PR role models: Lynne Franks

This is an article by Chelsea Galpin.
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I’m learning about PR at university and feel it’s important to have role models. They motivate, help set goals, understand about social responsibility and what you would like to achieve out of your career in PR.

Chelsea Galpin

A notable practitioner for me is Lynne Franks.

She worked in PR from a young age, has come under scrutiny but has also been inspirational to other females in the world of PR – sharing her knowledge and experiences to help improve women’s experiences in business.

She has helped flip the ‘PR bunny’ stereotype on its head and prove the value of women in PR.

Lynne Franks started her PR agency, after a stint as a PR assistant, at the age of twenty-one. This quickly developed from a home office into offices in Covent Garden.

Franks was then commissioned by Murjani Corporation to launch Gloria Vanderbilt jeans – one of the first designer jeans in the UK. She then used this relationship to persuade Murjani to sponsor a large fashion tent as a venue for British designers. This helped turn the fledging London Fashion Week into the prestigious and global event it is today.

Lynne Franks went on to work with various designers and retailers including Tommy Hilfiger, Harvey Nichols and Jean-Paul Gaultier as well as figures of entertainment such as Ruby Wax and Lenny Henry.

Her increased profile allowed her to initiate ‘Fashion Cares’, a series of fundraising events which went on to raise more than $10million for HIV/AIDS.

Franks then helped ‘Fashion Aid’ which raised more than $300,000 in aid of victims of famine in Africa. This reflects the importance of ethics and social responsibility in business– for me it isn’t all about profits, it’s about using your knowledge and status in the best way possible to help others.

TV stereotype

But is this absolutely PR?

However, her fashion involvement didn’t always produce positive outcomes. Jennifer Saunders played the character Edina Monsoon in the hit sit-com Absolutely Fabulous, said to be heavily based on Lynne Franks – creating the stereotypical ‘PR bunny’ image that many still recognise to this day.

Many other characters have contributed to the stereotype over the years such as Samantha Jones in ‘Sex and the City’ which do not reflect the real-life facts about working in public relations.

However, Franks dealt with the situation quickly and turned the publicity around to her advantage.

She renamed the Absolut Vodka party she was working on as ‘Absolut-ly Fabulous’ party with Jennifer Saunders as guest of honour which was a huge success.

She stepped down from Lynne Franks PR in 1993 and later moved to California. She is now an advocate for women’s empowerment and helped in the development of SEED (Sustainable Enterprise and Empowerment Dynamics) for using principles of femininity, sustainability and social responsibility in business.

She used her experience in business to create The SEED Handbook – a guide for female entrepreneurs. This then led to the development of SEED Women into Enterprise Programme – a learning course for self employed, in particular, women from marginalised and disadvantaged communities around the UK.

Lynne Franks remains an advocate for women’s empowerment, using her status and experiences to help other females. She is the chairman of V-Day UK which campaigns to end violence against women and girls, creating various events to raise awareness in the press and House of Commons.

Her commitment to helping other women in PR is what inspires me: she uses her knowledge to educate and help others. Female practitioners often come under scrutiny but Lynne Franks has proven that women in PR need to be taken seriously and PR can be used for the greater good.

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