Who Is: Niki Ostin

In the first of an ongoing interview series, we catch up with Niki Ostin, PR Extraordinaire in Focus Group West.

I had the chance to chat with her while she was at her office in Los Angeles. In true public relations style, her familiar charm and friendly personality puts you at ease right away.

Niki moved to Los Angeles about 11 years ago after falling in love with the city during summer internships away from her native Montreal. Her persistence landed her a job at FOX as a PR assistant, which turned out to be the perfect fit. It was during this job she learned the ropes and knew she wanted to continue in the field. Now the head of her own company, she brings a well-rounded expertise to the group. I talked with her about her start, her take on PR, and where she is headed with Focus Group West.

DP: So, every story has a beginning…what’s yours?

NO: After working for FOX as a PR assistant, I went on to do PR for TV shows, Trading Spaces on TLC is one, and for consumer products such as fashion, accessories, and restaurants. The goal was to learn about as many different areas as I could. Then about a year and a half ago, I left my job at the time and I started my own company, PR Lab. Again I did consumer products, mainly working with brands that wanted to get into the entertainment arena that aren’t really entertainment brands so to speak. For example we do eyewear brands, jewelry brands, and getting celebrity product placements. The greatest part is, it’s always interesting, never boring.

DP: Why Public Relations?

NO: It was by chance that I ended up in PR when I was looking for internships, I didn’t even know what department I wanted to go into. I stuck with it because everyday I come into the office and have my to do list and something else always pops up. I don’t get to my list because everyday is completely different and unexpected, in a good way.

DP: Do you prefer working with consumer products versus publicity or promotion?

NO: It was important to me to expand and not pigeon hole myself in one field. For example health care is big one year, and then something comes up the next year, so you want to be able to go where the opportunities are. My clients like the fact that I can work with different types of products in different fields so there are more opportunities for cross promotion. I like to partner my clients together for different events and opportunities. For example award show suites. I can showcase jewelry, things from spa clients, or other types of consumer products to be part of the gift bags, all in one event.

DP: For people who might not know what goes into building a PR plan, what are the steps you take for your clients?

NO: Well once I have a client, the first step is to ask what their goals are. Is it press coverage? Is it to get a celebrity wearing your product? Is it more to do with a launch event? Once we establish their goals, I put together a time line detailing the activities and all of my initiatives on their behalf. We spend a lot of time together, and I get to know both their brand really well and the competition’s brand, because that is so important. Then we move forward based on the categories we established. Usually that means media relations, especially during this economy. It is really important for people to stand out from the clutter and really promote themselves well.

DP: When you meet with a client and you start to get to know their brand, how much of your personal style are you allowed to utilize while creating the plan?

NO: I’d like to insert my personal style and personality, but it is most important to pay attention to what the client wants. I think what is most important is to realize the client is coming to you for a PR plan. They want your council and your advice, so it’s a two way street. You listen to them and they really listen to you as well. You want to make sure the best comes from both parties, because your reputation is on the line too. I really feel strongly about daily communication with my clients, so everyone’s input creates the best outcome.

DP: Thinking about your style and what your clients want, how do current trends affect your plans?

NO: Definitely when people see a product in a big magazine, a key magazine with a high circulation it’s still important for people. When they see a celebrity wearing a specific eyewear style or brand, people ask about it. Celebrity for better or worse, is still a really important component of public relations. Also a credible writer or media source, is just as important in terms of making people aware of different products. It’s always important to be up to date with the different media outlets out there. You have to stay on top of current trends and the media. The press tends to focus on a group of 10 –15 celebrities, so just knowing who is in the media more and following them, when they get married, when they get divorced, when they have babies. In my field you really need to stay on top of what people are interested so you can better serve your client.

DP: Besides staying on top of current trends, what’s happening now that peaks your interest?

NO: Right now I’m into a lot of music. My playlist includes: Santigold, Coldplay, and The Fray.

DP: Now getting to your current business: What is your role in FGW? How did you get involved with the team?

NO: I met Blake and Thomas years ago when I handled public relations for John Varvatos Eyewear and Carolina Herrera Eyewear. They were working together on both brands at the time. We kept in touch, and when they were thinking of launching Focus Group West they approached me about dealing with the public relations portion for their clients. I thought it would be a great idea. I really think this is the way businesses are going to be structured, especially in this economic climate, with consultants and freelancers grouping together for different projects. It’s the idea of getting people with different expertise together in one group to make things more cost effective for the client. That’s how it happened, and I think it’s going to be really great.

In addition to collaborating with Focus Group West, Niki Ostin works with consumer brands including Platinum Guild International and Baxter of California. She looks forward to continuing her work with FGW.

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