Expert Q&A: Kim Barnes, SVP and member of the Bospar Leadership team

Why hire Bospar? In this series, senior Bospartans share their areas of expertise. This month, SVP Kim Barnes shares the reasons why she thinks Bospartans are better storytellers than most. (Spoiler alert: Bospar invests in professional development. In fact, Kim is now spearheading the effort.)

Why were you selected to lead Bospartan professional development?

Throughout my career, I’ve always loved to see and help people grow. Just seeing a colleague light up about a New York Times placement means more to me than getting the placement myself.

Sounds like you’re a proponent of servant leadership.

Absolutely! It’s one thing to present yourself as a leader but another to consider your colleagues your clients. I’m here to ideally make life easier for people and make their days feel a little bit more fulfilling, because if you don’t love what you’re doing every day or at least most of what you’re doing most days, what’s the point? Life is short, so let’s try to make this the best experience we can for everybody.

Why does this matter to clients?

Our staff’s level of career satisfaction impacts the quality of client work. If you love the company for which you work and you love the work you do, you’ll do better work.

For us that requires more than a professional development stipend. Each member of our team is unique, so not everyone wants to do the same thing. It’s important to acknowledge an individual’s uniqueness and provide personalized mentoring that allows each individual to grow. The point is to figure out what every Bospartan needs and get the best version of each.

What role does professional development play in Bospar’s culture?

Every member of our Leadership team has extensive agency experience, many with large agency backgrounds. Our past experiences have taught us that we never want to treat employees like a number. Instead, we want to understand and help further develop their greatest strengths within the context of who they want to become.

It’s one thing to collect a bunch of trophies for being a “best place to work” and quite another to have 100 employees who agree.

What does it mean to be a Bospartan?

I think it means that you are driven to tell stories that matter. By doing that for clients, we’re able to inspire and ignite discussions with their target audiences that matter, obtain coverage that matters, and ultimately make a difference in peoples’ lives, whether that’s standing up for the LGBTQIA+ community or reproductive rights. While our first priorities are clients and employees, we also want to do what we can to make the world a better place.

That’s what our “Bospar Stands Up” program is all about. In fact, we have an all-hands meeting coming up to outline our goals for 2023 and brainstorm causes that matter to the Bospartans. At other companies, these initiatives too often come from the top down.

Bospar Leadership wants Bospar employees to be involved in identifying causes because we know people fight harder for causes they believe in. It’s an agency-wide effort, and the results we get are truly amazing.

This all sounds great, but how do I know as a client or prospect that Bospartans really understand my business and its offerings? This is an important point because clients most often fire agencies because they don’t feel that the account executives and others “get it.”

You’re right. We hear that a lot in new business pitches.

Clients and prospects can tell instantly when someone doesn’t understand what their company stands for, what their technology does, where they fit into the competitive landscape, and the reasons for those things. We make a point of staying in touch with our clients daily through Slack, email and quick polls. The constant bilateral communication makes us smarter about what our clients do.

We also make a point of active listening. When you’re really listening to clients and asking them questions along the way, you learn more about that client than if you’re just listening passively. And there’s a bit of a snowball effect: the more you learn, the smarter the questions you ask.

Our collective curiosity is part and parcel of Bospar’s “politely pushy” approach.

Bospar wins an unusual number of awards, but what is the value of that for clients?

If anything, it proves that we’re good storytellers. Not only did we achieve these great results for clients, but we are now selling this story to the people determining the award-winning campaigns. So, if we can convince the judges that our work stands out among 100 or so submissions, that’s a win for us and our clients. Obviously, the clients for whom we won the awards are thrilled, and our other clients want to know how we can do the same for them. We’re always stoked when a client asks us that because it tends to mean they are open to award-winning ideas.

Would you say that Bospartans are better storytellers than most agencies’ employees?

I think so. First, we’re able to quickly identify the meat of the story. Our content team is a huge part of that. They are great at asking the right questions because most of them were previously well-accomplished journalists.

Our account team members also help ensure there’s a story there, and when we think something won’t get the type of media attention our clients expect, we tell them, and then let them make an informed decision. Alternatively, we provide recommendations on how to make the story more appealing.

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