to tech, I loved the promise of digital magazines and that first demo of what a live, interactive, designed-for-mobile experience could be when Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad.

It was a format I attached to quickly and I noticed myself shifting from print to the always-with-you convenience of digital. There were still some things that the experience lacked and since there were no local publications in this space yet, I recognized an opportunity for one to break through here in Austin.

As we get more and more in touch with our devices as a primary channel of media consumption, it just makes sense that the magazine becomes a format we all appreciate there too.

Fill in the blank: When you’re not writing or taking photographs, we can find you _______.

Enjoying good conversation and company at a local Austin restaurant.

Your Twitter profile says you’ll never turn down a cookie. We must ask—what’s your favorite kind?

Chocolate chip, all the way, with some sprinkled sea salt and preferably baked in a skillet.

Chris’ commitment to delivering thoughtful, relevant content to locals and beyond can be seen in every issue of Citygram Austin, which highlights the many unique aspects and culture of the place Red Fan calls home. To experience the interactive design, dining, fashion (and more) news from Chris’ team, download Citygram Austin for your iPhone or Android for free at http://citygrammag.com.

We also encourage you to attend Citygram’s event, One by One TX, a statewide celebration of the art of Instagram, featuring a VIP Restaurant Preview Party and BBQ + Beer Instameat, this weekend February 20-22.

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