Newsmaker: Frankie Cory and filling the shoes of Mischief's "rottweiler"

Frankie Cory has plenty to live up to when she takes the mantle of the man who launched Mischief PR.

Frankie Cory: stepping into Mitchell Kaye's shoes
Frankie Cory: stepping into Mitchell Kaye's shoes

As the head of one of its closest rivals says: "Mitchell Kaye and Mischief are synonymous. His is the very public face of a very successful agency."

Described by another agency head as a "rottweiler", his entrepreneurial ethos and driven nature run through his agency’s DNA.

Cory, currently CEO of Citizen Relations, acknowledges this when asked about the biggest challenges the new role will present.

She also highlights the importance of keeping up the momentum developed over Mischief’s seven years.

"It’s harder when you are an agency of 70 people to still be talked about as entrepreneurial and innovative and not lose the creative culture that has been built up," she says.

The last point is important. Mischief is renowned for its creativity and as an ex-creative director the attraction for Cory is obvious.

Some describe Mischief’s success as being founded on the combination of the business drive of Kaye and the creative spark of chairman Dan Glover.

A former boss suggests that with Cory you get the whole package in one. Graham Goodkind, founder of Frank where Cory was joint MD, describes her as a "well-oiled machine for exciting ideas" as well as a "great saleswoman".

Cory, who launched her first agency with a £2,500 loan from her parents at the age of 24, certainly has guts.

"Standing up, making decisions and leading from the front has always been my mentality. You have to be hands on and Mischief is a hands-on agency. Mitch is like me; we do PR because we love it, not because we want to sit in an office and do HR."

Her detractors might suggest that HR is a slight chink in her impressive armour.

When Cory inherited the "messy merger" of Band & Brown Communications with Brando and partners across three continents when it became Citizen, one ex-colleague says her inexperience as a CEO and a lack of support meant she struggled to carry staff with the changes she made.

But former Citizen Brando boss Nick Band says that her task was "almost impossible" and despite staff and client churn Citizen Relations now boasts a solid business.

Either way, she gained valuable exposure to working within a group set up under the umbrella of Esprit De Corps, which includes ad agency Dare and direct marketers Elvis.

That experience will stand her in good stead as part of the Engine group, which bought Mischief two years ago.

How she navigates the pressures and opportunities at Engine will be crucial. XYZ co-founder Will Mould was at an Engine-owned agency when Mischief was bought.

He says that how she handles Engine, rather than how she fills Kaye’s shoes, will be instrumental to Cory’s success.

"The problem is stepping into Engine and what flexibility she will be given. It will be about the numbers," he notes.

Mischief’s move into Engine has not been without problems. Kaye’s efforts at maintaining the "family element" did not prevent departures, but even if some rivals talk about a slight loss of lustre and an increase in CVs circulating after Kaye’s departure was announced last July, the agency is still viewed as an innovative and heavyweight contender.

Will Mischief remain an agency to fear under Cory’s stewardship? Kaye handpicked Cory and has no doubts.

"Frankie is one of those rare leaders who can straddle both a creative and commercial world," he says.

"Her track record in both is impressive and above all else she has an incredible work ethic and ability to lead."

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