Tag Archives: public relations Detroit

Franco looks back at the 2003 Blackout in Detroit

Today marks the 10-year anniversary of the 2003 Blackout that caused 50 million people across eight states and part of Canada to lose power. Here at Franco Public Relations Group, the significance of this date got us thinking about where we were at that time ­- and how far our power grid has come since then. Not only did the blackout affect all of us personally, Franco played a key role in communicating the cause of the blackout through our work with our client, ITCTransmission.

A picture of the U.S. taken by satellite shows what the Blackout of 2003 looked like from space. The circled area is the region effected by the Blackout of 2003.

At the time of the blackout, ITC was emerging as the nation’s first independent electric transmission provider. Moments after the lights went out, Franco sprung into action. As ITC researched the cause of the blackout, Franco worked around the clock developing a communications plan and reaching out to local and national media, as well as state and federal regulators.

As the first company to provide an accurate account of how the blackout began, ITC’s research has played a vital role in developing regulations for utilities that have helped increase the reliability of the grid and prevent future blackouts from occurring. In the past 10 years, ITC has made significant investments within its footprint to improve the technology and infrastructure of the grid. Its transmission lines are among the most reliable in the United States, consistently performing in the top decile.

Even without power, metro Detroiters came together as a community in ways they never had before. Our Franco staff members took a look back at those days in August 2003 to reflect on how the event shaped where they were and how far we’ve come:

  • I was working with the Walter P. Chrysler Museum 10 years ago and getting ready for an auto enthusiast event.  It was way too coincidental that just as I was plugging equipment into the exterior outlet on the Museum’s back patio, everything went dead inside the Museum. A co-worker ran down, demanding to know what I had done.  I was speechless until we realized the full extent of the blackout. But, nothing keeps a PR person – or auto enthusiast – down.  We shifted our now acoustic program to the front lawn in time to welcome a steady stream of cruisers that pulled into our parking lot. –Pat Adanti-Joy, vice president


  • The business owners in downtown Ferndale really taught me something memorable about the importance of community. The convenience store kept its doors opened and, without use of a cash register, accepted personal checks to sell goods like bottled water to those in need – like me. The local coffee shop offered free coffee and friendly conversation as many visitors had no access to cash without the use of ATMs.As a journalist at the time, I found feel-good stories human interest in abundance. Looking back those business owners understood all it takes to keep moving forward, and keeping customers in good standing, no matter what the circumstances may be. I have always remembered and appreciated their goodwill and it informs the way I advise my consumer clients even today.  – Stephanie Angelyn Casola, account manager


  • Ever since I can remember, my dad has preached the practice of always having gas in your car. Years before I could even drive, I remember him going on about it. The Blackout of 2003 was proof that you never know what’s going to happen. Working in public relations, this couldn’t be more true. You never know when the phone will ring and you’ll need to leave immediately because of a client crisis. These are the moments that mean the most, so always be prepared and don’t forget, always have gas in your car! – Cayce Karpinski, assistant account executive


  • On August 14, 2003, I was working as an assistant manager at Panera Bread when the blackout happened. Since the power knocked everything out, including registers, we decided to give our customers a free pastry from the bake shop. This was my first experience in community relations. Little did I know that 10 years later, I would be doing this as my full-time career. I enjoy working with clients such as The Salvation Army, helping feed and shelter people on a daily basis. Can you say, “fate?” – Andrea Kenski, account executive


  • My parents were fortunate enough to own a generator so we were one of very few families who had some source of electricity at our house. I recall running extension cords to two of our neighbors’ houses to keep their refrigerators running. People we had never met before stopped by to ask if we would allow them to charge their cell phones. In total, it was a nice experience to get to know our community better and building neighborly bonds. – Richard Kuhn, public relations coordinator


  • As the sales representative began to swipe my mother’s credit card, all the lights went out in the Marshall Fields at the Westland Shopping Center.  My 17-year-old sister began to panic as thoughts of losing her dream Homecoming dress filled her mind. Luckily, the kind sales representative was able to put her gown on hold, and we later picked it up when the power was up-and-running.  I didn’t realize it then, but 14-year-old me had just witnessed excellence in customer service and community relations – a quality that would become the core of my professional career. – Marie Stawasz, assistant account executive


  • At the time, I was a communications major at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. During the summer, I worked for the admissions office as an orientation leader for incoming students. I realized that traffic was backing up on Evergreen Road because traffic signals were out. Then, I heard the news on the radio. Fortunately, the outage happened at the end of orientation and all of the incoming students had completed their online registration for classes. The impact to me was minimal. It took me over an hour to get home, which was only 15 miles away. I was lucky to receive power back at home in less than 24 hours. – Tim Trunzo, senior account executive

Stephanie Casola and Dan Horn contributed to this entry. Casola is an account manager. Horn is an assistant account executive at Franco Public Relations Group. You can contact them at casola@franco.com or horn@franco.com.


Re: View Detroit – Corktown

Not only is Corktown Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, its tenants are known for putting Detroit on the national food and entertainment map. Here’s a photo* tour of the most acclaimed spots in this quaint and quirky district:

*Disclaimer: due to Michigan springtime, these photos are a bit drab…but trust me, the neighborhood is anything but.








The soup and sandwiches at Mudgie’s Deli are the bomb. Don’t believe me? Just ask…anyone. The menu is packed full of local products, organic ingredients and combinations to satisfy any diet restriction. Personal fave: Sho’Nuff. Description: house roasted turkey breast, Neuske’s nitrate free cherrywood smoked bacon, house-made strawberry cream cheese, baby spinach and Slow Jams strawberry preserves on multi-grain bread.

Train Station






Unfortunately, photos of Michigan Central Station have defined Detroit in many national publications. Symbolizing demise, ruin and neglectful management, this building has been vacant since the late-1980s but has seen some updates as of late: the installation of three windows! No one has been able to pinpoint what these “renovations” mean. Hopefully owner and transportation emperor Matty Moroun will dish soon.

Slows BBQ








Oh Slows Bar BQ, you have captured the tastebuds of foodies from numerous national media outlets including the Travel Channel’s Adam Richman, The New York Times and National Geographic Traveler. I’m only somewhat ashamed to say that I’ve only ever ordered the Yardbird. It is the BEST sandwich I have ever had; chicken, cheese, mushrooms and magic on Texas toast. If you haven’t been to Slows yet, go.








For me, Nemo’s is nostalgia. They make a mean (and cheap) beef patty that is the perfect complement to a pre-game brew. Bonus: shuttle service. Nestled just a few blocks from the empty lot that once was Tiger Stadium, this place used to be the go-to spot before Detroit Tiger’s games and for many still is. In my family, we stop at Nemo’s before we go to any sporting event in Detroit.

Green Dot Stables







Green Dot Stables, or GDS as we’ve nicknamed it, is a favorite after-work joint. They have amazing and weird sliders. For around $10, you can mix and match a few burgers and enjoy a local craft beer all in under 30 minutes. Must try: the Korean, PB and J and whatever the “Mystery Meat” of the day is.
So, what I’m trying to say is I really like the food Corktown has to offer. See also: Sugar House, Astro Coffee and Mercury Burger Bar.

Here’s what some notable out-of-towners have to say about Corktown:
• bon appétit: Eat, stay, drink, fuel, snack, repeat.
• Wall Street Journal: “Young entrepreneurs have homed in on Corktown’s main drag, which is now dotted with small businesses: a nationally acclaimed barbecue joint, a burger bar, a craft-cocktail nightspot and a hip coffee shop.”
• Martha Stewart online: “Today, the entire block is bustling with new businesses. Charming side streets lined with candy-colored Victorians and a vibrant food scene.”

Genna Young is an account executive at Franco Public Relations Group. You can reach her at (313) 567-5014 or young@franco.com. Follow her on Twitter at @GennaYoung.

Daily routine? No such thing in the PR world!

Ann Marie Fortunate, account executive at Franco Public Relations Group, explains how to master the non-traditional workdays in the PR world.

The day of a PR professional is not what I would call routine or predictable. Sure, we typically start the day with coffee and e-mail (or at least that’s how I prefer to start my days), but from that point forward, anything goes.

From short deadlines to executing major events, coordinating with clients half a world away to completing unpredictable projects and everything in-between, we work long hours. During those early mornings or into the late nights, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks to cope:

  • Keep it clear – While exciting to plan and attend, events typically don’t take place during normal work hours. When coordinating evening events, I’ve found it is helpful to keep a (relatively) clear schedule the next day, or at least the next morning.  It allows you to catch up on e-mails and other tasks that were rescheduled while mentally (and possibly physically) recovering from the event.
  • Start early – For early morning interviews, I find it helpful to go directly to the office afterward and begin working while I’m awake and alert.  This gives you some extra time to catch-up and follow-up with media or clients and sometimes if you start early, you may be able to leave a little earlier.
  • Always available – As I’ve written previously, I’ve worked quite a bit with international clients.  This can create some challenges with coordinating time zones.  It is always important make sure we’re available for our clients – no matter where in the world they’re located.
  • Ideal workspace – It is also helpful, when working with short deadlines, to make sure you are working from the spot that allows you to be most efficient.  If you have a report due at a certain time everyday, it might be best to work from home for an hour and then head into the office.

The unpredictable, anything-but-routine aspect of our days is what most of us in the business of public relations love most about it.

What are some PR tips you’ve learned along the way? Share them in our comments section.

 Ann Marie Fortunate is an account executive at Franco Public Relations Group.  You can reach her at (313) 567-5040 or fortunate@franco.com.  Follow her on Twitter @AMFortunate.

4 ways to benefit from networking in PR, online or in person

Have you noticed that networking is no longer confined to a roomful of professionals in suits anymore? It can happen in almost any environment, and very often occurs online. In the PR world, and here at Franco Public Relations Group, we connect regularly on sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.


Photo by Aidan Jones | Networking sometimes begins with a virtual handshake. Learn how to build relationships online and in person that will benefit you personally and professionally.

Whether I’m attending an important work event or invested in a PR chat on Twitter, I’ve noticed that an outgoing personality and the ability to small talk with the best of them can go far. Still, there are so many reasons to take time out for networking – both online and off. Here are a few to consider:

Expand your circle – Networking allows you to meet a variety of professionals both within and surrounding your profession who you might not have encountered otherwise. At Franco we assist clients with media relations, events and everything in between, so if I meet an amazing new Detroit caterer during an event, I might introduce myself, ask a few questions and take a card in case an opportunity might arise in the future when we’re in need of that service.

Increase your opportunities – Making a point of seeking individuals who offer new opportunities to volunteer in your field can only help you hone your professional skills. A few years ago, I answered an online request to help my friends at The Henry Ford when they were in need of PR volunteers for the first Maker Faire. That’s where I first met Marie Stawasz, who later connected with me here at Franco when she was seeking an internship. She saw a tweet I sent out to my personal Twitter network. Marie started at Franco as an intern and is now a full-time employee. Some might say it all started thanks to the magic of networking.

Change your career – It’s a natural fit to connect that who-you-know aspect of your valuable business connections with career advancement. By consciously building your own contacts, you can earn an edge over the competition when it comes to getting that interview. I made a career change from journalism to public relations at a time when unemployment in Detroit was high. I gave my notice without a safety net and contacted everyone I knew in the media and PR industry to tell them I was interested in making a change. Thankfully, my contacts responded. While making the switch wasn’t easy, I didn’t spend a day on unemployment, and I attribute that to proactive networking efforts.

Build your business – Networking may not always come naturally, but when it’s done right, it can ultimately win new business. Remember whether you’re attending events or connecting on Twitter and Facebook, this is not time for the hard sell. You’re there to learn, engage and discuss relevant subjects at hand. Build relationships. Share some free advice if you’re comfortable doing so. That’s the sort of thing that will be appreciated and remembered at a later date. If you’re nervous about the specific how-to’s that go along with networking, check out Bill Crimmins’ post in GeekWire.

What do you feel are the benefits of networking, and how has it changed for you over the years?

Stephanie Angelyn Casola is connector and a senior account executive at Franco PR Group. Reach out to her at casola@franco.com, @StephCasola on Twitter or Facebook.com/StephanieAngelynCasola. Call 313.567.5048.