The Power of Relationships, Culture & Innovation Propels Franco to 60 Years of Success



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When you think of Detroit and the public relations industry, it may not be obvious at first how much they have in common. But anyone working in the PR industry in the city will tell you both have weathered significant changes over the past several decades.

Founded in 1964 in Detroit, Franco has evolved right along with the city and the PR industry to become the longest-standing PR agency in Michigan. The company is rooted in PR, making the team excellent at the people-powered, relationship and instinct elements of their work. Relationships and people have been embedded in the culture since day one thanks to the company’s founder, Tony Franco.

Tony started his career as an advertising executive, but he saw a void in the market. He believed PR was what companies needed to complement their advertising programs. PR was relatively unknown in the 1960s, and Tony was considered a pioneer in the southeast Michigan PR 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 fi rst 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.

Almost 30 years after Franco’s founding, the company changed hands when Dan Ponder led a management buyout in 1993 and changed the name to Franco Public Relations Group – emphasizing a team approach.

Nikki Little Senior VP Tina Kozak CEO Tina Sullivan COO & President

The company experienced many highs and weathered many challenges over the next two decades, leading up to a rebrand in 2016 when the company name changed to Franco.

Franco has evolved its approach over 60 years to remain at the forefront of a changing industry – combining PR, marketing, social media, digital, creative services and analytics to deliver programs that drive organizational performance.

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 company has long-standing clients that have been trusted partners for decades, including Comerica Bank, The Salvation Army, ITC Holdings and Hospice of Michigan.

CEO Tina Kozak, COO & President Tina Sullivan and Senior VP Nikki Little together form Franco’s executive leadership group, with Tina Kozak serving as the agency’s first female CEO in its 60-year history. Tina Kozak took the proverbial torch from Dan Ponder in early 2021 when she stepped into the CEO role.

Another defining moment for Franco occurred in early 2024, as the company celebrated its 60th anniversary and an ownership transition was completed between Tina Kozak and Dan Ponder. Tina became the majority owner and Franco became a women-owned organization.

The executive leaders embody the agency’s six core values – Empathy, Family + Team + Community, Persistence, Forward Motion, Opportunity and Courageous Truth – and those core values trickle down through every person in the organization, whether they’ve been at the agency 10 years or two months. Franco’s leaders use the core values as their north star to make decisions on everything from evaluating right-fit client partner programs and professional development opportunities to promoting and hiring.

Building off a successful 60 years and with the current executive leadership group at the helm, Franco is well prepared for another 60 years and beyond. The leaders wholeheartedly believe in the “we’re the founders of the next 60 years” mentality – meaning each Franco team member plays a role in the company’s success.

Franco will continue to do what it does best, and what makes it stand out from other agencies: Remaining committed to an employer/employee partnership model, leaning into its data-driven and people-powered approach to business (with agency culture at the heart of Franco), challenging employees and clients to think differently about the future of communications and always leading with Franco’s “why” … an unwavering commitment to the growth and shared prosperity of their people, clients and community.

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