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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rising To the Top in PR

MTNataliya Popovych
The call from Moscow came at 2 a.m. The question posed to Nataliya Popovych seemed simple enough: Did she want to go to Kiev to head up a major multinational public relations firm's affiliate in her native country?

Not an altogether easy question to answer. Six days earlier, she had given birth to her second child and she was thousands of kilometers away, in sunny San Jose, California. Still, two months later, she was en route to a post that would ultimately catapult her into the top job at one of the oldest PR firms in Moscow.

"It was a very intense time," recalled the 30-year-old president of Public Relations & Promotions Group -- PRP for short -- an affiliate of Weber Shandwick Worldwide.

Fast-forward three years, and Popovych is now helping to oversee public relations efforts for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics bid -- a task she describes as possibly the most daunting yet. In PRP's second-floor, 5th Ulitsa Yamskogo Polya office, a cluster of desks has been dubbed "Sochi corner," and heads turn when Popovych walks into the room.

The Lvov, Ukraine, native had dreams of becoming either a doctor or a diplomat, but said she felt her current job, in a manner of speaking, allowed her to take on some of the better parts of both professions. She says she diagnoses problems -- whatever maladies plague a client are her responsibility to help mend -- and she has to be very diplomatic while doing so. Since her clients come from all over the world, the work has an international flair to it as well.

She speaks with passion about the Sochi project, calling it a "patriotic assignment," and sums up the campaign by saying that selecting Sochi would be "like putting a new dot on the map," as the resort city is relatively unknown to the rest of the world.

While President Vladimir Putin sailed down the slopes at Sochi in February, Popovych supervised a team of five employees who courted the international press, armed with the "gateway to the future" slogan to market the location.

Vladimir Filonov / MT
Nataliya Popovych is helping to oversee the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics bid's PR efforts, one of her most daunting jobs yet.
In conversation, she deftly tosses out acronyms and terminology that suggests she has a solid command of industry street smarts. PR consulting is relatively new to Russia, and education programs catering to the field even newer, so her training was in the United States, where her ascent began. After working for Weber Shandwick Worldwide in the United States for a time, she was encouraged to return to her home country to revamp the Kiev affiliate. There, she recruited many big-name clients and pushed them to develop corporate social responsibility programs. She switched over to the Moscow affiliate in 2005.

While few women are able to climb into the upper echelons of management in many companies here, Popovych said that since most in her field were women, gender has never been a barrier for her. "On the contrary, in my specific field, it is a benefit," she added.

As for on-the-job tips, she emphasizes honesty and ethics in dealing with clients, as well as staying on the cutting edge of the business.

Her honesty is refreshing to those who work for her.

"She has high ethical standards, which is inspiring," said Dominique Winther, director of marketing and business development for the company.

Another quality Winther doesn't mind: "She's got this energy -- it just never stops."

The company's vice president said her boss's background is what stands out.

"She has had the unique experience of working in different markets -- California and Ukraine -- before coming to Russia and sharing with us this experience," Irina Hartmann said. "I think that gave her a lot of perspective on how things can be done."

For Popovych, it's an exciting time to be in the field. "PR is an evolving discipline," she said.

"Every time I want to rest on my laurels, the next challenge presents itself." as