On Our Radar: Natasha Koifman

Natasha Koifman is on top of the world. President of one of North America’s biggest PR companies — the Toronto-based NKPR — she works with the most influential initiatives and the brightest of stars. Though she has an office in New York and is about to expand to LA as well,Koifman has made Toronto proud by helping to put us on the map like no other public relations firm has done before. Novella sat down with the mogul to listen to Koifman’s unique story, to get an insider’s look at the crazy world of PR and to hear her argument against the “fluffiness” that’s so often attributed to her industry. Read about why adding Koifman to our On Our Radar was a no-brainer.

Photo courtesy of NKPR

Cliché opening question: What triggered your interest in PR?

NK: When I first graduated, I moved to New York where I worked as a journalist for several years. This is where I had my first experiences working with publicists. I saw a huge opportunity to work in PR, translating my learnings from being on the receiving end of pitches into developing more strategic outreaches resulting in meaningful coverage and awareness for brands.

What’s NKPR’s definition of public relations?

NK: At NKPR, public relations is about bringing stories and issues of substance to the attention of North Americans. Our first question for a client is always, “What does success look like?” From there we develop tailored strategies and tactics that ensure our communications programs come full circle and secure results that drive our clients’ brands forward.

NKPR is the giant of Toronto’s highly competitive PR landscape. How do you plan on keeping and increasing this momentum?

NK: I believe that it’s so important to always innovate and to challenge ourselves to evolve, ensuring we don’t get stagnant and that we’re delivering meaningful results for our clients. Last year we launched our talent division, representing artists we feel passionate about, including Dancing with the Stars competitor and Olympic gold medalist Nastia Liukin, fashion photographer Sophie Elgort and Coveteur co-founder and fashion designer Erin Kleinberg, to name a few. In addition to our Toronto and New York offices, we’re planning on opening a third location in LA.

What’s your ultimate goal for NKPR? Have you met it already?

NK: My goal for NKPR was always to combine my two passions: shining a spotlight on stories of substance and supporting causes that are making a difference around the world. I’m really proud of the work we’ve been able to do so far for our clients and also for the philanthropic organizations we support. That said, I think it’s so important to set new goals as learning and growing should happen for every person, no matter their role or position, every single day.

What does it take to do your job, and do it so well?

NK: It takes an incredible team! I work with some of the most hardworking and talented individuals in the industry who challenge me and inspire me every day. It also takes Amanda, who’s the best executive assistant in the world! She is my other half and keeps me organized no matter which city I’m in. I also wake up very early every morning to meditate and reflect on the day to come, which keeps me balanced and lets me clear my head before I start answering emails.

Photo courtesy of NKPR

Pubic relations is often viewed as an industry that involves a lot of sugar-coating, a lot of cheese, a lot of fake smiles — is there any truth to this? How do you combat these opinions?

NK: I think what has allowed us to grow into the agency that we are, is that we’re incredibly hardworking and strategic in all that we do. Every recommendation we provide to our clients is deliberate and is made to help generate awareness and drive their brand forward. I think our proven track record of delivered results combats and misconceptions that our field is exclusively about air-kissing and going to parties. My favourite part of PR is actually doing the work. I’m an introvert, so for me, the party isn’t the fun part — it’s the work leading up to it.

You’ve worked closely with Toronto’s most well-known movers and shakers, as well as icons from around the world. Who have you learned the most from?

NK: I’ve learned a lot from my dear friend Paul Haggis, who is an Academy Award-winner and founder of Artists for Peace and Justice (APJ), a charity that supports education in Haiti. I am so fortunate that I have had the opportunity to work with Paul in supporting this organization. His unwavering passion and commitment to the people of Haiti is inspiring. I’m in awe every single day of the work that APJ is able to do. Each time I visit the first free high school that APJ built in Port-au-Prince, I’m reminded of the power of education and the difference it can make for those who wouldn’t normally have access to it. Paul opened my mind and world to this.

Favourite place to spend your day off in Toronto?

NK: At home! I always joke that I’m an introvert living an extrovert’s life. I love to recharge at home by my pool with my two dogs.

You must have tons of stories to tell — care to share?

NK: We launched APJ at TIFF (and have since gone on to raise over five million dollars through festival initiatives alone!) and one of my favourite memories was the first red carpet event we ever did for the organization. It was during TIFF 2009, before the earthquake hit and when most people couldn’t even find Haiti on a map. We built a live-art red carpet with artist Peter Tunney where talent including Colin Farrell, Kim Cattrall and Olivia Wilde dipped thier feet in red paint and walked on a canvas “red carpet” that was auctioned off for charity. It was an incredible vision, and one that I remember very fondly. When they finished walked the carpet, we had pedicure stations to take care of their toes!