What a Day with Virgin Hotels Reminded me About Honesty at Work

As the Virgin Hotels Las Vegas agency of record, a few of us from OH Partners were invited to participate in the Virgin Masterbrand Agency Workshop on Feb. 12 in London. The entire day was dedicated to immersing the conglomerate’s business segment agencies in Virgin branding, personality, and tone and voice. The goal of this workshop was to collaborate in an effort “to raise the creative bar”.

In one of our breakout sessions, we were instructed to explore and discuss both the positive and negative points from previous campaigns. As I chatted with one of my agency colleagues during the breakout, he mentioned how refreshing it was to be encouraged to evaluate the lows as well as the highs. I couldn’t help but agree.

As agency partners, our responsibility to our clients means our brainstorms and idea generation sessions aren’t all sunshine and rainbows. Before ever going to a client with a suggestion, campaign idea, or creative execution, it is our job to be critical of our own work, to find holes in our ideas and not simply be satisfied with “good.”

At OH, our team often takes part in pre-mortems before our ideas are shared with the client. Creating friction and engaging in (respectful) conflict gives us the opportunity to poke holes in ideas before they reach the client, let alone the market. We only raise the creative bar when we challenge assumptions, work out the kinks, and address the elephant in the room. Among team members, the goal is to build enough trust that we aren’t forced to merely engage in pleasantries, and those tough yet productive conversations can only happen in a culture that fosters both honesty and kindness among colleagues.

As agency partners, it’s our role to find and solve problems, and that takes place both externally in the marketplace and internally among agency team members. The key is to develop a space where employees are free to challenge one another while still operating within the boundaries of respectful collaboration and constructive feedback. It’s only through honesty that our greatest work can shine. After all, Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson himself has noted that the best work happens where there is honest and open communication, and we’ve heard he knows a thing or two about marketing.

About the Author: Amy Colbourn’s advertising career started in Denver more than 20 years ago, eventually taking her to Philadelphia. She has held senior agency leadership roles at some of the largest and most influential gaming and hospitality agencies in the northeast U.S., representing the world’s best casino properties. Amy has effectively led agency teams to successfully grow and expand. Her client roster of marketing influence includes many commercial casinos, retail shopping centers, country clubs and resorts.

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