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January 9, 2024, marks 60 years in business for Franco. Our team has been excitedly preparing for this milestone, and we are so happy it’s finally here!

If you know me, you know I love an opportunity to reflect and find learnings from all the triumphs and messy moments. I hope you’ll stick with me as I share a little Franco history because we wouldn’t be where we are today without some pivotal moments from the past six decades.

Since our founding in 1964, Franco has evolved – along with the city we love (Detroit!) and the industry itself – to become the longest-standing PR agency in Michigan. We’re rooted in PR, making us excellent at the people-powered, relationship and instinct elements of our work. Relationships and people have been embedded in our culture since day one thanks to our founder, Tony Franco.

Tony started his career as an advertising executive but saw a void in the market and believed that companies needed PR to complement their advertising programs. PR was still very new in the 1960s, and Tony was considered a pioneer in the industry when he founded Anthony M. Franco, Inc. in 1964.

Tony’s vision led to very rewarding and successful opportunities for Franco – including longtime engagements with Stroh’s beer and Domino’s, launching the first Starbucks in Michigan, rebranding the North American International Auto Show, putting Detroit-Style Pizza on the map through building the Buddy’s Pizza brand and organizing the pitch that led to Detroit hosting Super Bowl XL…just to name a few. (You can find more milestones on our History page.)

A major milestone in Franco’s history occurred in 1985 when Dan Ponder joined Franco as CFO. Dan led a management buyout of the company in 1993 and changed the name to Franco Public Relations Group – emphasizing a team approach.

The company experienced many highs (I started in 2007 😉) and weathered many challenges (like the automaker bankruptcies) over the next two decades, leading up to a rebrand in 2016 when we tweaked our name to Franco.

Changes in the industry led us to combine PR, marketing, social media, digital, creative services and analytics to deliver more integrated communications programs. The rebrand reflected that transformation.

Today, Franco is an integrated communications agency that builds strategic programs for clients in a variety of industries with a local, national and global reach. Franco serves organizations in the healthcare, consumer, nonprofit, professional services, education, automotive/mobility and technology industries.

The most significant milestone in my 17 years at Franco came six years ago when we extracted and redefined our core values. This process was so personal for me and very inclusive of the whole Franco team. My proudest moments are when I see and feel our team living our values authentically, especially when that leads to growth and success for our people and clients.

Another major milestone for Franco is when we became a women-led organization. President & COO Tina Sullivan, Senior VP Nikki Little and I together form Franco’s executive leadership group. I am beyond grateful to be the agency’s first female CEO in its 60-year history, and I’ve served in that role since taking the proverbial torch from Dan Ponder in early 2021.

That’s a lot of history! We also created this short video that reflects on the past 60 years and what makes us who we are today:

As I think about what it’ll take to ensure we’re around for another 60 years, a few things come to mind:

  • Remaining committed to an employer/employee partnership model. Putting our people first, investing in their development and empowering them with new opportunities is what powers our culture, and that’s how we perform for our clients.
  • Continuing to lean into our data-driven, people-powered approach to business – with agency culture at the heart of Franco.
  • Challenging ourselves and our clients to think differently about the future of communications, including embracing technology, welcoming change and learning from mistakes.

While I love all our core values, I’ll always put Opportunity and Courageous Truth front and center. Opportunity directly aligns with Franco’s “why” … an unwavering commitment to the growth and shared prosperity of our people, clients and community.

We often hear from Franco alumni and current employees that the opportunity for growth here is unlike anything they’ve ever experienced. There are no cookie cutter roles. Each person has the authority and autonomy to work with leaders to shape a role they can thrive and be fulfilled in.

My moral compass guides every decision I make at Franco. I’m purposefully role modeling Courageous Truth so each of my colleagues feels empowered to do the same. Why does this matter? Because when a client trusts Franco as its integrated communications partner, we can guarantee that each person brings their best, most confident self to the partnership and will counsel clients with conviction…backed by data but fueled by instinct. This is a small glimpse into why clients frequently tell us it “just feels different” working with Franco.

I couldn’t end this post without giving a sincere thank-you to everyone who has played a part – large or small – in the past 60 years. We have 31 employees who I love with my whole heart and an ever-growing list of client partners who trust us with their brands and missions. I am grateful.

One more value before I sign off…we define Forward Motion as setting goals, working the plan, analyzing and optimizing as needed, hitting milestones and taking time to celebrate wins. That’s what re-energizes us to take the next steps forward.

We’ve worked the plan to hit 60. We’ve celebrated. We are ready to take on the future.


Tina Kozak is Franco’s CEO. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

We have a lot to be proud of, and we plan to spend our 60th year telling stories of what made us who we are today and where we’re heading in the future.

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