Ben Smith, Founder, PRmoment.com
I last saw Francis on Friday 10th March.
I visited him a few times while he’d been in hospital and this was the best chat we’d had for a while. His humour and belligerence were still there, despite his illness.
I have happy memories of my times with Francis - a night out with Francis was lots of fun. He was great company. I've known him since about 2008.
We became good mates.
In his professional life, he was one of the most commercially aggressive people I've ever met. I’d never suggest Francis was perfect - he wouldn’t have wanted me to - but that combination of not caring too much about what people think, being super bright and chasing growth relentlessly for the PRCA made it very hard for any of his PR trade body peers to compete with him from about 2010 to 2018.
During this period, the PRCA probably became the biggest PR trade body in the world. That's quite a turnaround for an organisation that in 2007 was down to a revenue of about £700K.
Because Francis spoke in a posh accent and wore double breasted suits people tended to think he was born into the establishment with a silver spoon in his mouth. Nothing could be further from the truth: Francis never met his father, he left home at 16 and his mother died when he was a youngish adult.
He ended up going to Oxford after gaining 2 A Levels because he was very intelligent and determined, not because of any advantage he had gained from his upbringing.
There are further elements to Francis's childhood and illness which are not appropriate for me to share but to be honest, we should not be shocked that his poor mental health led to his dependency on alcohol and a vicious cycle that ensued.
Despite such a difficult upbringing, he got so close to pulling it all off.
But tragically, as many of you will know, he passed away on March 16th 2023 aged 47.
Francis is survived by 4 beautiful children.
Sleep well Francis, my friend. I will miss you.
Here is an interview I did with Francis back in 2017 where he talks a bit about his childhood and his earlier (happy) times at the PRCA. (It was early on in my podcast days so please excuse my stilted interview technique.)
This article is published with the kind permission of Francis's family, who approved its content.
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