Head of local PR agency Belle Communications, Kate Finley was named one of PR News’ Top Women in PR for 2016, and is one of the few emerging agencies to be featured. Finley has been building her seven-person outfit since early 2013.
Finley went to school for PR, taking a position as a marketing director for Chick-fil-A post-graduation before making the move to an agency. The agency would become the antithesis of her venture – 80-90 hour work weeks, no time for personal relationships, it felt like bootcamp. She got results though, securing 2,500 opportunities for clients in a one-and-a-half year span.
“It taught me a ton,” Finley says.
However, the long hours turned her passion to hatred and she wanted out of the industry. Finley took the first job she thought would fit as a director of events and outreach for a nonprofit. With a little time and some recuperation, she eventually began to miss the PR industry.
Finley started to dip her toes back in doing some consulting work for friends on the thing she was really good at – getting media to interview clients. A little soul searching in late 2012 and she put in her notice and turned back to PR.
Finley didn’t know if she would consult or contract, “I didn’t have a plan to start an agency to be honest,” she says. But a few months in and she was missing having a team.
“As work would increase I just started hiring, and in April of 2013 I founded an agency,” Finley says.
She started Belle with the vision of “empowering meaningful work and thriving relationships.”
“You can do meaningful work while still having thriving relationships in your community, with your family, with your team,” she says.
PR often ranks as one of the most stressful jobs, but Finley makes it a point to find balance for herself and her employees. No one is working the 60 to 80 hour week. The Belle model is a virtual one too, not only allowing employees to work wherever they are, but also allowing the agency to expand its footprint, with presence in Nashville, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
Belle’s process is removing another tradition of the PR industry – throw it out there and see if it sticks.
“We are experts at taking your story and getting it to the right audience at the right time,” Finley says.
Right story. Right audience. Right time. It’s a process that intertwines strategy and outreach and guarantees a result like an interview with a media outlet in 30 days. Belle guarantees results because of the work put in on the front-end.
“It’s very research-intensive, it involves a lot of strategy, it’s founded on the business goals of the organization,” Finley says.
PR and social media goals should be reinforcing a business’ goals.
The process has resonated well with a particular industry – food.
“What we found, we like working with food,” Finley says.
The food niche happened organically, do one good thing for a client and get referred to another. Belle is in charge of PR for Sbarro, Kahiki Foods and have recently added rapidly-expanding Columbus-based fast-casual chain BiBiBop. As an example of their success, Belle landed Sbarro a spot on the front page of the Wall Street Journal within 30 days of working with them.
Food is by no means Belle’s only expertise. Locally they have done work with The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio, just picked up the Columbus Commons and Lextant, and helped launch Le Meridien The Joseph in Short North. The work with the hotel actually went a long way to helping Finley earn the PR recognition.
“One of the things we do is secure awards for clients,” Finley says, and she decided it was time to practice what they preach. “People don’t know if you don’t tell them.”
She submitted a case study featuring the 90-day launch of Le Meridien. The agency’s work resulted in 20 unique pieces of media coverage totaling 6.6 million impressions.
Belle hopes to continue their steady growth over the coming years.
“We’ve doubled our revenue year over year,” Finley says.
While there’s always room to refine, she wants her agency to keep doing what it’s doing, continuing to find like-minded partners and fostering a team whose hearts are in it.
For more information, visit thinkbelle.com.