Today’s Notable Young Professional is Courtney Khimji, CEO of Chimera Collective, a new public relations agency in Toronto. After years of experience at a leading agency in Paris, and a few more in a corporate decision back home in Canada, Courtney chose an entrepreneurial path so she could utilize public relations’ most powerful tool: agility.
Describe what you do in less than 140 characters.
Public relations today means something different to everyone, but to me it’s all about helping brands connect with their audiences in fun, relevant and unexpected ways.
Why is the ability to be agile so powerful in public relations?
Agility is motivated by a relentless drive to move forward. Moving forward requires emotional intelligence and not everybody has it! There are so many people in public relations with intelligence, education and training but, ultimately, clients book people that they like on a personal level and who make their day fun — the simple stuff! But how that translates to building a business is actually very difficult. The service that you’re giving your clients has to do with being the best possible person, and that goes beyond business.
What was the inspiration for your career?
I got lucky enough to fall into a great PR job at a leading agency in Paris, which, after a few years of hard work, opened up a lot of doors. But the media world has always been in my blood. My parents worked in magazine publishing, so I’ve been talking about story angles and circulation numbers since I learned how to talk.
How do you and Chimera Collective begin a relationship with new clients?
I bombard them with a lot of questions! When I’m in the discovery phase with new clients, a lot of what I learn is observational. I ask more questions than anybody would expect, really listen to their answers and watch for body language and expressions that reveal the bits of work my clients are most passionate about.
What other qualities make Chimera Collective a unique public relations agency?
It’s very important for public relations people and communications professionals to be connected to culture and have a sensitivity to nuances, we respond to subtleties and cultural trends. My sense for these things inspired me to start Chimera Collective before the demand for an agency like mine was fully realized by others.
The public relations industry in Canada is ready for new people, in part because the industry changes by the millisecond and in part because more mature agencies current agencies are still intensely focused on traditional media relations. Media relations is still a key component of public relations but it’s not a modern necessity — an integrated service offering is.
The media landscape has been completely revolutionized with social media. Chimera Collective doesn’t have traditional media relations as a central focus, we are entirely committed to bringing an integrated service offering to our clients.
Where do you see yourself in five years, 10 years and 20 years?
The public relations industry is changing so fast that I don’t believe in planning too far ahead, but if all goes well, I’ll be running one of North America’s leading PR firms. I’m also a big fan of remote working so, who knows where you’ll find me!
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Pick your job based on who your boss will be. Learn everything, make yourself invaluable and be nice to everyone.
What does success look like to you? Work, play or otherwise…
Happy clients, a profitable business and a team that loves coming to work. Oh, and a Cannes Lion would be ok too!