Lansons Conversations

The girl who shone the brightest. A celebration of Francesca Marvell (nee Pattison) by Tony Langham on behalf of Lansons Communications.

  Today I’m going to talk about Fran’s working life at  Lansons Communications , where she worked with many of us here today for over 8 and 1/2 years between 2004 and 12th February this year, 8 weeks before she died. I’m Chief Executive of Lansons, and I’m here on behalf of all the Lansons people that worked with Fran over that period. Fran joined us in May 2004 as Ian Williams, who interviewed her, remembers “she was one of those candidates that you know within about 5 minutes that you want to work with.” Her career at Lansons effectively divides into two periods : pre-diagnosis, what I’ll call the “rebel without a cause” period, and in the last three years of her life, the rebel with so many heartfelt causes. In both phases, she was a success. In both she was the girl who shone the brightest and had a major influence on everyone around her.  But her life didn’t start with us of course. Although I’m the first speaker today, Fran was a girl who grew up in Prestatyn and studied PR, Media and Sociology at Cardiff University. And in many ways, although you can take the girl out of Wales, you could never take that Welsh non-conformist spirit out of the girl. We’re pleased to have family and friends from her early life here today. And condolences go from us to her family, following the death of Fran’s father David recently. Before Lansons, she worked in PR at Financial Dynamics and Lexis.  Everywhere she went, she made friends for life. In her “rebel without a cause” phase, Fran rose rapidly at Lansons. As Karen Mignon says, her “just get on with it” attitude came through in everything.    To Laura Wood  “She was afraid of no sell-in and hammered the phones without question. However, she did it skilfully and managed to make real friendships with journalists. It wasn’t forced, she just made people feel like they wanted to be friends with her. People like Becky O’Connor, Esther Shaw, Holly Thomas and Christine Seib respected the PR, but also really liked the woman!!” Adding : She was also great at never accepting the word no!” To Laura Hastings “Fran was a great relationship person. That’s because there was very little bullshit. She said what she felt, believed and told it as it was. She was straight and honest. This made her advice authentic – clients believed/ listened to her as well as liking her – and this also meant the media trusted her.”   Lisa Stanley “she always delivered over and above for clients, and they loved her for her no bullshit, good humoured, ‘get the job done” Fran was of course, massively opinionated. John Prescott was born in Prestatyn, and  there were times when we wished she had his tact and diplomacy. Richard Winder remembers “her common sense set hard as cobbles in concrete!” She was a team player, as Lindsay Vetch says “There was no ‘us and them’ between the client and agency team – for Fran it was all one big team working together for a common goal.” A review comment from a junior colleague in the early Lansons days, notes “She is always happy to help with anything or to sit down to chat things through.” But I don’t want to give the impression that it was all hard work in this period. Fran worked hard, she played hard and as Laura Wood says “she did it all in fabulous shoes!” Fran starred in the Lansons netball team, Liz Willder notes that she was “our star Goal Attack for many years”. While Lisa Stanley adds that “she played with such fluidity and grace it was beautiful to watch” Client meetings were fun with Fran. She was always cool and knew everything about music. And I’m happy to admit that I know very little of her rock chic lifestyle at this time. And Lansons responded, promoting her several times before making her a Partner in the business in Summer 2008. We found an e-mail from Hannily Pavey to Fran from around that time pledging that “ I hope this shows that we are serious when we say that we want you to be a long term part of the company.”  And throughout this phase, despite her success, as she later spoke to so many of us, she was never truly happy. Several people remarked on her self doubt.   An e-mail from Hannily in January 2007 giving her good news, noted that Fran had asked “why is everyone being so nice to me at the moment?!” In her last career review before diagnosis in Winter 2008 she used the word restless, but had clear immediate goals :
  • How to push up and create more roles where I am encouraged to take leadership/ drive strategy
  •  How I can become a more integral part of Lansons’ internal workings/ practice groups
  •  Taking on more of a mentoral role to junior staff
Typical Fran. Lansons as a company got a score of 4/4, but on giving her enough opportunities we got 2/4, and she added : “I feel like I’ve fallen into a rut client wise, and have got a bit bored”. I feel that, truly in these years, she was a rebel without a cause. And then, a few weeks before her 5 years at Lansons, she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in March 2009 and despite the brief “all clear” period, we all know what was to follow. Yet, amazingly, in this period, her career at Lansons reached new heights. As our Chairman, Clare Parsons noted, she was “Head of Marketing ; Champion of Lansons culture; relaunched our Twitter account and ran it 24/7 along with our Lansons charity; was a pro bono campaigner; a key member of the change making programme and a loyal member of the Soc Com team, and much, much more.” Katie Hayward  says  “She was ballsy, had a great attitude and seemed to embrace work – even when she came back to work after having her first round of treatment she immediately got stuck in to dealing with clients and executing brilliant campaigns. She never lost her feisty attitude, regularly having rants on Twitter on everything from her favourite bands to whether restaurants used locally sourced meat!”  We found that we were one of her causes and she inspired so many of us to think about ourselves and Lansons anew. There is no point just existing – or even being successful – unless you run a company that is good to work in and has a positive impact on the world around it. Fran encouraged so many of us to aspire to be better. She helped re-focus and re-ignite our social conscience. Fran and I discovered that we both have a love of the band Belle & Sebastian and one of the lyrics she singled out for me is a treasured possession. To quote the song, “If you find yourself lost in love, say a prayer to the man above” – and I’m so pleased that she found herself lost in love. Clare referred to her as a truth-sayer, to Jeena Nadarajan “She had the strongest will I have ever seen in anyone, the biggest heart and amazingly, a woman with such clarity of thought… she became an oracle for us all… ask her a question and she would give you the purest, clearest answer…  And today, if I have an issue, I still think… what would Fran say? To us at Lansons, whether as the “rebel without a cause” or as the rebel with so many causes, she was always a true friend – and her circle from Lansons includes Katie, Lisa Elliott, Beth Murray, Jeena, Helen Thomson, Liz Willder and Laura Wood to name but a few, together with the huge respect and friendship of Clare and I and the senior team. She was a fantastically inspiring and successful career woman – she was, and is always, the girl who shone the brightest.