EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Sara Koonar

Sara Koonar is a Toronto-based entrepreneur who is the founder and President of Platform Media & Management Inc.- a successful influencer agency. Platform Media & Management represents a lot of notable Canadian talent such as Alexander Kenton Liang, Jill Lansky (AKA The August Diaries), Karina Waldron, and many more. Founded in 2016, Koonar continues to find plenty of success with Platform Media & Management Inc.- and it looks as though it’s only going to continue!

I was extremely fortunate to interview Koonar for my website. In this exclusive, we discussed the founding of Platform Media & Management Inc.; influencer marketing and how it has changed due to the pandemic; advice for influencers; and more. Enjoy!

E: Can you please give some background on yourself?

Sara Koonar (S): I live in Toronto, Ontario. Prior to Platform Media, I worked for Maple Media as the Editor-in-Chief of 29Secrets. I was also the Canadian Branded Content editor of WhoWhatWear, Byrdie, and MyDomaine.

E: Why did you found Platform Media & Management Inc.?

S: When I was a magazine editor, a big part of my job was creating branded content ideas for our sales team to sell to our advertisers. As I saw influencers starting to become more popular than magazines, I thought it could be a cool idea to incorporate them into the magazine’s content to drive more traffic, and create several series where influencers would try a product, and then we’d feature them in a round-up on the magazine’s website. When hiring influencers for these brand/editorial partnerships, I noticed that a lot of them weren’t represented by a manager- and those who were weren’t being properly managed. It was like the Wild West; nobody knew how to price themselves or what a fair contract looked like. This was only five years ago, but the influencer marketing industry had just begun in Canada. I felt that there was a space for an agency dedicated to the standardization and protection of influencers in this rapidly-growing industry. That’s when I came up with the idea to start Platform.

E: For those unfamiliar with Platform Media & Management Inc., what exactly do you do?

S: We represent Canadian social media talent and broker their branded content partnerships.

E: Why is talent management so important?

S: You can absolutely be an influencer and not have any management. If you have good business sense and are well connected, it’s something you can take on on your own. However, there are benefits to having an agency. Often, brands find it simpler to come to us to book all their talent in one place, as we have a diverse roster to choose from, rather than reaching out to individual influencers. It makes the process more seamless and easy on the client. Because brands prefer this way of working, influencers who are on our roster have access to more opportunities. We also have an extensive client list, so influencers who do not have industry connections can rely on us to pitch their campaign ideas. If influencers want to focus more on creating content and less on admin work, we take all of that off their plate and run the business side of their hustle while they make the creative magic. We’re also well-versed on industry standards, ad standards, and contract laws. We can ensure they’re being paid and treated fairly while also following all industry rules and regulations.

E: What do you look for when looking into talent that you wish to add to your agency?

S: There are so many different types of influencers. The ones we choose to work with are those who are really skilled storytellers with high-quality content and photography/videography. We’re looking for positive role models who have a strong voice and care about their content and followers. They’re choosey with their brand partners, and are authentic. Since we’re a Canadian-based agency with Canadian advertisers we’re also looking for strong Canadian followings.

E: You recently launched Platform Studios. What inspired you to do that?

S: This has actually changed! Now, Daniel Ocean– my co-founder of Platform- has started Ocean and Co Creative. We work together with him to provide photography, videography, design and consulting for our brand partners. So if they need help with creating content for their own social media channels, we can also help them with that.

E: Are there any other business ventures you wish to expand on for Platform Media & Management Inc.?

S: In March, we’ll be launching a shop on our Platform website that will include on-demand versions of our Platforum Social Media Workshops, and more resources for creators. We’re not able to represent everyone, so any creator from anywhere in the world can use our shop to arm themselves with all the tools they need to succeed in this industry.

E: What has been the biggest achievement of Platform Media & Management Inc. thus far?

S: We’re really happy to receive numerous applications daily from creators interested in joining our roster. It’s flattering that so many people see the value in being a part of our Platform family. What also really brings me a lot of joy is landing a creator their dream campaign. This year, our campaigns have gone beyond social media to having our creators on billboards in Yonge & Dundas square, in national-wide commercials, as well as having their own product collaborations with the world’s leading brands that sell out in minutes. It’s been a really rewarding experience seeing dreams come true.

E: What advice do you have for influencers looking to work with an agency such as yours?

S: Being a full-time influencer means being dedicated to content creation full-time as well. People ask how creators like Matt and Omar become TikTok famous overnight, and that comes from creating content 9 to 5 like you would any other job. The investment is time. If we see you making the effort, then we have the trust that you will be a strong candidate for the brands we work with.

E: How can a business utilize influencer marketing to their advantage?

S: Consumers are much more likely to make a purchase based off of a social media recommendation than any other form of marketing. Partnering with an influencer who reaches a demographic that would be interested in your product is the ideal way in 2021 to sell a product. All eyes are on social media!

E: In your opinion, how has influencer marketing changed since the coronavirus pandemic?

S: I think people have gravitated towards influencers who are relatable, rather than aspirational, and so storytellers like our Platform creators have grown significantly as they can provide entertainment and value to their audiences, who are stuck at home scrolling on social media. We have also seen an increase in advertiser spending because they’re unable to do other types of marketing like events and experiential, or are unable to create their own content with the lockdowns. Influencers can create high-quality content from the comfort of their homes, and so advertisers have found that really beneficial during this time.

E: How has it been running your business during the pandemic?

S: The beginning was really difficult with so much unknown. In March 2020 until June 2020, many of our advertisers had to cancel or postpone their campaigns because they had to change messaging and imagery to better reflect and be sensitive to the times. I stopped taking a salary for a few months. We were worried because many other agencies started to downsize their staff and lose clients. Luckily, once advertisers had the time to change their plans and decide on a new direction, we saw a big uptick in interest in our influencers. We went from having no campaigns to work on to the most campaigns we’ve ever had. We’ve definitely been one of the lucky industries in this pandemic. So, both our company and our influencers have tried to give back as much as we can to the small businesses who have not been as fortunate.

E: What are the perks of running your own business?

S: It is very rewarding to see how an idea can grow into something big. It brings me a lot of happiness to know I’ve created jobs, and that people are living their dreams because of the work that we’ve done. That will never get old, and it makes me smile everytime I think about it.

E: On the other side, what are the downsides to running your own business?

S: There are a lot of things people do not tell you about when you start a business. You carry every worry with you to bed each night. You feel personally responsible for the financial well-being of everyone you employ and represent. You also do not have much time for a personal life. So if you’re single when you start the business, good luck!

E: What advice would you give to anyone who’s interested in starting their own agency?

S: You have to truly have a passion for what you are doing. If it doesn’t excite you, don’t do it. The reason I say that is that it takes years to get to a place where you feel comfortable, to where money is easily coming in. Those first few years, you are going to be spending every dollar you earn on investing it back into the company. Your bank account and lines of credit will be stretched and you won’t sleep much. What’s going to keep you going is that passion. Without it, it’s difficult to endure.

E: What’s next for your career?

S: I want to keep on growing Platform and continue to make dreams come true.

E: Where can people find you online?

S: You can find me on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter under my name. As for Platform, you can check out our website and follow us on Instagram.

xo,

Elizabeth

Published by Elizabeth Sarah Larkin

Freelance Writer & Social Media Manager

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