AAF Columbus January Luncheon: Building Trust at Big Time Brands

Today I went to an AAF Columbus panel discussion about the importance of trust when the brands are big and the stakes are high. I volunteer on the Communications committee of AAF Columbus and was happy my schedule allowed me to attend this luncheon.


● Bennett Shaumberg, Integrated Marketing Manager, Abbott

● Kelly Ruoff, Chief Brand Officer, Root Insurance

● Alison Bechtel, Senior Marketing Manager, CoverMyMeds


● Heather Richard, Marketing Consultant

The panelists talked about the differences of marketing through an agency versus in-house marketing. I’ve only done brand side marketing so I was very curious to learn more about agency life. Kelly Ruoff advised to try both throughout your career to see which you prefer. This creates a well balanced career, she said, and it can be helpful to know what it’s like on both sides. At an agency, there’s variety in the work but it can feel transactional and less trusting. But with a brand, you can get tired of the repetitiveness.

Alison Bechtel noted that most companies start with, what she called a McGeneralist, who can do a lot of things quickly and do them well. I like to think of myself as a McGeneralist. After that, most companies start looking at hiring outside vendors or agencies to dive deeper.

The panelists talked about how it can be difficult to find the right balance between doing branding work in-house versus hiring an agency. You never want to upset, devalue or offend your in-house team so you need to make sure you’re outsourcing tasks or projects that don’t fit with their strengths, passions or career goals. Partnering with a talented agency can help lay the groundwork for creative and pave the way for future projects, that could potentially move back in-house. Keep in mind that hiring an agency does not count as a marketing strategy. They are partners that help you develop a marketing strategy together.

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