City Series: Examining the Bustling Public Relations Industry of Nashville

Photo from Thomas Hawk and modified by Laura Daronatsy.

Dynamic. Robust. Diverse. This is the public relations industry in Nashville, Tennessee.

The city is well deserving of its nickname, “Music City,” inspired by its recording industry and the bounty of live music performances all around town every night. Nashville is music and so much more, and its public relations industry reflects this. It’s also a foodie city and known for its friendliness. Other industries successful in Nashville include business, entertainment, hospitality, sports, health care, non-profit, publishing and education.

The Nashville public relations landscape has changed in many ways since the chartering of the PRSA Nashville Chapter in 1957. The 10 founding Chapter members were all male. Now, the Chapter includes almost 200 members, including an impressive number of promising recent graduates as well as experienced professionals. Chapter members include professionals from more than a dozen public relations firms, national and international corporations, utility companies, insurance companies, publishing houses, architectural firms, law firms, entertainment media, hotels, retail and six universities. (See why Nashville is also called the “Athens of the South?”)

Public relations majors in Nashville are blessed with a variety of internship opportunities and mentorship opportunities with these professionals. We have more internship opportunities in Nashville than we have public relations majors to fill them. This makes it possible for public relations majors here to secure internships early in their studies and complete several before graduation. At Belmont University, where I teach, the record is held by Sarah Norton, who’s had seven internships.

Some of our graduates go from here to Orlando, Dallas, Denver, New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., etc., and some stay in Nashville, where they are often hired full time by companies where they interned.

Danielle Hopkins, a May 2014 Belmont graduate, is a project coordinator at the Lampo Group, as well as a broadcast journalist for the Tennessee Air National Guard. She joined PRSA as an Associate Member when she graduated.

“It’s delightfully refreshing to be involved in PR in a town with so many different social issues and products,” said Hopkins. “Not only are we the home of country music, but we also enjoy many interesting conversations driven by fashion and good food.”

My quick list of advice to new professionals wanting to break into the public relations industry in Nashville:

  • do several internships
  • maximize those connections
  • get excellent recommendations
  • network on LinkedIn
  • build a professional presence in social media
  • go on informational interviews
  • join — and become active in — PRSA and other organizations
  • get involved in committees and leadership roles
  • read constantly
  • write consistently
  • make yourself indispensable
  • serve your employer
  • serve your profession

Best of luck pursuing a public relations job in Music City!

Bonnie Riechert, APR, Fellow PRSA, is associate professor and chair of the Department of Public Relations at Belmont University in Nashville. She’s Faculty Adviser to Belmont PRSSA and immediate past president of PRSA Nashville.

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