Natasha Koifman: Leading with an Interdependent Confluence of Business Intellect and Human Compassion [Feature]

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On the Canadian public relations and communications landscape, there aren’t too many names that resonate with people more, evoking the same manner of respect and praise, than that of Natasha Koifman. Her career thus far has been replete with awards and accolades, her work in delivering meaningful results to the clients that she works with lauded as creative and inventive. NKPR, the public relations agency that she founded in 2002 and continues to lead as President with offices in Toronto and New York, is widely considered to be one of the top firms in Canada. And the company’s list of accounts, as well as the names and brands on it, are impressive, to say the least. Equally admirable and effective is the work that she and her team are responsible for in the public relations space is her philanthropic penchant – a passion for people that’s reflected in her willingness to help others and assist those in need. In fact, it seems that it’s a complementary balance of natural business proficiency and genuine benevolence that has supported her accomplishments to date, inspiring and informing her approach to leadership.

“Every individual is unique,” she says. “You can’t expect every person on your team to possess the same strengths, skills and experience. Great leaders are able to understand and assess the composition of their teams, identify the qualities and strengths of each individual, and play to those strengths. They’re also able to honestly assess themselves and the strengths and weaknesses in their own abilities in order to build the most effective team around them. Most importantly, however, a great leader knows how to lead by example, showing a willingness to work as hard or harder than anyone else. And those who can do this with kindness and compassion, really understanding the needs and challenges of each individual and the ways in which they all require support, are most often the leaders of successful and engaged teams.”

Aligning values

Specializing in the development and execution of digital marketing initiatives and profile building, NKPR’s aim is to positively move the needle in the desired direction for the individuals and brands it works with. Its clients operate within a number of different industries and verticals, ranging from real estate, technology, food and beverage and hospitality to beauty, fashion, health and wellness, and others. The firm’s accounts contain more than 30 national and global brands, including the likes of MEC, Mulberry, Flow, Lightspeed, Swarovski, Sorel, Sympli, Ellie Mae, Madison Group, Lanterra Developments, Lifetime Developments and so many more. It’s an extraordinary list, and one whose assemblance seems to have been influenced by the same philosophies that drive Koifman’s decisions as a leader.

“Something that’s really important to us is ensuring that we work with clients that are aligned with our values,” she asserts. “I’ve never thought of focusing on a specific industry or category. I’m more committed to working with brands that we’re excited about, people who we genuinely really like and organizations that really care about giving back to their communities. I want to work with clients that are also disruptors in their areas of expertise and driving innovation. For NKPR as an agency, our greatest currency is time. And we want to make sure that where we’re putting our time and effort in not only making a positive impact on our clients and their businesses, but also helping to create that positive impact in the world around us as well. To do this most effectively, all parties involved need to be committed to that objective.”

Philanthropic endeavours

The values and positive impact that Koifman refers to is highlighted through the many different charities and social causes that NKPR are involved in, which includes the St. Felix Centre, G(IRLS) 20, Lifeline Charitable Foundation, Black Women in Motion, Best Buddies Canada, and more – all part of ShopNK, a curated assortment of lifestyle products for the socially conscious, with proceeds going back to the consumers charity of choice. In 2015, the agency also launched its ‘26 Acts of Kindness’ campaign – an ongoing agency-wide program developed as a vehicle by which NKPR employees have the opportunity to give back to their communities. Meant to nurture and facilitate a ‘culture of kindness’, team members are encouraged to support charitable causes that they feel a connection to.

In addition, Koifman is also the President of the Board for Artists for Peace and Justice (APJ) Canada and on the Board of Directors for the organization’s American counterpart. APJ is a non-profit organization, founded in 2009, which Koifman helped to develop in order to promote peace and social justice and address issues of poverty and disenfranchisement in communities around the world, with a special focus on Haiti. Among other things, APJ supports access to education for impoverished youth, creating pathways to meaningful employment and a sustainable future. Her involvement and participation on the boards is described by Koifman as her greatest achievements to date.

“I feel very connected to Haiti,” she says. “It’s a country where people live on a dollar a day and children don’t have an opportunity for an education beyond junior high school. And it’s only a three-hour flight from Toronto, just on the other side of the Dominican Republic. It’s an impoverished country that was devastated by a magnitude seven earthquake in January 2010. The need to assist the people of the country was already evident prior to the earthquake. But, in the aftermath, that need multiplied significantly. In response, Artists for Peace and Justice immediately set out to provide the means by which children could receive an education. To do so, we held charity events that raised donations of $4.5 million, went to Haiti and partnered with St. Luke Foundation for Haiti, bought our land and built a school, welcoming our first 500 students just a year-and-a-half following the tragedy. Fast-forward 13 years, we’ve raised $33 million, have experienced multiple graduating classes, in which 26,000 students have received an education from our school since 2012. When I start to think of my legacy, I’m extremely honoured and proud to have been able to make such a positive difference in the lives of so many people through an organization like Artists for Peace and Justice.”

Showing up for others

An admittedly introverted person from humble beginnings, Koifman credits much of her character, and the principles that she lives by, to many of the people throughout her life who have “shown up for her”, whether they had known it at the time or not. It’s a concept – that of showing up for others – that the public relations specialist feels so strongly about that she presented a Ted Talks session in 2019 on the importance of doing so. Throughout the talk, which is emotionally-charged and a highly recommended watch for anyone seeking to become the best possible version of themselves, Koifman references those who have shown up for her throughout her life and career, detailing the significant impact each person made on her.

“Reflecting on my life and career, I often think of the individuals that have shown up for me in some way to help teach, nurture and guide me,” she admits. “It’s an important way in which we all have the opportunity to make such a positive impact, showing up for ourselves and for others. We have a responsibility as people to think of others and to be compassionate toward them. One of my experiences that I shared during my Ted Talks session was a conversation that I had with an Uber driver not long ago. The driver was female, and she told me about how grateful she was to be an Uber driver because it afforded her the opportunity to support her children after leaving an abusive relationship. I was wearing a suit on my way to a meeting. She asked me what I did, and I told her. And she said that when she sees someone like me, she sees herself and the fact that she, too, can achieve success as well. I remember it brought a tear to my eye. I told her how proud I was of her for her ability to leave an abusive relationship and make it on her own, and she started to cry, too. I had shown up for this woman without even fully realizing it. We have to stop ignoring the people around us and start paying attention to the positive impressions that we can leave on them and the significance of doing so.”

Innovation and creativity

It’s this deep sense of empathy and unyielding tenderness with which Koifman approaches each day that lends so well to the person that she is. And, in many ways, it’s also helped to support the longevity of the work she does. On the verge of celebrating NKPR’s 20-year anniversary, the agency is showing no signs of slowing its growth or the holistic success it secures for its clients. It’s an incredible milestone for Koifman and her team and representative of the strength and continued rise of the NKPR brand. The success and prosperity it’s enjoyed through the years is attributed by Koifman to her team’s ability to pay attention to their clients and the world around them. It allows them, she explains, to optimize their efforts for clients and to proactively identify and recognize ways by which their brands can improve and continue evolving.

“We are definitely an extremely results-driven company,” she affirms. “And we want to make sure that we’re delivering meaningful results for our clients. To do that, we constantly make sure that we’re an agency that truly listens to the brands we work with to understand exactly what their needs are. In doing so, we can make sure that we’re asking the right questions in order to leverage our skills for their benefit. We’re also an agency that’s often ahead of the trends. We strive to be. For instance, we helped numerous brands transition and evolve into the digital space and start to recognize the value of using social media and bloggers when those types of marketing and communicating by brands was just beginning to develop. From our standpoint, we don’t ever want to follow a trend. We want to continue talking with our clients and paying attention to our environment, allowing us to stay on top of what’s happening and consistently lead our clients into a new age.”

Authenticity and transparency

The new age, within its current context, is one whose arrival has been accelerated by impacts of the pandemic, advancing the digitization of the retail industry, and the world in general, resulting in a shift in consumer behaviour and a changed landscape for brands to operate amid. Koifman recognizes the effects of COVID-19 on the industry and the changes that it’s helped expedite, suggesting that the brands that were attuned to those changes and willing to pivot in order to address them were the ones that survived and succeeded. Those that were too rigid in their approach and philosophies were those that tended to either struggle or experience an unfortunate end to their operations altogether. However, the most important lesson that brands have learned through these difficult times, Koifman submits, is the imperative to be honest and true in their communication, leveraging all available channels to do so.

“What many retailers realized throughout the pandemic was the need for authenticity and transparency,” she says. “And brands were called out if they weren’t displaying these qualities and doing what they said they were going to do. They also started to realize the consumers’ increased desire for ease within the retail shopping experience. As a result, to properly and effectively engage and connect with them, you’ve got to reach them on a multitude of touch points. And, to be truly authentic, retailers have got to understand with real clarity exactly who they are, the core values they stand for and how those values align with those of their consumers. Values-based companies are the ones that are going to succeed going forward, connecting with the followers of their brands like never before.”

An inspired addition to the city

Image: Natasha Residences

A true believer in leveraging content and storytelling to connect meaningfully with people, Koifman’s focus to do so for the clients she works with is unwavering. It’s a belief that laid the foundations for NKPR decades ago, and an approach to public relations that continues to drive the strategies the agency develops for clients today. They are also characteristics and ideologies that have stood Koifman apart from just about every one of her peers, singling her out as a trailblazer and a force within the public relations space. And to help acknowledge and appreciate her contributions to the city of Toronto, as both a professional as well as a person, leading developer, Lanterra, recently unveiled its plans to develop its newest project, Natasha The Residences.

Inspired by Koifman’s outlook concerning living life to its fullest, her unique fashion-forward sense of style and dynamic personality, the 47-storey high-rise located at 263 Adelaide St. West will feature exteriors by BDP Quadrangle, with architecture reflective of luxury timepieces opposite soft, feminine curves; interiors and amenities designed by Alessandro Munge of Studio Munge, matching Koifman’s chic, sophisticated, and iconic all-black-everything style; as well as public spaces thoughtfully filled with artwork by some of Koifman’s favourite artists. In addition, Natasha The Residences has been designed to meet the modern needs of a ‘live-work-play’ urban population and will include unique amenities like a state-of-the-art fitness centre with individual workout pods and virtual instructors; a media content studio equipped for film, photo, audio, and social media production; a modern spa with an infrared sauna; outdoor entertainment spaces designed for residents to host intimate events; an upscale social lounge that duals as a launderette; coworking spaces catered for home-office residents; a concert piano room; children’s play area and luxury pet spa. It’s a project and partnership that Koifman describes as one that she’s put her heart and soul into, and one that she’s honoured to be a part of.

“I really love how a lot of my different passions have come together in this development,” she says with pride. “Lanterra are a client of NKPR. And the location of the building is in a neighbourhood where I work, play and, in many respects, live. It’s a neighbourhood I’ve watched flourish through the years and I’m excited to be able to help create such a beautiful building where people can enjoy living, working and playing. There is 20,000 square feet of amenity space which all truly act as an extension of each suite. We did this mindful of the ways that people live in the city, what they need and the things they care about. Everything people need will be in the building. And, when leaving the building, you’re right in the middle of downtown Toronto and have access to everything the city offers. It’s a project that’s very near and dear to my heart and one that I’m very proud of.”

Continued results

Sales for Natasha The Residences commenced at the beginning of September with the official opening anticipated during Spring 2025. It signifies yet another highlight and accomplishment in the career of the public relations and communications powerhouse, and a statement that, in many ways, her work and legacy within the space, as well as the positive impact that she makes on the world around her, is still unfolding. And, with respect to the future of NKPR, she says that her excitement to lead and innovate has never been more intense, adding that the agency’s focus will remain squarely on working with the right partners, helping them to become what they’re meant to be.

“We’re going to continue working with clients that we’re excited about and investing to become a true partner at the table to help them achieve their desired results. I also want to continue innovating and disrupting. I still love what I do and really enjoy mentoring our team and watching them grow and develop. I just want us to keep doing what we’re doing, and I’m really excited to see what the next three to five years will bring. And, I want to ensure that I keep making decisions, as a leader and a person, that will make a positive impact on the world around me, leaving it a better place than it was when I came into it. If I’m able to continue doing all of these things over the next little while, I’ll be a very happy girl.”

Article Author

Sean Tarry
Sean Tarry
Sean Tarry is an experienced writer who leverages his unique storytelling abilities to bring retail industry news and analysis to life. With 25 years of learning, including over a decade as Editor-In-Chief of Canadian Retailer magazine, he’s equipped with a deep understanding of the unique world of retail and the issues, trends, and innovators that continue to influence its evolution and shape its landscape.

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