Tag Archives: Maria Leonhauser

50 in the D: The Glory Days

V150130 Tamagotchi

I’m a 90s kid. I spent arguably the best decade of my life rocking pink and yellow overalls with scrunchies and Tamagotchi in hand. It’s safe to say I had no idea 25 years ago, that I’d be sitting at a desk inside Detroit’s most iconic building today, working with some of the Motor City’s most well-regarded brands and for the state’s oldest independent public relations firm. Long before I could fathom what the words public relations meant, the team at Anthony M. Franco, Inc. was committed to excellence and offering clients the most strategic and innovative services in communications.

While a lot has changed in those 25 years, public relations remains a powerful tool for building your brand, raising awareness and connecting with your audiences. So, let’s take a look at how the legacy Franco Public Relations Group developed while my Tamagotchi slowly turned into an iPhone.

As in our last “50 in the D” entry, I’ve included pop culture and historical events to provide perspective on the timeline:

  • 1990 – Nelson Mandela was released from prison, and Anthony M. Franco, Inc. became a subsidiary of Ross Roy Communications, bringing the agency into a new era.
  • 1993 – Bill Clinton was sworn in as the 42nd president of the United States of America, and Dan Ponder joined by colleagues Chuck Regan, George Sepetys and Stephen Friedman, lead the management buyout of Anthony M. Franco, Inc. from Ross Roy Group.
  • 1997 – Everyone’s favorite baby face Beatle was knighted Sir Paul McCartney, and Lisa Vallee-Smith became a partial owner of Franco Public Relations Group. Vallee-Smith later left Franco to open the Airfoil Group.
  • 2000 – While the rest of the world was living in the shadow of Y2K, Dan Ponder became a full owner of Franco Public Relations Group.
  • 2000 – Franco Public Relations Group played an extra-large role in winning the bid for Super Bowl XL.
  • 2002 –Nickelback topped the charts with “How you remind me” and Franco Public Relations Group acquired PR Associates.
  • 2007 – Tina Kozak joined the Franco Public Relations Group team as account manager, and Carrie Underwood won a Grammy for best new artist. Plus, Apple revolutionized the cell phone industry with the introduction of the original iPhone.
  • 2013 – NBC announced TV Hall of Famer Jay Leno would be leaving the Tonight Show. Meanwhile, Maria Leonhauser retired and Tina Kozak became Franco’s youngest president.
  • 2014 – Ellen DeGeneres stirred up a selfie phenomenon with the infamous impromptu group photo at The Oscars, and Franco Public Relations Group celebrated 50 years of business in Detroit with 20 percent revenue and  employment growth.
  • 2015 – Franco Public Relations Group kicked off the start of a new half-century and look forward to reaching 100.

Have a Franco memory from the 90s and millennium you’d like to share? Tell us in the comments below, and stay tuned for another “50 in the D” entry highlighting Franco today.

Marie Stawasz is an account executive at Franco Public Relations Group. You can reach her at (313) 567-5201 or stawasz@franco.com. Follow her on Twitter @MarieStawasz.

Leonhauser to Retire in December, Kozak to Succeed Her as President

Franco President Maria Leonhauser will retire at the end of 2013.

I am pleased to announce that after more than a year of planning and transition, Franco President Maria Leonhauser will retire at the end of this year. Franco Executive VP and Chief Operating Officer Tina Kozak will succeed Maria as president effective January 1. Maria will continue as a consultant with Franco, as well as take her words and ideas in another direction—writing mysteries.

Maria joined Franco as president in 2000 after 25 years in journalism and corporate communications.  During her tenure, she focused on diversifying Franco’s client base and imbuing its culture with creativity and passion. She also championed Franco’s social media discipline. Among her awards, Maria was named one of Detroit’s 100 Most Influential Women by Crain’s Detroit Business and a Leader and Innovator by Lawrence Technological University and Grant Thornton.

Tina Kozak, executive vice president and COO for Franco, will succeed Leonhauser as president effective Jan. 1, 2014.

Tina joined Franco in 2007 as an account manager overseeing the firm’s automotive practice. In her most recent role as executive vice president and chief operating officer, she has led client service, talent retention and business development. She counsels a range of clients in the auto/tech, healthcare and professional service industries in areas including corporate positioning, community relations and reputation management. She also consults on brand development, crisis communications and strategic planning.

Franco’s priority has always been service excellence. Maria instilled a new energy and enthusiasm into its delivery. I’m confident that Tina will not only advance our commitment to service excellence, but also identify other relevant initiatives to better serve our clients and employees.

It’s an exciting time at Franco. Please join me in congratulating Tina and in wishing Maria all the best in our comments section below.

Dan Ponder is the CEO at Franco Public Relations Group.


From particle physics to parts of speech

What a universe we live in.  And now we’re one step closer to understanding how it all began.

This was the big news out of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva, for people who think about things like why matter has mass (hint: it’s not because you supersized your meal). We’re talking really big. As in the Big Bang theory of our existence.

It’s a Higgs boson or at least looks like a Higgs boson to be scientifically accurate. It’s the key building block to, well, everything – what the universe is made of and how it works. Rebecca Boyle’s blog in POPSCI simply explains this discovery so we all can get “Higgsy” with it.

ATLAS Experiment © 2012 CERN

I love science. In seventh grade I aspired to become the next Madame Curie, complete with a lab in the basement of my family’s home in Germany. My dad, a Major in the U.S. Army, was stationed in Frankfurt to continue his quest to help save the world. I had ideas of doing something for the universe. Not unlike my life as a fourth grader when I made a Paper Mache solar system. There was space to explore even if the gravitational force caused Jupiter to drop from my bedroom ceiling and roll across the carpet.

And then I discovered a power very different from gravity or proton smashing. It was the power of words. Literature class. Tenth grade. Words could move, dance, provoke thought. They gained mass and power as the sticky surface of creative thinking pulled them together into paragraphs and chapters. A literary boson field.

I left my gumdrop DNA model and headed to the language laboratory to diagram sentences and better understand what makes them work. I discovered Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style a little book with a big lesson in writing.

The Elements of Style is emphatic. Write with vigor. Use active voice. Create sentences that are vivid, specific and concrete.

Consider Strunk’s Rule 17: Omit needless words. “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

White refers to rule 17 as “sixty-three words that could change the world.”

In 2011 TIME magazine named The Elements of Style one of the 100 best and most influential nonfiction books written in English since 1923 (the year TIME began). My yellowed, dog-eared copy has followed me from newsrooms to my office at Franco – a loyal golden word retriever. TIME’s 100 list also included A Brief History in Time by physicist Stephen Hawking.

How perfect – parts of speech honored alongside particle physics.

Both world changers.

Do you have a favorite proton or pronoun? Particle or participle?

Maria Leonhauser is president of Franco Public Relations Group. She can be reached at leonhauser@franco.com. Connect with Franco PR Group on Facebook and Twitter @FrancoPRGroup.

Brad Pitt – the sweet smell of success

So Brad Pitt is the new Chanel No5 spokesmodel.

Is it a branding coup (or “coo,” for those who get a little wobbly kneed looking at him)? Hunky guys have shared the space with beautiful women selling various products, but, ah, a man alone with a bottle of Chanel No5. Now that’s sweet (with a hint of musk). Coco would be proud. 

Was it a strategic branding move? Time will tell if essence de Brad reinforces or enhances the brand. But, from an awareness strategy — BRILLLLLIANT! It’s big news (I’m kidding), but it is news. After all, it’s Brad Pitt.   

So, is he a good spokesmodel for the perfume?

According to various books on Coco Chanel, perfume scents traditionally were either “respectable” or “provocative,” the latter reserved for, well, women of the night, if you know what I mean. Coco wanted to create something modern, which reflected the liberated attitudes of her friends and fashion of the 1920s. And the vessel was just as important as the scent.

In a 1925 marketing brochure for Chanel No5, it stated that “… the perfection of the product forbids dressing it in the customary artifices.”

Well, that explains Brad Pitt. Not your customary perfume spokesmodel. 

And he’s also more than another pretty face. He’s the guy who supports humanitarian efforts worldwide – Doctors Without Borders, Not On Our Watch and Make Poverty History, to name a few. In the U.S. he led the creation of The Make It Right Foundation to build environmentally friendly homes in New Orleans for families devastated by Hurricane Katrina. He and Angelina Jolie also founded the Jolie-Pitt Foundation which focuses on ending poverty, protecting natural resources and conserving wildlife.

Pitt commits his money AND his time. Not your customary actor either.

So why wouldn’t he be the perfect spokesmodel. He’s already a model for good work and leveraging his fame for causes that help others.

And now he’s also going to smell really good, too!

Tres bien!

Maria Leonhauser is president of Franco Public Relations Group. She can be reached at leonhauser@franco.com. Connect with Franco PR Group on Facebook and Twitter @FrancoPRGroup.

“Misunderstood” Pirates Give PR Spokespeople a Bad Name

He’s no Somali pirate, he’s Capt. Jack Sparrow. Actor Johnny Depp personifies the word pirate in the modern film series Pirates of the Caribbean. Photo Credit: Buena Vista Pictures (2003)

He’s no Somali pirate, he’s Capt. Jack Sparrow. Actor Johnny Depp personifies the word pirate in the modern film series Pirates of the Caribbean. Photo Credit: Buena Vista Pictures (2003)

Somali pirates were in the news again recently after two of their hostages were rescued by SEAL Team 6, the free world’s real-life superheroes. A pirate or two confirmed the raid with the media.

The pirates’ confirmation was considerably less formal than a couple years ago when the Somali pirates had an “authorized spokesperson.”  Yes, after hijacking a freighter loaded with weapons, several pirates spoke to a New York Times reporter, but only one, Sugule Ali, was “authorized to be quoted.”

Authorized?  Was this guy the pirates’ vice president of communications? Did they also have a branding campaign and a crisis messaging plan in case they looked out a porthole and discovered the U S Navy had them surrounded?

They’re pirates. Criminals. Yet they deferred to the authorized spokesperson? They must have studied pirating by watching “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Imagine the discussion. “Yes, mates, we’ll follow the pirates’ code. And let Sugule do the talking.  Sugule, stay on message but make us look good. Remember, the pirate’s code is more of guideline.”

So the Somali pirate spokesman claimed that they were “misunderstood.” He said, “We don’t consider ourselves sea bandits; we are simply patrolling our seas. Think of us like a coast guard.”

So far, so good.

Meanwhile they were holding the crew hostage for $20 million. This presented a bit more of a communications challenge.

“We only want money so we can protect ourselves from hunger,” Sugule added. When the Times reporter asked why they needed $20 million, Sugule laughed and said, “Because we have a lot of men.”

Now he’s gone overboard.

In the world of public relations, we spend a lot of time talking about the importance of a quotable spokesperson whom people can believe.

But you’ve got to tell the truth. That’s where the pirate spokesman lost his way. OK, maybe that happened when he likened the pirates to “a coast guard.”

It’s safe to say that Sugule will never be admitted into the Public Relations Society of America. As members we abide by a Code of Ethics that includes honesty and accuracy in all communications.  Any spokesperson worth his or her salt (sea or otherwise) understands this.

Maria Leonhauser is president of Franco Public Relations Group. She can be reached at leonhauser@franco.com . Connect with Franco PR Group on Facebook and Twitter @FrancoPRGroup.