‘Vulnerability isn’t about being exposed, rather it’s the strength to go all in’: Beyond the Brief with Kristin Barbour, Camp+King

Kristin Barbour, Camp + King

To celebrate its 100th Anniversary, the 4A’s has partnered with The Drum for Beyond the Brief to pull back the curtain and look at an industry full of problem solvers, creative types and analytical minds. But what keeps them going once the briefs are written, the campaigns executed, and the pitches won (or lost)? The Drum is now interviewing 100 people at 4A’s member agencies — across all disciplines, levels, regions, and agency types — to get a glimpse into what drives them at work and what fuels them in life.

Kristin Barbour is the fairly new managing director at Camp + King in Chicago. During her few months on the executive team at the Windy City small agency, Barbour has worked to lead the agency’s expansion. Sher joined Camp + King after spending seven years at DDB San Francisco, where she worked as the strategic business lead of a $123m Conagra Brands account. She also focused on transforming 15 staid household food brands to meet the modern needs of today's consumers.

Over her 20 years in the industry, Barbour has worked with brands such as McDonald's, Kraft, Mars and Chevrolet.

Her passion for advertising, as well as her leadership and years of industry experience, shows how she is living beyond the brief.

What was your proudest career moment?

Early in my career I was recruited to join the scrappy DDB Chicago pitch team whose mission was clear: after a 15-year hiatus, win back the McDonald’s account from Leo Burnett. The opportunity to play a key role on the small, historic, winning team, working alongside industry legends, was career defining. I discovered how to marry human insight and powerful brand storytelling. I saw first-hand, how relentless passion and grit can tilt the scale. But what I’ll take with me forever was uncovering one of the secrets to unlocking greatness at work and in life: When a group feels safe and trusted, and their will to do their very best matches their will to have each other’s backs, they will be unstoppable.

What keeps you sane in this industry? What keeps you driven to do great work?

My addiction to this business is fed by the flow of energy that exists between me and the people I work with. You could call me an extrovert’s extrovert. Creative businesses give people the permission to bring forth their most authentic selves. We cannot create the kind of work we do if we don’t let all of us show up. It’s the human connection to these passionate, authentic people that I can’t get enough of. They recharge me and keep my cup full. I use this energy and spread it among the teams I build. When clients see relentless passion and a group of people who are so convicted about their work and each other, they feel inspired to think bigger, more flexibly and with more openness to ideas. The energy is palpable and contagious. They want a piece of what we have. The pixie dust of our business is born of human connection. I love sprinkling it everywhere.

What’s a virtue that you live by?

Every day I battle myself to muster up the courage to be vulnerable and show up as my true self. I think it’s essential, particularly as a female leader in a male dominated industry, to bust the myth that showing vulnerability is a weakness. Vulnerability isn’t about being exposed, rather it’s the strength to go all in. Brene Brown defines vulnerability as the ability “to face uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure... discarding the need to be perfect or bulletproof.” In my career, I have seen a profound difference in organizations where leaders are courageous enough to be vulnerable and the lasting, positive impact it can have on its people, culture and performance. At home, we teach our own girls how vital it is to be brave enough to be your truest, authentic selves, and how in turn, it requires you to build your own community of support, surrounding yourself with others who lift you up and encourage you to act courageously in the face of adversity.

What are your other passions?

I spend an ample amount of my free time helping other women. It’s a passion for me and I’m deeply committed to it. I’ve dreamed of starting an organization with the mission of helping women in marketing to maximize their potential. My goal is to develop a supportive, “pay it forward” network to help women thrive across every phase of their career. I’d love nothing more than for advertising, renowned as one of the most cutthroat industries and ridiculed for preventing work life balance, to rise above these perceptions and become a benchmark industry for women lifting one another up. The goals of my organization would be to serve women continuously across three life stages: breaking into the business and securing entry level positions; the time periods before, during and after having children; and promoting the careers of promising, breakthrough women so that together we can level the playing field at the highest leadership levels. My personal belief is that a woman in this business should never feel forced to hit the pause button or go dark with her ambitions because she lacks the support to keep her in forward motion every step of the way. I’m currently in the process of developing a plan to get this idea off the ground outside of my day job.

To pitch someone from a 4A's member agency for Beyond the Brief, please complete this linked form.

Haley Velasco

Haley Velasco is a writer based in Chicago, IL, who has a background in PR for a sports media company and has reported on a variety of topics, including sports, opinion, politics and celebrity news. Based in the Windy City, she covers industry happenings in the Midwest and throughout North America. She has been reporting for The Drum since May 2016.

All by Haley