By Rex Hammock

Many years ago, I was hired to create a public relations department within an advertising agency. It soon became apparent to me that PR and advertising often have little to do with each other. The two can look alike if a client’s goals are about launching a product or developing and supporting a brand. But the skills, responsibilities and business models of advertising and PR can be fundamentally different and, quite often, at odds with one another.

Fortunately, I was able to convince the agency owner to allow me to run the PR department as a separate business entity with a different name and business model run out of a separate location. The strategy worked, and the company grew alongside the advertising agency. Years after I left, the separate company was brought back into the agency and became a small PR department once more.

Over the years, and long after leaving the practice of public relations, I’ve seen countless marketing and ad agencies—even media companies—create departments or “teams” that seem designed to convince potential clients they had the capabilities that were in vogue at the time.

But when I see such pop-up departments occur within a legacy business, I think back to what a challenge it is for a company rooted in one type of service and business model to become something different by merely applying a new set of labels to a few employees who sorta/kinda know something about the topic.

But inside the company, such an incremental team almost always serves the mindset, management and business model of the legacy company.

In the end, when a marketing client needs skills that require unique focus, specific experience, processes, versatility and, most important, an independent point of view, you may find that even the greatest legacy marketing or advertising agency isn’t necessarily right for the challenges you are trying to solve and the goals you are trying to reach.


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