Jensen Sussman may not be a name that country music fans may know right away however her company, Sweet Talk PR, is a boutique firm specializing in entertainment and music media relations for many of country music’s biggest names such as Florida Georiga Line, Kelsea Ballerini, Dustin Lynch and more. As our April Woman of the Month, we highlight the journey Sussman took to get to where she is now as a boss of her own successful public relations company in Nashville.
Sussman moved to New York City after graduating college with a major degree in dance and a minor in biology. She wanted to have no regrets and to pursue a career in dance in the Big Apple. “I didn’t want to fast forward and be in my 50’s and look back and never have lived my dream of being a dancer,” she explains. “I did the whole starving artist thing where I was teaching dance for a ballet school in New Jersey, auditioning and working retail, taking every part-time job I could to make ends meet.” During her time hustling to live out her first dream, she landed a job working for Urban Outfitters in the women’s accessories section and fell in love with the makeup lines Hard Candy, Urban Decay and Tony and Tina.
Loving makeup, she took a job working for Bloomingdales corporate office for Tony and Tina and that is where she got her very first taste for the public relations/creative development world. There she learned how to pitch, write press releases and work with a team of creatives on new products for the line. Realizing how much she had learned from Bloomingdales, she went on to work for a PR agency full time, Trachtenberg & Co. which repped everything from luxury brands to beauty brands and she perfected her craft, learning and truly becoming a publicist.
After a health scare forced her to move home to Nashville to be closer to the support of her family, she decided to plant some roots instead of moving right back to New York City. Her father, who had worked in the music business, introduced her to Little Big Town at a holiday party and they just happened to be looking for a tour publicist. Although the music industry was a change from the makeup and beauty world, Sussman gladly took the opportunity and learned all she could from their national publicist Jenny Bohler. “Jenny ended up being my mentor and really taught me everything about country music, working music and everything about Nashville. I wouldn’t be where I am without her.” she humbly explained.
After freelancing for some time, then working for Sony Music Nashville followed by Warner Music Group, Sussman started her own company, Sweet Talk PR. One of her connections reached out to her about helping to launch an unsigned duo that was ready to release their first single to iTunes. That duo just happened to be Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard also known as Florida Georgia Line. “FGL changed my life and the next thing I knew we started working, we launched “Cruise” and I had a company, a staff, and an amazing roster. All of the stars aligned and everything fell into place.” The debut single from the duo stayed in the number one spot on the Hot Country Songs chart for 24 weeks and sold over 7 million copies in the U.S.
We discussed if starting her own company and having such a resounding success with her first client was scary at first, she explained “I don’t think so, I’ve always been that person that sees a challenge and goes after it. I think that sometimes I just jump and don’t necessarily look which is a good thing, because you don’t have fear, but when I’m soaring I’m like ‘Wait, stop? What’s happening?” she laughs. “I tend to just jump and not have much fear about that.” Now six years later, Sweet Talk PR is home to megastars including, Florida Georiga Line, their latest restaurant/bar in downtown Nashville, FGL House, Kelsea Ballerini, Jerrod Nieman and Dustin Lynch. The company also supports rising stars such as Chris Lane, Morgan Wallen, Dylan Scott and Tegan Marie.
She tells us that one of the things she loves so much about her industry and publicity, in general, is how every day can be different. “One day you can be on set covering a TV taping, if you have an artist that is on a late night TV show, your day can be bouncing around press interviews that you have to set up, or you can spend the day at a tour stop if it is a huge headlining show,” she explains. “It can also be sitting in your office all day not leaving your desk and sending out a thousand press releases or pitches to set up a campaign to launch a single, tour or album.”
Sussman has a team of strong women who work to make her clients happy and successful and help her company run smoothly “For me it’s really important to surround yourself with amazing people and to create the opportunities for other women and encourage each other because we are all rising through this together, whether its male or female, we are all in this business because we love music. As long as we put our heads down and work hard and deliver on whatever our role is in this industry, that is what will keep us motivated and keep us going.” She credits her family and friends as well for being a great support system and tells us that they have helped her navigate working in this industry.
“I always say PR finds you, it takes a very special type of person and work ethic to be able to do this job,” she tells us. Explaining that while people who work in the music industry do have incredible jobs, it is not always pretty and it is very hard work. “We are so fortunate we get to do amazing things with our careers but there is the side that you have to roll up your sleeves and work, there are those days where it’s twenty-hour days, and you are up until 2 am writing a press release. I love what I am doing so much, we are so fortunate but it’s a lot of hard work and there is a lot of ups and down through that process.”