Melissa Murphy joined SunStar in 2001 as an account executive. For many years, she has been a partner in the firm and was promoted to Executive Vice President in 2018, leading the SunStar Client Excellence program at the heart of the firm’s service offerings. We took a few minutes to reminisce with Melissa on her experiences of her two decades in public relations.
What is the biggest change you’ve seen in PR over the past 20 years?
The tremendous growth in the use of technology has significantly changed how we do our jobs. Email and the internet existed 20 years ago but are relied on so much more now than when I started my career.
Technology connects us with journalists and with clients and is an efficient means to create and share news.
Social media didn’t exist at all 20 years ago; that’s been an even more significant change – it’s become an incredibly powerful tool for communication.
When I first started, pitching a client meant picking up a phone and dialing. Emailing journalists came only after the initial connection had been made – today it’s the opposite. Now, I email first, phone second.
Over these two decades, I’ve established relationships with so many journalists and maintained friendships with many from my early days. Some have moved around to different media outlets but the professional connections remain.
Of all the changes you’ve seen, which do you think has had the most positive impact?
The opportunity for investors to educate themselves on financial topics is more robust than ever before. With the wide breadth of publishing outlets, tv, radio, podcasts, social media, YouTube channels, online publications and print, our clients have the opportunity to have a voice in topics that matter to people's financial health and wellbeing.
Has there been any evolution that has made your job harder?
The inability to see people face to face during the pandemic has unfortunately had a detrimental effect. We’ve been unable to see one another, shake hands, sit on a set, meet at offices and interact.
We've adapted, largely in part to the advances in technology. Business, communications, information and news have all continued, but there is something to be said for traditional relationship building. I look forward to the day we can do that again in person. I believe it helps journalists identify valuable sources and helps clients build relationships with those journalists. Having established media relationships are incredibly important in the sharing of information, key messages and building brands.
While this change has been challenging, there will be some lasting positive impacts. The return to “normal” may be slower than we want or expect, but I don't think there's any rush because we have been able to do our work effectively through the use of technology.
The “normal” we return to may not be as robust as it once was. Several journalists I've known over the years don’t have to be in a specific geographic location. The realization they can do their jobs from almost anywhere has appeal, and many may choose not to return to financial hubs like New York City. We will continue to work with those journalists in these new ways; for those that do go back into an office and welcome in-person visits, we will be delighted to reconnect.
Did you always want to be a PR professional?
When I began my collegiate studies, I knew I wanted to work as a marketing professional in a business setting. I had always been interested in financial services, personal finance, the stock market, and the economy. Even though it wasn't a direct desire, as soon as I was introduced to public relations and understood what it entailed, I knew that it was a match for my personality and that I was well suited for the position.
What has it been like working at SunStar Strategic for 20 years?
I'm thankful to Kathryn Morrison, SunStar’s founder and CEO, for giving me the opportunity to learn from her experiences and expertise all these years. She believed in me and gave me a chance when I had very little experience. I have always admired her positivity and her initiative as she launched a career in broadcasting at a time when women were not in positions of power at broadcast networks. Following other experiences in broadcast and financial services, she launched her own company, today’s SunStar, which I’m grateful to be a part of for so many years.
Kathryn taught me how to build relationships. She mentored me to better understand and anticipate client needs and then strive to achieve those objectives day-in and day-out, year-in and year-out.
Here in my 20th year, I’m prouder than ever to be a part of SunStar Strategic. We’ve been in this industry for 30 years, specializing in helping our financial services clients be seen and grow—and we are going to keep working hard for our clients.