President of NKPR Inc, Natasha Koifman sat down with CanadianSME to discuss how she got started with her company. Her advice to leverage social media especially during times of crisis and effective strategies she recommends implementing into your business when marketing.
Natasha created NKPR in 2002 to combine her two passions: sharing stories of substance and championing important causes. Recognized as one of Canada’s most powerful and innovative women in public relations, Natasha has been honoured with awards from the Women’s Executive Network (WXN), Notable magazine, BizBash and others.
A sought after speaker and commentator on public relations, marketing, popular culture and fashion, Natasha writes a regular column for Huffington Post and is a frequent contributor to Entertainment Tonight Canada and Newstalk 1010 radio.
Believing strongly in giving back, Natasha is the President of the Board for Artists for Peace and Justice Canada and on the Board of Directors for APJ USA. She also supports various other charities working to improve the lives of others. Natasha divides her time between Toronto and New York City.
1. What was the inspiration behind the founding of NKPR Inc.? What are you hoping to accomplish through it?
The inspiration was originally storytelling. It was about working with clients that are doing amazing things that we can story tell. It was also marrying a lot of the same initiatives that our clients were doing with public relations and that inspired more organizations to give back, so it was a combination of the two. NKPR continues to pick and choose who we work with based on their strong value system, and that’s continued 18 years later from the beginning when I first started NKPR to where we are today.
2. Since it’s founding, NKPR has become one of North America’s top PR and digital agencies. What are some of the strategies you used that has contributed to the company’s success?
One strategy is to know when to pivot and how to be ahead of the changing curve. When I started NKPR, social media wasn’t in existence, and email had just started. From my standpoint, it was always about what’s next and not being afraid of change. I remember when we were early adopters of social media and a lot of my agency friends thought it was something that would go away, but I said, “you know what, let’s embrace it.” We didn’t know where it was going or what it was going to be, but I always look at that as an opportunity to be able to pivot.
We were the very first PR agency across North America that was verified both on Instagram and on Twitter. My goal was to show value to our clients and not always be reliant on the media to deliver meaningful results. For example, in the digital world, we’re not always reliant on the media to get us press coverage. When we’re doing a promotion in the fashion space, and we have 40k+ followers on our Instagram and GlobalStyle has 7800, we know we can take that piece of visibility that their getting and convert potential sales.
3. Many small businesses are currently suffering due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What advice can you give to entrepreneurs when it comes to leveraging their social media platform?
My advice is to be real and to be genuine. When you think about businesses today, you can’t be tone-deaf with what you’re proposing. You must consider the current circumstance before you consider what you’re going to post. With our social feed, we were looking at it daily and considering what people might be feeling right now and what content we should provide to give comfort and inspiration all in one. Businesses during this time need to realize that it’s less about them and more about the needs and wants of their customer base. A lot of businesses are adapting to that, especially brick and mortar that are now delivering, so consider how you’re going to pivot your business as quickly as possible. You also need to lead with empathy and authenticity. It’s not just jumping on the me-too bandwagon but how it’s authentic to your business and authentic to your target audience.
4. Many businesses are taking to social media to show their support towards helping those impacted by COVID-19. What is your advice to entrepreneurs when it comes to putting out a message towards their audience?
It goes back to leading with empathy. Those that are doing it with authenticity and are truly considering what is happening in the world, especially at this particular moment are the ones that are going to thrive. For the businesses that are jumping on the me-too bandwagon, I believe we can see through that. We have to demonstrate empathy and it’s not just a matter of saying it.
Depending on what your business is, you have to think about individual safety and what you’re providing to your customer base. Are you providing them with convenience and ease? And are you providing them with emotional support through your social channels? These are all areas that you have to consider and more importantly if you’re demonstrating that. It’s not just about saying it, but what are you doing to show care to both your employee base and your customer base.
5. In your expert opinion, what are some of the strategies that entrepreneurs can implement to increase traffic towards their e-commerce site to help generate more profit?
Now more than ever everyone is considering SEO. We now have more time to be on our computers, so as more people are searching the internet right now, a lot of companies would have had to adjust SEO during this time. Also, word of mouth I still so important. If you’re posting based on what is relevant and based on your target audience right now, that has the opportunity of going viral quickly. It’s less about hashtags and more about what people care about right now and how you ensure that you’re demonstrating that on a regular and consistent basis.
6. What would you say are the top three do’s and don’ts of marketing your small business right now?
I would say make engagement the goal over pushing sales. It’s about providing a sense of value to your community. It’s not about constantly talking about the pandemic. What we’ve learned is its thinking about how people are living their lives right now and the relevancy of that, as opposed to just talking about the pandemic. The reality is, we can hear and read about that in other places through certain feeds we’re following on our social media. Remain authentic and real and aim for positivity and calmness. The key is providing value to our community and in doing so, consider with every post if this would be of value to the people that are following us, as opposed to pushing out information because that’s what everybody else is doing. This is a time for us to consider what makes our brand unique and how we engage with our audience.
As far as don’ts, I would say to not be insensitive. We’re seeing a lot of that right now where brands are not pushing out real information but perceived information. The other thing to consider is being mindful of how you’re working with influencers. There’s an aspect of what’s happening in the digital space that is tone-deaf, and a lot of companies were relying on influencers to create and develop their content and they would give them too much free rein to do so. We need to manage that process more based on brands. The other is don’t stop marketing altogether. What we saw with some brands is that they went quiet and now isn’t the time to go quiet. It’s the time to be thoughtful with the content that you’re putting out there for your audience to connect with.
7. On a final note, how has COVID-19 impacted NKPR Inc. and what are your plans to overcome challenges, if any?
I see COVID-19 as an opportunity. I think it’s unfortunate what’s happening in the world. As a company, this time has brought our team closer together. It’s given us the opportunity to pivot and how to work more creatively to bring that added value to our clients. I always look at these types of situations although this is completely unprecedented, as an opportunity to pivot. I look at how we can become stronger and better and provide our clients with value and insight to help make them become stronger and better as well.