Victoria is a relationship expert– of the client variety, but her advice can certainly be applied to personal ones as well. An advocate for empathy, collaboration, and building relationships remotely and in-person, Victoria works as Sales Director at Verbal + Visual, a digital creative agency based in New York.
In addition to her role at Verbal + Visual, she’s a seasoned business development maven, and a side hustler with her passion project, The Tidalist– a platform that breaks the editorial mold with its mission to share the stories of those “who are passionate about bringing color to the world, regardless of widespread notoriety.”
So...Victoria knows a thinking or two about relationship building and strong content creation. I sat down and spoke with her (over Zoom, of course) and gained a lot of nuggets of wisdom that I’m excited to share.
Victoria’s current role at Verbal + Visual as Sales Director is supported by her previous work at Sweden Unlimited as Client Director, where she brought in business, worked with clients, and “work[ed] from beginning to end with the client to really establish that trust where the agency can really deliver their needs, and do so in a transparent way to be more of a partner to our clients.” Relationship goals.
This relationship expert began her client and sales career many years ago working on content strategies at Sweden. Specifically, strategy for W Hotels. Victoria strategized and created a “content strategy synergy” through outputs such as a blog, called The Angle. In many ways, she extended beyond her job description and juggled tasks within the position that took the form of not only content strategy, but also project management.
After establishing a strong bond with the content leaders at W Hotels, Victoria notes that she felt her biggest professional asset was relationship management and client development.
If you're not curious about something, what's the point of learning more?
So, she dove further into the W account and beyond, taking on an account management position across all of Sweden’s clients that required her to identify and holistically understand client needs. This management role quickly led to her current role as Client Director:
“Growing from content to the Client Director has been an invaluable experience because you're able to see and work across all of your different work streams, including project management, and understanding what's needed within those roles to make it a successful agency. [In regards to clients,] a lot of it is about your emotional intelligence: how well you can really connect with someone from a more interpersonal level versus just understanding the business; listening to them and really understanding their needs and how to deliver that with your team.”
In a partnership where the client’s needs are top of mind, Victoria’s beliefs align with her previous Client Director role:
“Regardless of what time it is, and I know this is sort of taboo to some people, but I like myself to be at the disposal of the client where I am an advocate for both the team and the client. I'm working with the design team and the project management team to make sure we're solutionizing– we don't want to be just reactive to what their needs are, but rather come to them with a solution.”
“Assume positive intent. Different work groups are all vouching for the team in the way that they know best. I think for me in a leadership position, it's about learning how to always remind myself that they're assuming positive intent in that the person is not trying to disagree on something. It's about understanding that they are bringing their best knowledge and what they know best to the table, the same way that you are. It's about remembering that you're all there for the same reason, and you're all on the same team.”
Assume positive intent. Different work groups are all vouching for the team in the way that they know best.
While speaking with Victoria, it is evident how her emotional intelligence and cultivated self awareness led to her current role as Sales Director at Verbal + Visual. She has visibly grown into her role through different work experiences. As a result, she is equipped with the interpersonal and professional tools to tackle any obstacle or issue that comes her way, including working with a team and knowing how to zoom out to focus on positive problem solving, and ultimately the client.
“Always considering positive intent will really change the way that you intake feedback and change the way you manage a team. The mindset that I have about being client conscious is different than what a designer will have versus a technically-focused project manager. It’s important to have all of those people part of the team because not one person can do their job without everyone in collaboration. Being a teamwork-oriented person who really wants to collaborate and bring value is the most important thing.”
“There is more of an emphasis on relationships now, more than ever. What I've seen really being stressed as of lately is that you can create great work and be a great agency, but if you aren’t that real person who can connect with the client and be the extension of your agency in a way where they feel they're getting a return on their investment...it's difficult, for sure."
Like many companies were forced to translate the majority of their client interactions online. In a role where relationships are top of mind, Victoria certainly understands the importance of interaction, and ways to emulate it on and off-screen:
“I think there's something very invaluable about [meeting someone in person], but at the same time, Zoom and videos have played a huge part in establishing some sort of personal connection. When I can't meet people in person, I let our work speak for our agency.
“In a time where most people are really re-analyzing their budgets and looking at ways to optimize, clients are going to look at not just what we're producing for them, but how relationship health is as a whole and what we're really bringing to the table from a relationship management standpoint. I think people are realizing it's really important to have someone that is fostering growing that relationship with the client that isn't technically focused.”
“Van's. That would be so cool. They're a brand that has been able to stand the test of time. Everyone wears them– I mean, everyone. I have so many! They just know how to do collaboration partnerships, similar to a brand like Patagonia, who I think has a really strong brand identity. It would be really cool to be able to understand more about how they keep that cool factor and meet everyone's needs, not just some millennials who are, you know, into cool shoes.”
In an age where image has never been more important, content is the core of a brand. Victoria has found that being a sponge and constantly learning about the creative industry is key, especially with the plethora of content so widely available for the world to digest.
“It takes extra work to find things that are going to be really insane because there's so much out there– I think boundary pushing content to me is understanding who your consumer is and then bringing stuff to them that seems almost tailored to them– it's something that they need and they feel like they're not understanding or not getting anywhere else, but it's going to educate them and make them feel like you're bringing value into their life.”
Especially nowadays, pivoting content strategy and brand voice has been top of mind for many companies with the increased discussion about societal, racial, and gender norms. Victoria reflects on the current social landscape from her client relationship POV– transparency, sustainability and advocating for equality are a handful of standout values as of late. When a brand pivots their content and social identity as a reaction rather than a reflection and recalibration of values, she notices.
“It's much more difficult for luxury brands to quickly change their ethos and their brand identity versus more of a startup that kind of is really fresh. A [newer] brand like Aimé Leon Dore, for instance, is so interesting because when I think of everything they do, from their social to their in-store experience, from the way they shoot their products to the way they cast their campaigns, it seems very genuine to me.”
For brands that have been around much longer, “if you steadily show that you are taking change into account and weaving that into your content and strategy and your social presence, it resonates more long-term than a brand that just does it as a reaction.
For instance, “I think that gender-inclusivity is something really great. Back to Aimé Leon Dore: they’re a menswear brand, but they've brought women into their campaigns because a lot of women like to wear looser clothes, you know? Let's bring them into the story and make it more of an inclusive thing for men and women. I find that to be really true to the brand.”
It's all about hustling; you're like a machine that's constantly intaking information and thinking about things–it's about the amount of work and hustle you're willing to put in to bring value and be successful.
“What I love about working at agencies like Verbal + Visual is being culturally conscious and understanding what's going on in the world; not just socially, but also thinking about arts, the arts, music, fashion, writing, and all of those different things that are set to inspire. That really aligns with my inspiration and what motivates me and Sweden as an agency.”
Just like she juggled multiple roles as a content strategist in the early days of her career, Victoria sees the value in a holistic approach to company dogma. Victoria’s dedicated sales work only supports this multifaceted perspective:
“It's all about hustling; you're like a machine that's constantly intaking information and thinking about things–it's about the amount of work and hustle you're willing to put in to bring value and be successful.
“The emphasis of culture, and constantly forcing yourself to educate yourself on things that are relevant to the industry, but also things that are arts or music focused, and bringing those things to the table really shows that you're curious– that's absolutely what drives me to want to do better and want to grow. If you're not curious about something, what's the point of learning more?”
With her passion project, The Tidalist, Victoria certainly continues to foster her curiosity drive. The publication is designed to explore a variety of topics; from music to love stories, from architecture to spotlight interviews, and from surf to traveling. With “the spirit of the oceanside with the spark of the city vibe,” The Tidalist is the capital of surf and turf– a little bit of everything, which ultimately tells a rich story. Victoria and her team use their platform to share the stories of a handful of organizations, including A Walk on Water, Every Mother Counts, The Artists’ Fellowship, Inc, and many more.
Know what your strengths are, and realize that it's okay if you don't have that straight path like everyone else.
“I think we are set to think that once you graduate and you start with something, that's going to be the rest of your life. I mean, I started in finance after I graduated from college. If you're lucky enough to know what you want to do when you graduate, you're lucky. Ultimately, you want to be happy with whatever you're doing. Even if that means working twice as hard, taking a pay cut, and taking a step back to get to where you want to be, which is essentially what happened with me.
“Never think that you're too good for something, because you will always learn something from that. Know what your strengths are, and realize that it's okay if you don't have that straight path like everyone else. At the end of the day, you want to be happy long term, and whatever you're doing that's making you happy is going to be making you more money.
“Make sure that you take every opportunity that you have– it’s something that could potentially lead to something even greater.”