Published on April 3, 2022, at 2:50 p.m.
by Morgan Keel.
Nashville, Tennessee, is most commonly known as the music city, but the city is home to more than just music creatives. Typically, public relations professionals for large corporations reside in New York, Atlanta and Los Angeles, but with new opportunities rising, they are now picking up their boots and heading to Nashville instead.
The big question is why are so many professionals choosing the Nashville scene over big name companies in the larger cities? The answer is simple: Nashville is rapidly growing, and so are the career opportunities.
The growing city
Nashville is the heartbeat of the Southeast. With the city being home to almost 2 million people and over 53,000 businesses, there is a wide variety of opportunities for the PR professional. The area is considered a tourist attraction with things like Broadway, The Grand Ole Opry, Tennessee Titans, Nashville Predators and Bridgestone Arena. The biggest career fields in the area are music production and tourism. With these industries thriving, there is a big need for communication specialists in the area.
In the past 10 years, Nashville has evolved at lighting speed. Carly Symington, assistant vice president–public relations at AllianceBernstein, was raised in Nashville and has had the chance to see the area evolve over the course of her life. Symington graduated from The University of Alabama in 2014 and returned to the Nashville scene in 2018.
“Even when I was in high school, we had Broadway, but there was not a lot going on. A few people were coming in and out for the country music aspect,” Symington recalled. Now the city has conferences and events that keep people coming to Nashville throughout the week.
It only takes a quick drive through the heart of downtown Nashville for one to see the new development happening in the city. One of the starting points of growth for Nashville happened in 2017 when Bridgestone Arena relocated its corporate headquarters to the area.
An asset-management and research firm, AllianceBernstein, with one of the oldest names on Wall Street, also made the move to Nashville. In late 2020, the company moved its headquarters from Midtown Manhattan to Fifth + Broadway, providing 1,050 jobs to the area. “It was an exciting time for the city to welcome a financial firm from New York. It was a monumental moment for the region, as it really put Nashville on the map,” stated Symington.
The growing opportunities
With these companies moving to the area, there is a greater need for communication specialists in the area. PR professionals who work at small and large firms in the area are getting to take part in campaigns that are changing the city for the better.
One notable campaign that has put Nashville across the pond and made a big splash in its own waters is “British Airways Landing in Nashville.” The campaign focused on the first nonstop flight from Nashville to London since 1994. The airline used country music singer Stella Parton to help promote the campaign to London and Nashville residents. This campaign made a big impact for the city, bridging London and Nashville together. The first inaugural flight was even celebrated Nashville style with “live music and whiskey,” according to a New York Post article.
Katie Larson, VP of communications at Big Plan Holdings, has firsthand experience of the growth happening in the city. Big Plan Holdings is a newer firm in Nashville, but the firm is working on campaigns with big names. The “Kiss Breast Cancer Goodbye” campaign focused on raising awareness for breast cancer research to benefit the Susan G. Komen foundation and featured stars such as Dolly Parton, Locash, and Todd and Julie Chrisley.
With Nashville full of opportunities, Larson said she was able to utilize different skills such as graphic design, PR and photography in her job. In addition to her full-time position, she is now a photographer for Nashville Susan G. Komen events. She noted that without the growth happening in Nashville, these additional job opportunities would have not been possible.
Larson, a 2021 UA graduate, stated, “Nashville is a great place for someone [to build a PR career] who is willing to put in the work.” She then added, “It is really nice to find people who respect [the work you put in] and know you are worthy of being put into a leadership role.”
Changing the mindset
Nashville is not the first city to come to mind when thinking of public relations careers. But, young PR professionals are starting to change the stereotype around the music city.
Ashley Cunigan, a senior at UA, has worked in Nashville at the National Convention of Visitors Corp on the “Nashville Backstage” campaign. Through this campaign, Cunigan helped highlight local business owners’ stories. “Nashville has a lot to offer outside of the country music and Broadway realm,” Cunigan noted.
“When I first think of Nashville, I think of country, high energy and loud music,” stated Nickell Grant, a senior at The University of Alabama who is interested in moving to Nashville upon graduation.
Grant went on to note that “Nashville has always been associated with country music and not PR. But, Nashville is starting to become a PR student’s first choice coming out of college.”
Nashville PR professionals know that as more companies move into the area, the need for PR will continue to increase. Symington noted that “[the Nashville PR scene is] only going to continue to get bigger and better with communications jobs coming up left and right.”
“So many people want to move [to Nashville], and so many employers need communication specialists. It’s not just a few PR agencies anymore; it’s a wide range of industries,” Symington stated.
Nashville is more than just country music. It is full of communications creatives who are excited for the new opportunities in the growing city.