We talk a lot in public relations and marketing about “third-party validation,” the idea that what somebody else says about you is more trustworthy than what you say about yourself. You trust the restaurant reviewer more than the restaurant’s advertisements, your friend who hated the movie more than the actor praising it on the talk show couch.
I’m becoming that third party when it comes to Franco. Tomorrow , I’ll be turning in my office key and GMRENCEN tenant ID badge as I follow my passions into policy and politics as the new vice president for marketing and communications at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Michigan’s leading voice for free-market economic policies.
So, now that the only remaining question for me here at Franco is whether or not there’s cake on my last day, I wanted to share some newly “third-party” thoughts on what makes this place special. Nobody asked me to write this, and whether you’re a potential client, employee or just somebody interested in the agency, I hope you’ll take these as the sincere thoughts of someone who’s going through a bittersweet departure from a happy home.
You probably skimmed over the part of the Franco website that lists mission, vision, values and the like. I know I usually would, since that’s an area in which companies are all too often noteworthy when they do live up to their statements rather than when they fall short.
But I’ve been working professionally as a reporter and PR/marketing professional for two decades in a variety of different environments, and I’ve never been anywhere that the values are meaningfully engrained in day-to-day operations the way Franco’s “Courage. Integrity. Balance.” are. I don’t want to belabor the point – to paraphrase Chris Rock, “You’re not supposed to do bad things. What do you want, a cookie?”—but I can say that I never for one instant here questioned or doubted what was expected of me when any sort of ethical issue came up. You tell the truth, you do what’s right and you stand by it. You don’t represent or work with people who try to get you to function otherwise, regardless of the consequences. Period.
Too often, “values statements” are aspirational. At Franco, they’re simply descriptive.
It’s telling that when I sat down with Franco President Tina Kozak and gave her my notice that I was moving on, her first unfiltered reaction was to be happy for me. My talk with our CEO Dan Ponder was in a similar vein, and evolved into a discussion of civility in political and policy discourse and how I’d have an opportunity in my new role to model polite respect for opposing viewpoints, rather than the ad hominem attacks that have become far too common on our airwaves and in our Facebook feeds. In both cases, their instinctive and genuine reaction was to be happy for me as a friend and someone about whom they cared as a person, rather than an employee whose departure would create inevitable short-term challenges and workload. It’s a rare privilege to work for people like Dan and Tina who so genuinely value their employees rather than mouth the empty HR platitudes common throughout American business, and whose example challenges the rest of their leadership team to follow suit.
When I joined Franco, one of the things that first hinted what kind of place this was going to be was my breakfast with Dan. It wasn’t an “interview” in the traditional sense, but rather a wide-ranging discussion on life, family, philosophy, history and more at the Detroit Athletic Club where we ended up the last table as they cleared breakfast service. Having come to know him better, it no longer surprises me that an agency leader would take hours out of his morning to get to know me well enough to decide whether or not I’d be the kind of person he’d want on his team, leading his people and representing the agency to his clients. Our discussion had very little to do with what I could do, and far more with who I was and what kind of environment I’d be joining. It went beyond due diligence or simple chemistry, and it’s a lesson that I’ll take with me into my new role.
It’s this kind of care that Dan and Tina and the rest of the leadership team takes in finding good people that shows through not only for those of us who’ve had the privilege of working here, but also for the clients they serve and the partners with whom they work.
No, not Vice President Pat Joy, although she is certainly wonderful and I’d happily talk about how much I’ve enjoyed working with her after having been professional acquaintances for years. The “joy” I experienced at Franco is the all-too-rare professional joy of doing good work for good clients with good people by your side. It’s the culmination of capable and caring people given values-based guidance and then trusted and supported to do great work. It’s knowing that “team” isn’t just an empty word, and that anyone and everyone will pitch in as needed to meet commitments. (I’ll never forget our Senior Vice President Tina Sullivan volunteering shortly after dawn to find balloons somewhere just off Eight Mile Road in Detroit, when we realized that the unexpected pouring rain made our existing event wayfinding signage difficult for attendees to see. I have no idea how she found balloons at that time of the morning in that neighborhood, but she did.)
We hope for and hopefully can even expect joy in our private lives, maybe as a spouse or parent or friend. We seek it out through hobbies, sports, entertainment and more, and can plan and spend huge amounts of money to have that perfect joyful moment at a favorite band’s concert or Disneyland or celebrating stadium. That’s why finding moments of personal and professional joy in work – in doing the things you have to do – is a powerful gift. Franco’s not the only place I’ve had that privilege, and I expect to continue in my new role, but I can’t overstate how much easier it is to have the passion that’s required to truly do this job well when the potential for that personal and professional joy is nurtured by your leaders and colleagues.
I told Tina and Dan that I honestly couldn’t picture another job that would have enticed me to leave Franco, but that this role at the Mackinac Center is simply the perfect fit between my professional experience and my personal passions. (I also joked with Tina that it’s slightly disconcerting when your current employer says, “Oh, that’s the perfect job for you” when you tell her about your new job…) It’s bittersweet to have been given the opportunity to move to a “more perfect” role when I’d considered myself to be in a perfect place already, but I wouldn’t have traded my time at Franco for the world.
My thanks and best wishes to everyone here at Franco, all of my clients and the great partners with whom I’ve worked. And if you’re a potential client or employee reading this because you’re wondering if Franco is right for you…well, I can unreservedly give you that third-party validation that it’s worth your while to try to find out.
John C. Mozena, APR is an account director (for the next few moments) at Franco Public Relations Group, after which he will be joining the Mackinac Center for Public Policy as its vice president for marketing and communications. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter @johnmoz. Connect with Franco PR Group on Facebook and Twitter @FrancoPRGroup.