This Labor Day, we are revisiting one of our most popular FACES of the past year: Tara Murphy!
Tara Murphy launched her company, 360 Media, in a friend’s basement. Now celebrating 21 years in business, the woman behind the PR company shares some of her most memorable moments on the job, her best advice for the PR-curious and the best places in town to grab a drink. Welcome today’s FACE of Atlanta, Tara Murphy!
What’s the most difficult thing about working in public relations?
After 21 years in the business, that answer tends to change for me regularly. It’s not as easy as it looks and it’s not all parties (a misconception we encounter often due to the type of PR we handle.) It’s not a 9 to 5 job, and you’re always on call. PR is not for everyone, and that is true on both sides (potential client + person wanting to be a publicist). Client agency retention is also really short. At times we are coming into a new client situation with them having just terminated an agency or having had a bad experience with PR. Often they know they want or need PR but that baggage they come with can be hard to combat. We often joke that we have to become therapists and understand what has happened, re-educate them on what PR can do, how we do it and show results quickly while trying to win their trust as a PR partner. The dance in the beginning of every new PR relationship is a hard one because in PR it is often so hard to show value even if you are delivering media coverage.
360 Media recently celebrated 21 years. Since the tradition of commemorating 21 years of age is with liquor, where’s your favorite Atlanta hot spot to grab a drink?
One of the best perks in owning an entertainment, lifestyle and hospitality agency is being able to go out regularly and having to keep up with what’s new and hot in Atlanta. While I love many of the incredible new spots, my favorites have been on the scene for a bit … Rathbun’s Steak for a great glass of wine and steak or a killer coffee with bourbon cream after dinner. Kimball House for their caviar service and bubbles, and I am a big fan of their bar cocktails. Their beverage menu is amazing. The Lawrence is a client of ours, and I would rank their bar program one of the best in the city. Taylor Blackgrave and Eric Simpkins know how to make incredibly balanced cocktails with unique ingredients. Eight Sushi Lounge is another client, and their sparkling sake is my current favorite. I am also looking forward to the opening of Bon Ton Boil House in Midtown. I have a feeling that is going to be the next hot spot for cocktails.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for a client?
First let me say we have done many, but one that pops to mind happened while working with Sixthman on all of their music cruises. I decided to go out to sea on two back-to-back cruises, The Rock Boat followed by Ships + Dip with the Barenaked Ladies. We had to unload the entire Rock Boat experience and then hours later reload with the Barenaked Ladies fans. The Sixthman team decided to surprise the guests as they came on board the second cruise to get photos with Barenaked Ladies even before they got on the ship. Guests came through a curtain and immediately were greeted by the band for their photo. We were short-staffed so Sixthman owner Andy Levine and I managed the onboarding and were able to get 2,700+ guests through, all with photos, in a very short amount of time. I remember high-fiving at the end because Carnival was blown away at how fast we were able to board the boat. We think we broke a record. Did I mention we do PR?
You worked in the music industry before starting 360 Media. Any behind-the-scenes stories you’d like to share?
I have some incredible behind-the-scenes stories! One of my favorites is when we were working with Jennifer Nettles, and she came by our office with Kristian and Kristen (pre-Sugarland) because they wanted me to listen to a cassette of some new music. Little did I know that I was about to experience Jennifer singing country music. I remember it like it was yesterday, one of those moments where you know it’s magic. I got goosebumps and was blown away at how natural they all sounded. I remember our team was so excited to jump on board and help launch Sugarland.
Another favorite was working with the Voodoo Music Experience in New Orleans, and Velvet Revolver was on the lineup. Their label declined coming to our media compound or doing any interviews at all. We had VH1 onsite doing a countdown from Voodoo, and the band was on their list to interview. I told them they had passed and that we wouldn’t be able to accommodate. Day of show, the tour manager and I connected and we were able to talk them into doing an interview with VH1 only. We had to clear the media compound, which meant getting more than 300 media out and rearranging bands that were scheduled to do interviews in order to make this happen. I went to pick up the guys on our golf cart and Slash asked to drive or else he wouldn’t come to the interview. (One of the early things you learn is never give the artist your golf cart.) So, I said no can do, and we start to pull away and he decided to jump on. Not only was I driving Slash around (which for me was a huge fan girl moment as I hosted a heavy metal radio show in college and loved Guns + Roses), but also we were able to pull off a huge media placement for our client. Soon after, VH1 joined us on the Mayercraft Carrier cruise with John Mayer because of that relationship we built at Voodoo. Big pay for multiple clients!
You began 360 Media in the basement of a friend’s house. How did these humble beginnings shape your outlook on business?
It absolutely did! My favorite part in looking back is knowing where I came from, how we started and that every connection leads to the next. Over the last 21 years, we have been able to work on some of the biggest events and festivals and with some of the most notable clients in Atlanta and beyond. We have come a long way and so much has changed as it relates to technology, office space, resources, staffing and finances … it’s all different now. At the beginning, especially when you are 25 years old, you don’t know what you don’t know. As you learn and experience, you grow and it helps you understand how to be resourceful, spend wisely and make money/resources last, work strategically and understand the importance of nurturing relationships because you never know when it will come back around. I look back and know I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for people who gave me a shot in the very beginning — Nina Easton, my former boss at Ichiban Records, who let me use her home office for my first two years, or concert promoter Alex Cooley, who believed in me to go from an intern in their office to handling their PR for Music Midtown. Without those things, I wouldn’t have started 360.
What would you tell young women looking to get into the PR field?
Be a sponge. Read, listen and absorb as much as you can. Internships are key — the more you can familiarize yourself with the industry and what you want to do, the more of an asset you are when joining a team. Network and find a mentor. Combine new technology with the touch of a hand-written note. Always make sure to understand communication is more than just a text message. Don’t expect it to be handed to you. Show up and contribute. PR is hard work, and it can be very rewarding if you invest in it.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Always go with your gut — it is always right. And never take a client just for money — it never pays off.
What are the three things you cannot live without excluding friends, family and faith?
My dog Morton. He is a golden retriever rescue from Birmingham that rescued me in 2014 after my first golden, Sherman, passed. He is our office dog and so filled with love.
Travel. I constantly have the itch to travel, escape and explore. It inspires and drives so much of what we do.
Meditation. I started back in 2015 with a 21-day meditation, and [I] practice daily now. It is something that helps me stay centered in my day-to-day while putting things in perspective as challenges arise. It has really changed my well-being and how I now handle stress.
Thanks to Tara Murphy for giving a look inside her thriving PR company. And as always, thanks to CatMax Photography for the fantastic photos of Tara and Morton.
Read about even more inspiring Atlanta women in our FACES archives. Click here.