Nashville native Christy Walker-Watkins is the President of AristoPR, and her name is instantly recognizable to music industry veterans. With a roster filled with acts like Travis Tritt, Billy Ray Cyrus, Country Radio Seminar, Cirque du Soleil and Keb' Mo', Christy has made a name for herself as one of the most sought-after publicists in the industry. Christy sits down with Music City Notes to talk about about how she got her start, what it's like being a publicist in the ever-changing landscape of the music industry, and tips for becoming successful in this week's edition of Mentor Monday.
Music City Notes: Your dad was such a huge influencer in the Nashville music scene, particularly with international acts. What made you want to go into music, and how did you choose publicity specifically?
Christy Walker-Watkins: Yes! My father, Jeff Walker, had a long history in the music industry. He founded The AristoMedia Group over 35 years ago.
A lot of people ask me this very same question. The obvious answer is that I was around the business my entire life and it’s always been a part of my plan, however, that isn’t exactly the full story. Growing up, I never had a yearning to want to be in the music business. The thought never even crossed my mind. I loved music, don’t get me wrong, but I was a drummer and my focus was on performance. When it became time to look at colleges and focus on a degree, I was advised to consider an education in business. It seemed like a smarter choice at the time and ultimately one I wouldn’t regret. As I was entering college, my father asserted the need for someone to help with receptionist duties at his company, The AristoMedia Group, and asked me if I’d be interested in coming in a few hours a day. I accepted the offer. At the time, I wasn’t aware of how lucky I was to be presented such a great opportunity. I was a bright-eyed, fresh out of high school graduate working at an Entertainment PR and Promotions firm on Music Row. One things for sure, I was driven from day one. I’m not sure if it was because of my age and feeling like I had to work really hard to work against the “boss’s daughter” stigma and prove that I wanted to be taken seriously, or if it was just instant passion for the position. Whatever reason it was, it didn’t take long for me to figure out that I loved being at the company. Everything I did was centered on music and creativity. It didn’t take too long for me to notice the energy and fast-paced nature of the PR world. I loved how the publicists at the company would always be onto something, and then the next minute, they’d be onto something else. When I was around them, I felt their confidence and power, and those qualities were attractive to me. The company ranges from about 12-15 staff members at a time and as time progressed, positions would open up and I would absorb new positions and responsibilities. I went from Receptionist, to Publicity Assistant, to Sr. Publicist, to VP of Publicity, to now, President of AristoPR and co-owner of The AristoMedia Group.
MCN: What are some of your day-to-day job responsibilities and how have they changed over the years?
Christy: Publicity and public relations is all about planning and communications. Every day, I’m building or managing a big picture plan for our clients and coming up with angles, pitch letters, call-lists, admin to-dos, campaign plans, etc. It’s my goal to maximize our department’s results, so I try to maintain some order and structure in our daily routine so we can be sure everything gets done.
Most of my day is dedicated towards calling or emailing press to present a story or simply to just "drop them a line" and keep the relationship strong. We are constantly working to build our messaging for our clients and their products/brands, so my team and I will identify angles and develop materials for presentation to the media that compliment those angles. Those materials might include press releases, graphics/eCards, press kit inserts, one-sheets, etc.
When I first started at Aristo, it was normal protocol to reach people via phone when making a pitch or to ask a question. We now live in a time where we have many forms of contact, i.e. email, social media, phone, text, etc. There is a lot of focus and retention required in the job and having so many forms of contact and members of the media, it can be a difficult task. It’s important to remember and/or track how journalists want to be pitched, what their tastes are, what have they covered in the past and does the angle seem like a suitable fit for them.
Because of the noise (and in some cases, more consolidated media teams), some of the journalists have become harder to reach. I’ve had to become way more proactive and assertive because of it. The folks that I started reaching out to 12 years ago are busier and can’t always get back to me as timely as they once did. It has required me to be more proactive.
MCN: What do you feel like your greatest accomplishment to date is?
Christy: Over the course of my time at Aristo, I’ve had the opportunity to work with an incredible and diverse roster of clients. I’ve personally been involved with over 200+ campaigns that fall under the formats of Americana, Country, Christian, Jazz & Blues, Rock n’ Roll, and more. I’ve also overseen PR support for tech projects, conferences and major touring productions like Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour, Alegria, TORUK – The First Flight and more, which all took place in Nashville. I’m incredibly proud of this. Immersing your self into projects that are new and out of the normal realm of what you are used to working takes courage and I’ve had to coach myself into adapting and growing in so many areas. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished thus far and look forward to my continued growth.
MCN: What about publicity makes you excited to do it everyday?
Christy: I love the intensity and excitement that PR has to offer. Securing a major story or feature can be like catching the biggest fish in the sea. It might be a challenge and it very well could take you awhile to get it in the bag, but once you reel that sucker in, you feel so strong, yet relieved! PR is a passion for me, and passion comes out of love and excitement. I just love doing it and sometimes I can’t stop thinking about it.
MCN: What is your best advice to someone pursuing a career in the music industry?
Christy: Be organized, assertive, and in touch with what is going on in the industry – i.e. the trends, the research, who the key industry executives are, etc. You also have to be able to move fast and make smart decisions quickly. Someone going into this field would need to be a great communicator, whether it be speaking over the phone or knowing how to construct a good email. The job also requires one to have patience and the ability to act wisely under pressure. Overall, be professional and stay positive.