Natasha Koifman created NKPR in 2002 in order to combine her two passions: shining a spotlight on stories of substance and supporting causes that are making a difference around the world. Under Natasha’s guidance and leadership, NKPR has established itself as a highly-regarded full-service public relations, artist management and digital agency with offices in Toronto and New York, representing over 40 diverse national and international brands including Mountain Equipment Co-Op, Swarovski, TD, Scotiabank, Thompson Hotel Toronto, Lightspeed, DAVIDsTEA, Marcelle Cosmetics, and Links of London. Launching NK Artists in 2013, NKPR also manages strategic partnerships for high-profile personalities like George Stroumboulopoulos, Sophie Elgort, and Yannick Bisson.
What inspired you to found NKPR? What are you hoping to accomplish through it?
After working for a number of years as a Journalist and then for a communications agency, I realized that I really loved the industry, but I didn’t necessarily connect with every single project that came across my desk. When I decided to start my own company, it was largely because I wanted to be able to pick and choose the people and the brands, products, and companies we represent. Now, 17 years later and a client list that includes Lanterra Developments, Swarovski, Aveeno, and Mountain Equipment Coop to name a few, I can honestly say we do exactly that.
Supporting cause was also a big reason and has always been at the core of everything we do. From global initiatives like Artists for Peace and Justice and G(irls)20 to local shelters such St. Felix Centre in Toronto – there is so much work to be done and I feel we all have a responsibility to give back in whatever way we can.
I’ve also discovered that mentorship is very important to me. Every day I get to walk into the office and work with a diverse group of women and men, supporting them in becoming the people they want to me. Inspiring the next generation of leaders has always been something I want to accomplish through my business.
What sets NKPR apart from other similar organizations?
One thing that really sets us apart is our culture. When I first started my career, I was just grateful to have a job and be employed. Today, people have more options and choices it seems. We take a lot of pride in our culture. We have a social committee and regularly spend time together both in and out of the office – whether through group fitness classes at SPINCO or celebrating our employee of the month with a team lunch. These initiatives definitely help us with employee retention but at the end of the day we genuinely care about one another. Our VP has been with NKPR for 12 years. Our account directors for 8 and 9 years, and many of our senior people between 5 and 7 years which is quite rare in our industry. We carefully select who we hire and have built an amazing team here at NKPR.
We also maximize all the tools we have available in our PR toolbox. Social media being one example. We were the first Canadian PR agency to be verified on both Instagram and Twitter and are now able to leverage our own channels to support our client’s even further. PR today is very different than it was 17 years ago when I started NKPR – we have always been open to the changes and evolution in our industry and continue to embrace them.
How important are public relations for a business owner? What role does it play in their business?
Public Relations used to be one or two dimensional: media relations and some sponsorship. Now, we do advertising, social media, strategic partnerships, events, influencer relations, content creation, SEO integration, e-commerce and so much more. PR has never been more valuable for a business. We have access to so many new channels and tools that are able to help our clients reach their customers in more ways than ever before.
It is important to understand what success means for your business when working with an agency because it’s different for everyone. Once we determine what success looks like for each client, we then work backward to determine what we need to do to ensure we achieve the results of the client.
What advice can you give to business owners when they are looking for an organization to manage their public relations? What should they look for in a PR firm?
They need to be aligned on the expectations from the beginning and make sure that their agency is thinking strategically for them – not just tactically. The tactical approach might look good based on numbers, but have they really done their homework to understand what those numbers actually mean. For example, an influencer may have 80,000 followers but many of them might be bought and not REACHING your target audience, which in turn won’t be effective for your brand. In order to have a successful client-agency partnership, there needs to an authentic connection, similarities in company values and an open stream of communication.
In 2015 and 2017 you won the award for WXN Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award. How does it feel to be recognized twice for such an important award?
I felt so honoured to win these awards, but I also felt a sense of accountability to pay it forward. As leaders in the community, we have a responsibility to share our experiences and leverage our networks to provide a positive impact in the neighbourhoods we live and work, and those communities who need our help. I use moments like this to check-in with myself and make sure I’m providing something meaningful to the world that I take up space in.
You’re a strong believer that public relations can create meaningful relationships between the public and not-for-profit sector. Why do you believe that is?
From the beginning of my career, giving back in a meaningful way has always been important. I wasn’t born in this country and I immigrated to Canada with my family when I was a young girl. Growing up, I remember a number of organizations like the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) helping us become established and integrated into Canada. This was an organization that didn’t expect anything in return, and that was completely selfless in welcoming us into a new country. They helped my family in a way I will never forget – that is something that I always remember! I think that’s where my passion for philanthropy ultimately stems from. It is our privilege and responsibility to give back to those who need it the most. At the end of the day, that’s what drives me.
Do you believe it’s possible for a business to rebuild its image after an “error” that negatively impacted their public image?
It always depends on the situation. I think that it would have been harder 10 or 15 years ago to scrape yourself out of a tough situation. Today, we live in such a distracted world where people forget quickly and have this tendency to “move on to the next”.
That being said, it is important that you do crisis management well and are prepared for it. Make sure TO surround yourself with a team you trust to make the right decisions for your brand/organization and ALWAYS remain true to your brand values – even in a crisis.
What are the top two mistakes that entrepreneurs make that can affect their public image?
The first mistake is inauthenticity. Authenticity is a word that is overused but often misunderstood. The moment you put your profile on social media, you become a brand. For entrepreneurs who are launching or building a business, understanding this is so important. Let me put it this way: you have to behave as the same person in your personal life as you are in your business life as you are on social media – and that all comes down to being authentic. I often ask myself: “what are the 5 most important things in my life?” It’s essential to know who you are as a person and acknowledging change as you grow.
You also need to trust in the process and have patience. I often see this with the younger generation, which has very much, become fueled by instant gratification. It’s easy to compare yourself to people online who look “successful,” but success doesn’t happen overnight.
On a final note, have you always been passionate about PR? What inspired you to go into this career path?
I have always been passionate about storytelling and truly making an impact. I don’t know if my passion was specifically PR, but I have a multitude of interests – from fashion and beauty to fitness, to cause and the community which I live in. I suppose I saw PR as an opportunity to be able to share amazing stories that encompass a number of different interests as well as brands and companies doing meaningful work.