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Who We Are

CEO Leyla Turkkan

For more than 25 years, Leyla Naile Turkkan has channeled public relations as a catalyst for cultural advancement and social change. – from the groundbreaking protest rap of Public Enemy, through the Beastie Boys’ watershed Tibetan Freedom Concerts to leading media strategy for artist-activists such as KRS-One and Ice Cube.

Leyla’s ability to craft memorable, iconic and surgically precise PR campaigns has elevated a wide array of entertainment clients, non-profits and executives from the underground to the mainstream, securing for them continued relevance and career longevity in a fickle and chaotic media environment.

In this vein, Leyla has formed The Catalyst Group – a collective of highly skilled and seasoned publicists with diverse expertise. Together, they conceive of and execute custom-tailored, impactful campaigns for a select group of clients across the entertainment and pro-social spectrum.

Leyla Turkkan, Chuck D and Grand Master Flash

Leyla with Chuck D and Grandmaster Flash

Recent campaigns include:
  • Spearheading the “We Are Not Afraid” campaign to raise funds and awareness for the refugee crisis in partnership with Human Rights Watch and the International Rescue Committee. The resulting video includes 150 artists ranging from Bruce Springsteen to Pussy Riot to Public Enemy’s Chuck D.
  • Partnering with Russell Simmons’ Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, to lead the media campaign and rally in Times Square against Islamophobia titled “I Am a Muslim Too.” The event received an enormous amount of coverage and momentum, with Simmons featured on a wide variety of national TV, print and online outlets.
  • Powering the headline-grabbing release of A Tribe Called Quest’s triumphant final album, “We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service.” The album’s undeniable single, “We the People,” became an anthem for the resistance, highlighted by a breakthrough performances on Grammys 2017 and appearances on “Saturday Night Live,” “CBS This Morning” and “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.”
  • Serving as production consultant on various projects, such as the recent HBO feature documentary “Class Divide,” director Marc Levin’s meditation on gentrification in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood; and “The Chris Lighty Story (working title),” Gimlet’s immersive new documentary podcast series on the life of the music entrepreneur, a former Catalyst Group client.

Before launching The Catalyst Group, Leyla founded the groundbreaking PR and marketing firm Set to Run. In short, when hip-hop and alternative music were born, Leyla was in the delivery room. In addition to the aforementioned hip-hop artists, STR repped David Bowie, Slayer, New Order, The Cure and The Breeders among many other legendary artists. She held executive positions at Columbia Records, The Atlantic Group, EMI Records, Rush Communications, and BET Networks. She also helped launch and promote the iconic Def Jam Records, and continues to work with Def Jam Founder Russell Simmons, who serves on The Catalyst Group’s Advisory Board.

Upon its founding, The Catalyst Group created a credible brand for The Roots and ?love, leading to their anointment as the house band for “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and subsequently “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.” TCG also led the campaign for Raphael Saadiq and his critically acclaimed 2008 album “The Way I See It,” which was nominated for three Grammys.

Other career highlights include:
  • The organization of a Public Enemy concert at the notorious Rikers Island Correctional Facility in New York to spotlight the incarceration of black men in America. More than 100 media outlets were transported to the event in police buses.
  • The 1987 launch of KRS-One’s charity Stop the Violence Movement, which garners him paid speaking engagements to this day.
  • The organization and production of the multi-artist Tibetan Freedom Concerts I, II & III, which established the Beastie Boys as philanthropists, and featured such renowned artists as U2, REM, Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Björk, Smashing Pumpkins, and De La Soul.
  • A campaign centered on Public Enemy's "By the Time I Get to Arizona" which helped pave the way to establishing Martin Luther King Day as a holiday in Arizona -- the last of the 50 U.S. states to recognize it.
  • Promotion of an interfaith movement to stamp out Islamophobia led by Simmons’ Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the leader of the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque.”

Leyla currently sits on the Marketing Committee for the Institute for Humane Education’s Solutionary School, helping increase its visibility. She also advises the New York Civil Liberties Union on visibility campaigns.

A first generation Turkish-American of Muslim descent, Leyla received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College, where she majored in Music & Psychology. She also did postgraduate studies at Sarah Lawrence in Fiction & Creative Writing. She resides in New York City.