Megumi Robinson and Bridget Murphy joined the communications agency this year to lead client relations and business development, giving founder Kate Finley support to focus on strategy.

Belle Communication made its first additions to its executive team this year when Megumi Robinson and Bridget Murphy were appointed to lead its client services and business development efforts, respectively. 

Robinson joined as senior director in February just as the pandemic was surfacing, coming from a role leading PR at Experience Columbus. She manages Belle's public relations, influencer relations, social media and creative strategy. She was named a Ragan 2019 Top Women in Communications and was a member of the Leadership Columbus Class of 2016.

Murphy joined as chief growth officer June 1, bringing 20 years of marketing experience, including 17 as owner of Envision Promotions, which counted major brands as clients including Disney, Wendy's Hasbro and Crate & Barrel.

Belle, which has grown to 16 employees since its 2013 founding, was voted top PR agency in Columbus in our 2019 Best of Business Awards.

Finley shared her thoughts on communications during the pandemic, the movement for racial equity and her new leadership team. Here are excerpts from that conversation, condensed and edited for clarity.

You have been advising clients during a time of unprecedented disruption, with the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement. What has that been like?

It's been about how quickly people have had to respond—we had to advise people on responding (to these giant shifts) in the same night. And how important it is to practice what you preach—because if you're not practicing what you preach, you're going to get called out now.

So (we've been emphasizing with clients) the importance of culture and how quickly the communication landscape is changing. I've never seen it move so fast. Never.

As a business owner, there's never any guarantees or certainty technically, but you follow best practices and you think you have a plan, and now you have to just recreate the plan over and over again.

How has business been for Belle?

It's been surprisingly good. I tightened up. When everything happened, I followed the advice of my my coach and made sure we did a bare-bones budget. Our revenue has been affected, but we're still going to do better than we did last year.

When you look at the potential growth, everyone says the same thing. This was supposed to be our best year yet. Right across the board—our clients have said that, other agency owners, and everybody found that it's (not going to be). So how do you adjust for that?

Tell me about the changes to your executive team.

Our leadership team has never been this big or this strong. (Megumi Robinson joining Belle) was the first time we'd added to it—right before everything happened with Covid-19.

What do they call it? Baptism by fire? Megumi was an immediate asset to our leadership team. She advised our clients on crisis planning, stakeholder messaging...she really just jumped in and led the team.

Bridget Murphy, who we hired June 1, is overseeing our business development. (As a business owner), you're trying to get out of seats—you're wearing all the hats, and sitting in all the seats. Bridget is helping me move out of the business development seat.

She had her firm, Envision Promotions, for 17 years, and has 20 years of marketing experience. With Envision, she represented brands like Disney, Hasbro, Scott's Miracle-Gro, Procter & Gamble—so really deep marketing expertise.

She wanted a new challenge and had been a sales mentor to me in the past because she's very relational. You'll never feel like she's selling you anything—you feel like your best friend's advising you what she thinks would be good for you anyway.

What advice do you have for other founders who are having trouble getting out of seats and taking off hats?

I would return to that old adage of delegate and elevate. When you have the right people on your team, they're going to do a better job than you did. They're going to bring new ideas, fresh perspective, diversity of ideas and thoughts. Every time I get out of a seat, it's like a burden is lifted, and I'm able to just focus more fully on being the visionary and leading the charge.