>> More episodes here
About the Host:
Host: DOUG SIMON
Guest: KATHY BLOOMGARDEN
DOUG: Kathy, what’s your most important recommendation for PR people as we move into 2021?
KATHY: Well, this has been a test number of months and it’s going to be going forward despite the vaccine rollout, and I think we have to remember from a leadership point of view that we need to really be empathetic, to be relevant, to be very caring at the same time that markets around us are shifting, and we have to continue to be immensely innovative. So, both need to be kept in mind.
DOUG: And a key part of that innovation and a key important public is your team at Ruder Finn obviously, the global team. So, what are some of the things you’re thinking about doing differently? What are changes maybe you’ve already implemented to help the agency be more responsive because of the extent of how crazy and different things have become over the last year and what might lie ahead?
KATHY: Well, I’ve heard from many CEOs and also ourselves, when you’re working remote, you have to work really hard to maintain culture, to remain connected together, to be able to really be a team, a strong team that’s going to really see your way through lots of difficulties. So, the internal culture is hugely important, and we’ve been pursuing weekly global town hall meetings and other kinds of fun things together. At the same time, we’ve set up a tech lab because we know that we have to change just as our clients have been changing and their business models are shifting. So, our tech lab is constantly giving us new ideas, new ways to experiment and pilots that we can pursue with our clients.
DOUG: Is it not only about maintaining culture, which obviously, given the successful record of your firm, has probably been pretty strong, but even adapting it and letting it evolve to meet these new conditions?
KATHY: Yes, people really want to know what is the purpose of a company, what are its values that you really, truly are listening. So, that means there has to be a continuous feedback loop, and you need to engage much differently with your employee base and make sure that you adapt as you hear new ideas from them.
DOUG: And I assume that would also apply to the brands that you represent. How are you advising them and what are some of the things they’re looking to do that might be different heading into 2021 with so much change in the air?
KATHY: Well, there’s been a vast increase in terms of the amount of internal communications, and leaders and CEOs know that they have to inspire their employees. And I think of one CEO who I greatly admire, who we work with, Paul Hudson, who’s the CEO of Sanofi, and he really has been able to make people feel they want to bring their best stuff, as he calls it, bring your best self to work so that really you can deliver more than even you yourself thought possible. So, it is that inspiration that really empathetic, that really deep connection that I see leaders of companies working very hard to establish.
DOUG: Do you have some other examples that you might be able to share of companies that you’re working with and how they’re evolving and how sort of how you work with them is different? Because I’m sure it’s not, hey, let’s all get together and figure this out. I guess virtually it can be. How is that relationship changed and how will it continue to evolve in 2021?
KATHY: Well, I can think of another CEO that I’ve worked with for many years, John Chambers, formerly CEO and Chairman of Cisco, and now starting a venture fund that’s investing in startups. And he has always pushed everyone to think about innovating ahead of market transitions. We’re no longer competing against our competitors. We’re competing against how the markets are changing. So, you have to really, again, continue to help people to create new ideas, to speak up, to bring forward new concepts and to be willing to experiment and pilot. And I think that’s a very important focus today as we head into 2021.
DOUG: That is a really important distinction that it’s sort of you’re playing multidimensional chess and figuring out where the marketplace is going and what your role has to be in it to keep a leadership position. Any final thoughts that you have, recommendations for people to really take to heart as we move forward into the New Year?
KATHY: Well, I may be an optimist, but I think there are glimmers of great things that can come out of the experiences of the past months. If we can innovate, if we can be truly empathetic and caring with each other, then I think we can actually emerge stronger. We’re not going back to the old normal, but we can create a better new normal.
DOUG: That’s awesome. Thanks so much for your thoughts and information.
KATHY: Thank you, Doug.