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Follow The Leader: Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO, Ruder Finn When Bloomgarden led the creation of a Ruder Finn office in China, it was unexplored territory for the company at the time. Today, three decades later, the agency is ranked as number one in China from a global perspective.

By Devina Divecha Edited by Aby Thomas

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Ruder Finn
Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO, Ruder Finn

This article is a part of the 2023 edition of Entrepreneur Middle East's annual Follow The Leader series, in which enterprise head honchos from the region talk strategy, industry-specific tactics, and professional challenges as they lead their respective businesses to success.

The world of global public relations (PR) and communications is extremely dynamic, and Kathy Bloomgarden stands tall in this cut-throat, fast-paced world as the CEO of Ruder Finn, a pioneering firm that has shaped the communications industry for decades.

Known for her expertise in steering companies, startups, and non-profits through critical communications moments and milestones, Bloomgarden is a trusted advisor to C-suite leaders across a variety of industries. And the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree- Bloomgarden's father, David Finn, was the founder of the New York-headquartered Ruder Finn, and he too is known to have collaborated with political figures, the UN, and various administrations. "We were one of the first agencies that started the field of public relations," Bloomgarden reminisces. "We have been along the ride of the evolution of the communication industry, as it became increasingly important in terms of shaping dialogues, and building communication links between people."

With the communications industry evolving significantly over the last few decades, especially in an admittedly polarized world, the crucial role firms like Ruder Finn play is more evident than ever. Interestingly enough, Bloomgarden's father had prepared her for this eventuality, having instilled in her a constant urge to reinvent, innovate, and anticipate "what's next," which is an ethos deeply ingrained in the fabric of Ruder Finn, which recently celebrated its 75th anniversary. "That was really a very important mantra for us, that we really feel is part of our DNA," Bloomgarden says. "My father always had a saying, which we have in our in our entry way, which says, 'Just because you haven't done it doesn't mean you can't.'"

Bloomgarden goes on to reveal that her foray into the family business wasn't even on the cards, even though she grew up learning about and discussing the industry with her father. She initially wanted to pursue a career in government, but as fate would have it, a part-time role in the research department of Ruder Finn -while pursuing a doctorate in political science at Columbia University- changed the course of her life.

As she puts it, she fell in love with the world of communication, and ended up joining the firm. And she soon made her presence felt at the firm- one of the key undertakings she led was the creation of a Ruder Finn office in China, which, at the time, was unexplored territory for the company. Bloomgarden got the green signal for her proposal, and that led her to establish Ruder Finn in China three decades ago.

Today, the agency is ranked as the number one agency in China from a global perspective, says the Ruder Finn CEO- and it's not mere boasting; Ruder Finn Asia was the recipient of the title of PRWeek Global Awards Best Agency in Asia-Pacific in 2022. Of course, her time in China was no walk in the park, neither was any special treatment meted out to her because she was the founder's daughter.

However, she credits the importance of belief and passion towards achieving success, which is why her advice for entrepreneurs today is to be enthusiastic about their work, challenge themselves, and to remain attuned to trends in their respective industries. "You have to believe in what you're doing," she says. "Because if you don't enjoy getting up in the morning and going to work, and you don't bring the best of yourself, or you don't continuously challenge yourself, [it wouldn't work out]… But if you love the area that you're working in, then all these things come naturally."

Related: Follow The Leader: Mohamad Sami Ballout, CEO, AWJ

Bloomgarden also credits her time in China for teaching her to look at the big picture when it comes to work. "The experience taught me not to look at things just from my own lens," she explains. "That's so important in communication, because people don't always listen. It's something we also learned coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic: the importance of being empathetic, being a good leader who is authentic, who is able to really help other people. When you are always in one place, and surrounded by people who think exactly like you, then you get into a habit. Whereas if you go somewhere where everything is different, you have to listen carefully in order to be successful."

With such global experiences under her belt, Bloomgarden is well-placed to comment on the current state of the Middle East's business environment, with her recognizing the region's potential and the opportunities it presents. The Middle East's young population is also a driving force for this metamorphosis, Bloomgarden says, which, in turn, makes it an attractive market for Ruder Finn. "This is the market of the future, and there's a lot of vision," she says. "What I find in common between the region and Ruder Finn's thinking is two things: to have this vision of what the future is going to be, and having this hunger for achievement, this entrepreneurial ambition. I find them here in a moment of transformation. And for us, it's really exciting to work in a moment of transformation."

Here, Bloomgarden also highlights the appeal of the Middle East's entrepreneurial landscape, which, once again, she believes is being driven by the region's youth. She believes that when it comes through breakthroughs in tech and innovation, it's younger people who embrace lofty visions, and take such ideas forward. "The Middle East is at a really important point, and I don't think a lot of people realize that," Bloomgarden notes. "There's a lot of great work that's being done here, and a young generation that's hungry to be part of the global scene. It's why Ruder Finn is really interested in being present [in the region] now. It's exciting to be part of it- it's part of 'what's next.'"

As a leader in this fast-paced and future-thinking industry, Bloomgarden understands the need to navigate challenges effectively. She shares her leadership mantra, emphasizing three essential aspects: "Ask yourself when you do something: 'Have I been up to date now on things that are new and possible?' And if we recommend something that the client doesn't want because it's too advanced, then we've done our job, because it would make them think. We execute the things that they want us to, but we want to make sure that we're always pushing the envelope a little bit, so that we open eyes to things that could be possible. The second is really the question of how you make people feel that they can always do better. The third thing is collaborating with each other; being hybrid or being out of the office for so long, you realize that when you are together, you do really gain from the conversation, and the exchange of ideas."

The Executive Summary: Kathy Bloomgarden's advice for entrepreneurs

Have a clear understanding of your purpose and brand "Know who you are, and know what you stand for."

Identify your target audience "Know who your customer is, and who it is that you want to buy your product."

Focus on revenue and profitability from the get-go "You really do need to be focused on at least building some revenue, so that you can build confidence [in your business], and have a survival path going forward."

Related: Lessons On Leadership: Natalia Vodianova, Co-Founder,

Devina Divecha

Writer, editor, emcee, and media consultant

Devina Divecha is an independent writer, editor, emcee and media consultant, specialising in the hospitality and F&B industry. With more than 10 years of experience under her belt, her work has appeared in a number of publications including Skift, SUPPER, HOTELSmag, Destinations of the World News, Spinneys Magazine, Entrepreneur Middle East, and more. She holds a BSc in Business from the London School of Economics and an MA in Magazine Journalism from the University of Sheffield.

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