Frank Marino's first job out of college was as a teacher. Now 30 years into a solid PR career, the past dozen spent leading his eponymous firm, he continues to educate all those around him.
To say that Frank Marino is a hard worker would be a serious understatement. From an after-school job in a Bronx supermarket to his current role as president and CEO of The Marino Organization (TMO), he has always possessed a strong work ethic. In fact, he almost exudes it.
"I have that drive," he says enthusiastically. "I love to see results."
Indeed, for Marino, there isn't any other way to do business.
"Frank is always moving," says Steven Spinola, president of client the Real Estate Board of New York and former supervisor during Marino's time in former New York Mayor Ed Koch's administration. "He's always in a good mood, and he's always upbeat."
Part of that demeanor can be attributed to Marino's comfort and security in his career path. Although he enjoyed several years as an elementary school teacher after college, once he began working for New York state Assemblyman John Dearie - a place where he rose to chief of staff in just a year and a half - he didn't look back.
That he would take on a career involving communication and interaction with the media wasn't a surprise to him. In fact, as a youngster, he often pretended he was Walter Cronkite as he read the news.
"I've always been a media hound," he says. "I would much rather watch a TV news program than an entertainment show." As a result, he says, a love of government and politics just seemed to naturally follow.
After more than six years on staff with Dearie, Marino worked at the New York City Public Development Corp. under Koch, whom he refers to as a "master" at the media. It also gave him a good training ground for his future work in PR.
"That's where I got a great foundation in real estate and really got to work with the citywide media in a big way," he recalls.
That experience in city government and politics has contributed significantly to his current philosophy at TMO. Having never spent a day as a PR agency employee beforehand, he says he learned the tricks of the trade from working at the street level - at community meetings, city government, and with legislators. It's what gives his agency its "street smarts," a phrase that has played a major part in TMO's recent rebranding, but a concept that Marino says has been part of its culture since its launch a dozen years ago.
Marino says his previous experiences also contributed to the agency's philosophy of convergence; combining media, government, business, and community relations is the agency's specialty.
"I think the dynamic of PR is changing," he says. "It's becoming much more multidimensional." He tries to instill that value-added attitude in his employees, as well. "It's not just about placement," he notes. "Placement is very important, but it's so much more."
In fact, Christine Nevin, director of media and business relations for ConEdison Solutions, says that Marino's influence on all aspects of his agency is evident.
"I have not worked with anyone in his shop ... who has not had exactly the same approach to my needs and the needs of my business as he does," she says. "I think they are all a mirror image of what he portrays."
From an agency that specialized in real estate, TMO has grown to include a variety of clients in such areas as media, nonprofit, and public affairs. The agency also has worked with The Home Depot on its presence in the New York area and is currently working with Wal-Mart as it makes a bid to enter the region.
John Simley, a former PR manager for The Home Depot and current media relations director for US Cellular, says that TMO's work for The Home Depot in the New York area was "critical." He adds that the agency, and Marino in particular, was a good match for the company in other ways, as well. "The Home Depot is a company that is thoroughly steeped in strong values," he says. "He had those same values in him."
Simley notes that he often relied on Marino for general PR counsel and that he still calls him occasionally, even though he's no longer a client.
"He often made me consider things that I would not have come up with on my own," Simley recalls.
But Spinola also cites Marino's personality as one of his most positive traits. "There isn't anybody who doesn't like him," he says. "He's just an extremely likable guy."
And Marino certainly is down to earth. When looking back on his career, he exhibits a clear enthusiasm and pride in what he does, but never crosses the line into boasting. After almost 30 years in PR, he still finds complete joy in his work.
"The beauty of PR ... is every day is a new day," he says. "Every day there are new challenges."
But that doesn't mean that Marino doesn't still enjoy some of those tasks he first took on in the beginning of his career. Some things are just that deeply ingrained in him.
"When I watch the news, I look for when they roll the credits," he says. "I'm looking for what changes there may have been at different stations. I still do it out of habit." And he still gets a rush when one of his clients gets media placement - whether it's a trade publication or national magazine - something he shares with his staff.
Another thing Marino makes sure to pass on to his employees is his philosophy about work in general.
"You spend a considerable amount of your life working. You'd better make sure you're working in the right place and having fun doing it," he says. "If you don't get that rush from accomplishing the great story or the great project that gets approved or the product that gets sold, then you're in the wrong business."
Founder, president, and CEO, The Marino Organization
Cofounder and principal, Capalino, LoCicero, Marino & Tan
SVP, VP, director, PR and marketing, NYC Public Development Corp.
Executive assistant/chief of staff, New York state Assemblyman John Dearie
Teacher, St. Benedict's School, Bronx, NY