INDUSTRY INSIDER: DON MURRY GRUBBS ( Publicist/ Company President. Absolute Publicity, Nashville.)
Don Murry Grubbs is the President of the well reputed Public Relations Firm, ‘Absolute Publicity’, in Nashville, Tennessee. The company has a talent roster that spans from seasoned music veterans to some of Country Music’s rising stars; and their business network has an admirable stretch across the four media expressions (Ink,Internet, TV, and Radio).
Just four years out of college himself, Grubbs is a young high flyer in notoriously competitive ‘Music City’; building his successful company in the space of just one year and four months! Ngawara Madison caught up with the charismatic young businessman to gather his advice for those looking to jump into the deep end of Media Public Relations, and find out his key to keeping afloat in the strenuous world that is Artist Publicity.
“Learn how to talk with and respect other people, even if they aren’t quite like you. Not only will this make you a better future Publicist, but it will also make you a better person.” – Don. M. Grubbs. (Absolute Publicity).
Music Vice Insider interview below
You run your own Publicity Company in Nashville, Tennessee. Could you explain to our readers what a publicists job is, exactly?
Don: My pleasure! Basically, it’s the publicist’s job to get the word out about their client. If you’re an Artist – signed or unsigned – you’ll want a good PR person in your corner to let the masses know what’s going on with your career. We are those fine people who work behind the scenes to put an artist on television or in a magazine; or on a radio show – or on your favorite blog! Basically it’s OUR job to relay a message through the media, about our client, to the general public. Remember the old saying, “Out of sight, out of mind”? Well, unless you have a good publicist, chances are you’re just that!
What niche of artists does your company represent?
Don: Absolute Publicity currently represent Country music, Southern rock, and Bluegrass artists… as well as one professional wrestler!
That’s quite a variation of characters you have there! I’ve seen a number of photos of you in the music press, standing alongside some very well known faces! What artists have you’ve worked with aside your company’s current schedule?
Don: I’ve had the pleasure of working PR projects with Alabama, Aaron Tippin, John Anderson, Hank Williams Junior…. Tanya Tucker, Bo Bice, Clay Walker, Montgomery Gentry… Lonestar, Merle Haggard, John Conlee, Little Texas, Lynyrd Skynyrd, among others… Crystal Gayle…
Ah! My mum used to play me Crystal Gayle records when I was just a toddler! Very cool.. So then – how did you come to work in the PR field? Was there an initial attraction to the job, or did you ‘stumble upon the job’ as they say?
Don: Well, originally I wanted to work in the broadcasting field – either in Broadcast News or in Radio! I went to school for it in fact! However, when I got into the upper level courses, I changed my mind. I didn’t care for the crazy hours and… well… entry level salary is not so good to be honest! In my senior year of college I was given the opportunity to take an internship with a Nashville public relations company that specialized in Country Music PR. I took it; and I learned a LOT about the business… Found out I was pretty good at it! You’ve got to be a “people person”, and well… apparently I am! After graduating from college I was offered a job at the firm. I stayed with that company for a year before departing and launching my own company (Absolute Publicity).
A lot of people say that its all about “Who you know” in the Music Business… How important is networking to you?
Don: You nailed it! It is all about who you know! It can be tough to get a start in the music business unless you have an “in”. There ARE exceptions, but for most people who land a job in the business; they probably did so through someone who knows someone who knows someone.
Any advice for young graduates looking to follow in your footsteps?
Don: I would encourage anyone looking for a job in the industry to network as MUCH as possible!
Got any specific networking tips? Where should someone start? It can seem a bit daunting at first…
Don: It’s a good idea to watch the industry trade magazines and websites for upcoming events where there are opportunities to mingle among pros of the business.
Also, if there is a local college (Belmont* in Nashville is a good example) that prides itself on its Music Business Department, they are most likely pretty well connected to the industry. Colleges like Belmont regularly work with Booking, Management, Publishing, and Publicity companies to provide internships to students within the field. An internship is a great way to get your foot in the door. It’s how I broke in the business. So, in a nutshell… get out there and start meeting whoever you can… and always strive for an internship – or two!
Your industry is notoriously competitive. What would you say is the personal touch or spin that one MUST bring to the job? Any prerequisites?
Don: I think it all goes back to being a “people person”. A publicist MUST be a good communicator. You can’t have the personality of a cabbage if you expect to be successful in the public relations field! You are constantly in contact with media personnel…
So in my opinion, you NEED to be a LIKEABLE person . A likeable person is capable of building relationships, and relationship building skills are a MUST for a Publicist. If you’re likeable and know how to talk with people, you’d probably make a good publicist! Not only that, but you also need to possess exceptional writing skills and know how to effectively communicate a message.
PR companies send out announcements and press releases about their clientele on a regular basis. Your subject line needs to be able to grab the attention of the recipient .
Everyday, media outlets worldwide are BOMBARDED with press releases and publicist pitches about their clientele. If you have a built-in relationship with the outlet, as well as a good story that’s of interest to them; then you have a good shot at securing your client some “ink”, TV and/or Radio awareness.
Can you take us through ‘A Day in the life of a Publicist’? What is the reality of your workload?
Don: LOTS of phone calls and emails… Primarily from media outlets requesting interviews or information about our clientele. There is also a great deal of writing involved. It’s our job to write press releases about our clients and to distribute those releases to the media. In regards to my immediate team, it’s pretty small; which I prefer. Any one of our clients know exactly who they will be talking with on a daily basis. I oversee the “big picture” for every client on the roster.
We have another In-house publicist who is responsible for coordinating interviews, writing press releases, and handing day-to-day office operations. In addition, we have a graphic artist; and of course a Business Management team that oversees company billing and finance.
What is the best advice you have been given as regards keeping afloat as an executive in an industry that is notoriously tumultuous?
Don: I like this quote by David Rockefeller:
“Success in business requires training and discipline and hard work. But if you’re not frightened by these things, the opportunities are just as great today as they ever were.”
I know we dipped into this when we spoke about the ‘personal touches’ that a Publicist needs to bring to their job in order to be successful; but more relating to an individuals personality now… What character is naturally or organically suited to the position?
Don: Honesty and hard work ethics are a must. Always do your best and NEVER get lazy! When you get lazy, things start falling through the cracks. You’ve got to be a GREAT communicator! If you aren’t in constant communication with the media and your clients, then you’re not doing your job! In this business, you must be a “people person”. If you’re the more reclusive-type and aren’t cut out for socializing and talking with other people; then the PR business probably isn’t for you! Networking with other people is unbelievably important, as the PR business is all about making relationships. The act of networking itself obviously requires a great amount of social interaction.
You said before that you went to school to study Broadcasting before steering into the world of PR… How important do you feel a formal education is, in regards obtaining work in your chosen field?
Don: I personally believe that anyone pursuing a career in public relations should have a college education. Obviously, you’ll need to know how to write – so English and writing courses are a MUST. I would also recommend taking as many Journalism, PR and Broadcasting courses as possible!
While certification is not currently required to enter the profession, I really can’t stress (further), the importance of a college education. Not only will you learn about the field itself, but it will give you a GREAT opportunity for social interaction! And just to revisit – a Publicist MUST be capable of social interaction in order to maximize success in the field. If you do not come across as friendly and likeable, it may be a little more tough to sell your client and their story to the media… No one (in most cases) wants to interact with a someone who has the personality of a brick wall!
So, with that said, go to college, live on-campus for a few years. Don’t wall yourself up in your dorm room! Go out! Make friends and learn how to communicate with others! Especially others who are different from you! The beauty of college is that the types of people you will meet are from all across the board. Guess what? It’s the same in the media! Learn how to talk with and respect other people, even if they aren’t quite like you! Not only will this make you a better future Publicist, but it will also make you a better person.
© Ngawara Madison, Music Vice
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