While many women working in offices were making coffee, Frances Friedman was making history. In the notoriously sexist age now being brought to life in the hit TV series, Mad Men, Fran became the first woman president of a “top ten” international PR firm, the GCI Group, a subsidiary of Grey Advertising. Painting Faces: The Art of Public Relations is a fascinating collection of case histories. It’s also an insider’s candid picture of the first woman to occupy the corner office in a major, dynamic agency ... a woman who “had it all” fifty years before anyone thought it possible. “You finally got smart, you hired a woman,” said Leona Helmsley to PR genius Howard Rubenstein, shown here as he oversaw a meeting of the key women in his life. Photo: Howard Rubenstein (rear), Leona Helmsley, Fran Friedman
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About the Author
Frances F. Friedman’s distinguished history in public relations began in the nineteen-sixties, and later included a key position with several firms, including Howard J. Rubenstein Associates, where one of her main clients was the legendary Leona Helmsley. After presiding over her own successful business, Frances F. Friedman founded the GCI Group, Inc (formerly GreyCom), a subsidiary of Grey Advertising. Named president and chief executive officer in 1984, her task was to re-establish Grey Advertising’s public relations subsidiary, formerly Grey&Davis, which had $600,000 in fee income. In little more than a year, the new agency had close to $2.5 million in fee income, thirty-three employees in New York, and a West Coast office. After two years in operation, GreyCom made Crain’s New York Business list as one of the top twenty-five firms in New York. At Fran Friedman’s retirement, seven years later, GCI had an international division with twenty-five offices in fifteen countries, a strong West Coast division, and a specialized corporate and financial group. The company’s fee income was close to $30 million. As president of GCI Group, the author worked with the Spanish Sherry Institute, Proctor&Gamble, Smith Kline-Beecham, Kenner Toys, Remington, and Panasonic, and handled the introduction of Nissan’s new Infiniti. Under her stewardship, GCI won two PRSA Gold Apple Awards for crisis counseling, and two Silver Anvil Awards, which included recognition of the company’s work on the restoration and opening of the Ellis Island Museum. Fran Friedman established her reputation in crisis counseling in the early seventies, during New York City’s fiscal crisis, as PR counselor and lobbyist for the major teaching hospitals in the city and the public and private medical schools in New York State. She has been counselor to some of the country’s leading corporate leaders, and has specialized in corporate counseling, healthcare, government relations, real estate, hotels and airlines, and packaged goods. As personal media advisor to CEOs, Fran Friedman has counseled on corporate takeovers, proxy contents, corporate positioning, and restructuring. The first woman to be elected to the City College Fund Board, she is a recipient of the 1989 Matrix Award, the highest award given to women in communications. In 1993 she was the first woman to be awarded a Bartel’s Fellowship by the University of New Haven, and in 1994-5 she was invited to the White House to help women appointees disseminate the news about the many programs the Clinton Administration had created for women. In 1997, Fran Friedman joined Hillary Clinton at a seminar in Vienna, Austria, for women living in Eastern Europe under Communist rule. Fran Friedman is a native New Yorker, as was her late husband, Clifford J. Friedman, an arbitrator with the American Arbitration Association and vice-president of Dean Witter Reynolds. Fran and Cliff Friedman’s two sons are Kenneth, an actuary, and Jeffrey, an executive with a television production company. She lives in the home she shared with her husband in Kent, Connecticut.