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We’re thrilled to be back with Season 3 of the Sound Advice Podcast: Entrepreneurs Unfiltered.
And who better to kick things off than the legend and icon herself, Lynne Franks OBE.
Lynne is a trailblazer in PR and women’s empowerment and has completely shaped the industry.
With her involvement in the creation of London Fashion Week, to being an advocate for women’s and human rights, and even writing The SEED Handbook as a guide to empower more women to create businesses, she is a force to be reckoned with.
And it doesn’t stop there.
She runs co-working spaces, retreats and coaching groups to help you wherever you are in your life or business journey.
She is also none other than the inspiration behind one of the ‘Absolutely Fabulous TV characters, which we all know and love.
So get your headphones at the ready. This episode is bursting at the seams with top tips on how you can empower yourself and your business, on a budget.
Here’s her unfiltered advice below:
- Finding your feet in the world of PR and fashion
- How was fashion PR different to how is it today?
- Passion and purpose will be your most reliable persuasion tactic
- The SEED Handbook: Empowering woman to create business the feminine way
- What are the biggest factors affecting women’s confidence, and how do we overcome this?
- Enthusiasm will be your main energy driver
- From living life in the fast lane in London and California, to a calm countryside town in Somerset
- Create your own POD: Power On Demand
- Harness different social channels for different objectives
- The key to social media is lots of practice and being your authentic self
- There are no mistakes, only learning curves
- Build a business with soul purpose
- Taking a more holistic viewpoint of both your personal and professional life
- Being the inspiration behind an Absolutely Fabulous character—has it helped or hindered your career?
- What is the role of the “wise woman”?
Finding your feet in the world of PR and fashion
Hello to all our new listeners, and welcome back if you’re already a fan. You are in for an electrifying start to season 3.
I’m your host, Bex Burn-Callander, and I’m here with the PR luminary, Lynne Franks OBE. She has represented all the greats from the world of fashion and entertainment.
She helped create London Fashion Week and created the SEED Handbook, a guide to business and strategy, specifically aimed at women.
Now 75, she’s a business coach and a staunch activist.
On today’s show, we’re going to explore some epic themes from how to build your confidence as an entrepreneur, to marketing on a budget, to the power of self-reinvention.
Welcome, Lynne. Thanks so much for joining me on the show.
It’s my pleasure, Bex. Nice to see you again.
And I feel like you have the most sparkling and incredible career spanning so many different industries and themes, and I want to just gather all of that up and distil it into something that the listeners can benefit from because there’s just a wealth of information there.
But maybe we should start sort of at the beginning.
So you went into PR, but before that you were a journalist. Is that right?
So how did you come to find what you loved and your calling in life, I guess?
Well, I was very young. I left school at 16, and I worked as a secretary actually, and went to work at Freeman’s mail order company, writing stories, interviewing their agents at the time, it was all a very new thing.
And from there I couldn’t get a job as a journalist that I wanted, so I went to work as a temp in some PR office and thought, this is my type of thing. PR didn’t really exist actually in those days like it does now.
And as it did, as I developed it, it was about relationships.
Of course, we didn’t have the technology. We were faxing everything. We didn’t even have mobile phones, if you can imagine. Certainly not social media. So it was a very, very different time.
But it was about relationships, but in a way it still kind of is.
So I worked for another person who was involved with fashion for a few months, and in that period I met the designer, Katharine Hamnett, who was this very loose, tall, elegant, eccentric Bohemian designer.
And I absolutely loved her, and I loved her work.
We sort of decided we’d work together. So she was paying me £20 a week, which I rarely got. And I set up a business from my kitchen table and worked on the weekends as a secretary still to earn the money to pay for my rent, and off I went.
So that was how Lynne Franks PR got born, and I was about 21 then and really learnt on the job.
So I was working on Petticoat Magazine as a secretary for a while. So I worked with Janet Street-Porter and Eve Pollard and met lots of women who at that point were like me, kind of pioneers in the media industry for young people.
It was just a changing world, young women, particularly, fashion and beauty. It was ’60s, early ’70s.
So I set up my PR business, as I said, when I was 21 in about 1970. That’s when it all started.
How was fashion PR different to how is it today?
But as you say, it was a nascent industry then, you were creating a space basically.
So what did PR look and feel like then when you were, I guess building that whole niche from scratch?
Fashion PR was very much on its own.
So fashion PR consisted of a certain number of individual women that would be phoning around the various fashion press, Vogue and Sunday Times and other important publications, and persuading the journalists to come and have a look at the collections of the people they represented.
So it was very much that was it.
PR of a more corporate kind, where I actually worked for a while as a secretary, was very male-led, and it consisted of a lot of former military guys who were networking in their way and would go out for very long lunches and come back pretty drunk, placing corporate stories on their clients.
And it was there that I got involved in promoting Cadbury’s drinking chocolate and going around carol singing with pop stars around, banging on people’s houses to get stories in magazines of these pop stars drinking Cadbury’s drinking chocolate.
It was kind of bizarre times. It just wasn’t anything like it was now.
Even though we were working with pop stars, it wasn’t really the celebrity culture. It wasn’t the fashion culture. It was a very, very different world.
We didn’t have catwalk shows in the same way. There’d be a few shows in salons and showrooms, but it was just a completely different world.
And so that was the world that I came into, and I’ve always had lots of ideas and been very creative.
So I built up a team fairly quickly of young, talented, creative, mostly girls, but some guys as well. And they worked for me, and we did all these extraordinary projects, and it was great fun, culminating and creating London Fashion Week as it became, putting up these tents.
First of all in Kensington and then after that in the King’s Road where the designers all held their shows. I created the British Fashion Awards, which have now become of course, the biggest fashion awards in the world.
And I was just going along doing the things I loved.
And I did fashion aid, which was part of Live Aid where I worked with Bob Geldof and Harvey Goldsmith and Jasper Conran and filmmaker Kevin Godley, and others, creating this enormous event at the Albert Hall, where we were raising funds for same as Live Aid for Ethiopia.
But we had every fantastic rock star from Annie Lennox to Freddie Mercury to Madness all modelling the top designers.
And not just the British designers, but designers from all around the world, all their clothes in the middle of the Albert Hall. So many amazing things, that was just fun times.
I created the biggest initiative for Aids and HIV to create awareness of that which was horrible and very prevalent in the fashion industry.
So we did a lot of fundraising and awareness campaigns around that. I got involved with environmental and human rights campaigns.
So even though I was doing fashion, I was always very aware that there were a lot of causes that I could use the same skill sets that would bring awareness so that people knew what was going on.
And I guess I still do that.
So human rights as well as women’s rights, sexual violence against women, I’ve got very involved with that over a number of years. So it’s always been alongside what I’ve been doing.
Passion and purpose will be your most reliable persuasion tactic
That brings us back to that point about relationships because it seems that throughout your career, one of your great strengths is that you’re extremely persuasive.
With the London Fashion Week thing, you persuaded these designers basically to fund this new idea by sponsoring these tents, kind of putting a bit of money in here and there.
Well, it wasn’t the designers. The designers didn’t have any money.
What I did was I went out to my clients who had money, not the designers, and asked them for money to be sponsors.
So I got Mohan Murjani, who was a very large manufacturer, he had a large company who made Gloria Vanderbilt jeans and Tommy Hilfiger.
I got him to give me money to put the first tent up, and he called it the Murjani Designer Focus.
And then once we went to the King’s Road where it was then the Chelsea Barracks, and it became where the Saatchi Gallery is now in Sloane Square.
Harrods were clients of mine, and they gave me some money.
Swatch watches were clients of mine, I got them to give me the money to be the official timekeepers, and there were all sorts of other clients.
So I would actually raise the funds from sponsors so the designers who didn’t have a penny could actually have a great catwalk environment.
They were really keen for me to do it because they didn’t have somewhere to show.
And once we got to the King’s Road, we had wonderful facilities where we had two big catwalk areas and in the middle we had a café and a press room, and then we had other spaces inside the building there were the smaller designer shows could be held.
Those were the days of when the pop stars of the time, we’d have Boy George and Spandau Ballet and others all working together with the designers.
And we’d have the Princess of Wales, that was when Princess Diana was very much an ambassador British fashion. And we’d have Madonna sitting in the front row. It was amazing times.
This was early ’80s, which I’m told is 40 years ago recently. Somebody said it’s the 40th anniversary. I didn’t even know, but it’s 40th anniversary since we started doing those catwalk shows.
And then the British Fashion Council got formed, which I was very much part of, and we worked together with the exhibition side where they were selling the products, London Designer Collections.
But the catwalk side of it was something that I got the funding for and helped organise. And it’s great times, great times.
Well, I will rephrase my question then, which is that throughout your career you have been very persuasive from getting corporates to add sponsorship to these projects, letting fledgling designers show their wears and getting pop stars to get involved with your project.
So I want to know, what is the secret to your persuasion?
How have you been so great during your career at showing people your vision, at getting people to part with their capital to support these projects?
For our listeners who are all building businesses, how did you do it?
Well, really, I was so passionate about what I was doing, and I so deeply believed in what I was doing that it wasn’t difficult to become persuasive.
And when I really care about things, whether they be making sure that people are aware of the sexual violence that’s used against women in war zones, or whether it’s creating sponsorship for young creatives, when I’m passionate, I will make the call.
I will go and talk to somebody. I will explain to them how I feel about what this could do to help others.
And I guess because I believe in what I do and because I’m passionate and authentic, it sort of sparks something in others.
But for everybody that agrees to sponsor or everybody that agrees to get involved, there’s obviously others that don’t get involved.
When I really am behind something, I’ll make it happen. And it’s just my enthusiasm, I think.
Even now, when I’m enthusiastic, and I feel that there’s something that I believe in that really needs to come to life, I’ll make sure it happens.
Enthusiasm can be really infectious, especially as you say, authentic enthusiasm. It’s really hard to resist.
It’s not like a heavy sales pitch. It’s something I really truly believe in, in my heart, and that’s what really comes out, I guess.
The SEED Handbook: Empowering woman to create business the feminine way
You’re so passionate about female empowerment as a theme that’s run through your whole career.
I’d like to talk about the SEED Handbook. So tell me a bit about that project.
Why did you feel there was a gap in the market for a sort of business bible that was specifically for women, and how was that received? How has that kind of changed the way that women are building businesses?
Tell me about that project.
So this is a very original SEED Handbook here in my hand. It’s all very colourful, and it’s full of exercises and lovely illustrations.
This came out in 2000, so 24 years ago now.
I just felt there was going to come a time, and I’m always a little bit early with my premonitions, when women would want to start their own small businesses, and SEED is an acronym for Sustainable Enterprise and Empowerment Dynamics: The Feminine Way to Create Business.
And I was really the first person that talked about collaboration between women and the fact that they could work from home and by working together, could create something bigger than what they could do on their own.
And that a lot of women would leave the corporate world because they want to do something more akin with their values.
And it’s also about personal development. SEED became a huge body of content. Again, I’ve got it here in front of me.
It’s a massive tome.
It’s a huge amount of work that went into great depth 20 years ago, which we have delivered in different ways to women in prisons, women in the corporate world, where self-confidence, and still self-confidence is the biggest thing that holds women back so often.
So it starts with a lot of personal development about really seeing who you are, what are your values, what are your skills, what are your passions, and then taking that into some kind of business, whether it’s collectively or individually.
In fact, I’m literally about to start work with a new group of women locally where I live in Somerset, who have never had a business and who have got dreams of having one, of all ages, who would like help to take them through that journey. So it still goes on.
I just felt there was going to be this real hunger.
So at that point, there were no books out there to teach women how to start a business.
There were none because I was living in the United States at the time. I was moved to California. I sold my business, moved to California, and if the book wasn’t out there, it wasn’t out anywhere.
The book came out simultaneously in the US and the UK and I did workshops all over the states, as well as the UK.
And it was such a new thing for women. It’s not that long ago, 23 years ago. I had a website. It was just the beginning of the internet, really, for women.
Prior to that, actually, I put on a big event in London called What Women Want.
That was in ’95. That was before I went to live in the States, and that was because there was going to be this huge conference happening in China, the UN Women’s Conference.
It’s the biggest conference ever been held even today for women.
I’m also skipping a lot because I was also chair of a women’s radio station around then, so I went to China to the conference. But because it was happening, I put on What Women Want.
We talked to the women there about many things about owning our own bodies, the power of the consumer, the green consumer, creatively what we can do as women, but also I talked about business and how we can make changes on the internet.
And the women that were there, it really wasn’t that long ago if you think about it, had never tried to be on the internet at that point.
Now, of course, how would we do without it? We didn’t. Mobile phones were new. It was all very, very fresh.
So because if you like the freedom that technology has given women, so they can work from home, and now, of course, ironically with lockdown and the whole pandemic, women have got even more used to working from home with Zoom meetings.
And they’ve now got to the point where they need to get out more because they’re so used to working from home on their computer, which is why I’m about to start a co-working space, which I’ll talk a little bit more about later on, where women can just pop in and out.
But anyway, so back to SEED.
It was clear there was going to be coming a time when women wanted to start their own small businesses and be in charge of their own lives and work around their families if that’s the way their life was going and have more freedom.
But we’ve gone forward, and we’ve gone back. Being taken seriously, having support from the government, having support from the banks.
I don’t know that we’re a long way forward to how we were even 23 years ago, but now really is the time, which is why I’m putting so much energy into updating all my materials and going back to training and mentoring women to get out there and do their own thing.
What are the biggest factors affecting women’s confidence, and how do we overcome this?
But it’s interesting you say that the kind of long-standing theme, the thing that holds women back is confidence. And that seems to be true throughout the decades, the generations.
So what is it about women, if we can generalise?
What point do we get a knock to our confidence or do we doubt our abilities? And why is that something that’s so pervasive?
Well, it’s the culture. It’s 2000 years plus of a patriarchal society. We are supposedly moving into the Aquarian age now.
Let’s hope we are.
But we’ve had, just recently, the next COP conference coming up in Azerbaijan. This has just happened this week, a council for this event, COP, whatever number it is, and there were 26 people on that council and none of them were women.
So there was a huge hurrah on social media, and they’ve now put something like 6 women up there. We’re still living in a world which is run by men, unbelievably, 2024, and we have to create a new kind of future.
But that’s why women, young women have a lot more confidence. I think it goes to a certain age where looking around suddenly you notice it’s not women running the world.
You do have women that have senior jobs in all sorts of businesses, but they often have to do it and behave in a certain way, which is not conducive to a more feminine way of working.
Which, for me, a feminine way of working, if I can put it into a few phrases, is about working much more on intuition, much more working collaboratively, really caring about heart-based business as opposed to just always thinking about the financial rewards.
Every business has to make money to survive, but it doesn’t have to be the main focus.
It should be much more about values. So the work that I do is always about really getting in touch with your values.
That’s so important.
So what are feminine values?
When I’ve worked with women, I’ve worked with over the years, McDonald’s and HSBC and Tesco, all others on women’s leadership networks and engagement.
We always start off with, what are the feminine values?
And it always starts off with integrity, authenticity, transparency, community, creativity, which I’m not saying that men don’t care about those values as well, but they’re not necessarily their priority, certainly in business.
As for women, values in their own lives and values in their business tend to be very similar, are the same.
I think the weakness with that is that we, women, and I include myself, have to remember that businesses have to pay their bills.
And in the current world, apart from doing the coaching and mentoring and consulting that I do, I also have two buildings in Somerset next to each other, and they’re both public faced.
One was, and it is beautiful, it was a vegan café, but to run any kind of high-street business now is so challenging, and I wouldn’t advise anyone to go into hospitality.
We have to be very flexible about how we run our businesses and what we do with them.
So that’s why I’m turning my beautiful space into a co-working space, where other women can come and meet like-minded women and work together and network.
And I think what women are also very hungry for is community. No question about that.
So we are offering that. We do offer that. I do offer that all the time with the groups that I coach.
Enthusiasm will be your main energy driver
Well, that brings me neatly onto the topic of reinvention, which is something that you’ve talked about quite a lot in the past and you have certainly reinvented yourself.
And when you were talking about that vegan café that you were running, it’s not working in the current environment.
So you are reinventing the space as a women’s co-working space.
So talk to me about reinvention, and how do you have the energy to pair back and start again each time?
And I suppose on the theme of confidence, we were just talking about how do you proceed with confidence into a new untried, untested avenue?
Well, it’s not easy.
My energy, again, always comes from my enthusiasm. I see new things that are needed in a very relaxed way, it’s not so relaxed, actually. I work really hard.
But in a way that I kind of flow into things I can see, “That’s not working in the current world and the current economic climate. But there is a need for this.”
In fact, actually, it was about 10 years ago, I started Beehive as a women’s co-working space in partnership with Regis.
I had a wonderful space in Covent Garden in a beautiful old building. We had one in Bristol and one in Manchester, and it was really very successful.
It was just the beginning when women wanted to start working from home and wanted to come to a space where they could work with others and have their meetings.
Of course, now we have a lot of them. I go to AllBright when I’m in London, which is a wonderful women’s business club, and you’ve got all the Soho House places.
But then there was nothing.
We lost the building because Regis didn’t actually own the freehold, and it became a café, unfortunately.
But we were there for three years, and it was always busy and always women coming together, again, early days.
So I can see that there’s that need now in Somerset. And since I announced it very lightly on social media, saying, “I’m thinking of doing this,” we’ve had lots of women getting in touch with us.
I’m living in Wincanton, which is really right in the centre, it’s on the crux, it’s in Somerset, but it’s really on the crux of Somerset, Wiltshire, and Dorset.
We know lots of big towns. We did Glastonbury and Frome and Sherborne and Salisbury.
Because I’ve been doing women’s events here for the last, apart from when Covid happened, and we closed down, since I’ve been here, which is about five or six years.
So we get women from all around the area that come here for our events anyway. So we’re in a very good position accessibly to the dreaded 303 and to the train stations.
So I think right now I’m really looking forward to when we open our doors, which is early February, to having events here as well.
It’s not just that women want to work in a space where other women are working. It’s about having, like I learned from Beehive, networking events and opportunities for them to promote their businesses to others and work together.
So that, I know, is where things are going right now.
And so your question is where do I get the energy from it?
It always comes back to sort of seeing what’s needed and feeling enthusiastic.
I’m writing a new book, which I did start writing five years ago and then left, and I need to go back to it, which I’m pulling The POD Effect.
It’s how small groups of women, seven, roughly, can get together and create initiatives in their communities.
Whether it to be perhaps growing organic vegetables together for the community, or it could be that they want to do upcycling fashion together or maybe just help each other do their own businesses.
So The POD effect is sort of going along that way.
And I’m actually living it as well as writing it, because as I said earlier, I’m starting a new group, where I live, of women who I’m mentoring through that process.
In the last two years I’ve been working really closely with groups of teenagers mentoring them, mostly girls but not exclusively, a number of different young people from the colleges and the schools.
And really working with them on confidence and what’s going on in the world.
A lot of them were coming from creative studies, so explaining what the world is outside Somerset in the areas they were interested in like graphics.
Of course, most of them are very interested in AI and technology, so I learn from them too, I must say.
But I guess the enthusiasm really comes from this opportunity to share ideas and be creative. It’s always where I get my energy from.
I am getting older, and I don’t know how long it’ll go on, but right now I’m full of all sorts of ideas and busier than ever, actually.
From living life in the fast lane in London and California, to a calm countryside town in Somerset
What brought you to Somerset?
Because you are born in north London, and obviously you lived in the States as well, so it’s a real change of pace to be down in Somerset now.
What prompted that move and how did you adjust, I suppose, after life in the fast lane?
Well, I hadn’t lived in London properly for a long time and I also had a home for many years in Majorca, which I don’t have anymore, but I did for 25 years.
So I was actually going from California to Majorca, mostly.
And then I came back from the States. I’ve lived all over the places. I was in Oxfordshire, I was in Sussex, I was moving really regularly.
I knew Somerset, of course, and had been to Glastonbury Festival a number of times, but I came particularly for a weekend with friends, and I just suddenly realised that’s where I was supposed to be.
And found my buildings, these two old, listed 15th-century buildings in the middle of this little town. Eventually I rented somewhere here for a year and got to know the area and thought, “I just feel I’m supposed to be here.”
So I sold up everything and just brought my whole life into this one town, these two buildings, one I work in, one I live in. And it felt right.
Again, using my intuition, using my inner voice, I felt this is where I’m supposed to be. It’s not a slow pace here in Somerset and there’s a lot that goes on. I’m just up the road from Bruton.
There’s a lot, lot goes on, a lot of creative people.
What I love about it is the community aspect, because it’s not only people in this town, but the fact that I’ve got friends all over the area for miles in the south west.
And because we don’t have traffic jams, unless you get stuck behind a tractor, you could go 20 miles in 20 minutes.
And so my friends are all dotted around. New friends, people I’ve known for years. It’s very community-focused, community-led, and it’s everything I like.
I find it a lot friendlier than, say, living in London. I haven’t lived full time in London for 30 years and I would find it very difficult.
And when I go to London, generally I get the bus, a Berry’s bus they’re called, from outside where I live, and it takes me into Hammersmith and London for the day.
And then I get the bus back again, and it stops outside, and I’m home. It’s always a big relief that I can get back here. It suits me. I love it.
And everybody’s working in so many different places now. I don’t know where you are, Bex, at the moment, but so many people.
Where are you sitting right now?
I’m in York. I was in London, but I moved to York six months ago. So this is my new Yorkshire life.
I’ll be lucky. We can do that. You can live in beautiful Yorkshire, which I love. I’ve got lots of friends up north and I can live in wonderful Somerset and if we need to go to town, we go into town, and then we can come back even the same day.
And here we are sort of talking on Zoom, and it’s perfect, really.
But ironically, the reason I’m opening this co-working space I keep going on about, is the fact that I think people, they’d like to live in different places, but they don’t want to be too isolated.
So it’s getting that balance right, isn’t it?
Especially after Covid, I think, because I work from home and I had that feeling after the pandemic where I was like, “Get me into an office. Let me see other people. Let me find a space next to the water cooler where I can just gossip with people I don’t know that well. Just get me out.”
So, I think you’re completely right, that co-working spaces, the boom is happening now, people want to get out and about.
It is. Or you can help me start a SEED coworking space in York, then.
I’d be delighted. I’d be absolutely delighted.
I think they need it.
You could do that one. That would be great.
Create your own POD: Power On Demand
But I feel like it would be great to find out your advice to founders starting new projects.
Because you have done so many new projects, is there a particular approach, or mindset, or way of working that you found has helped you gain momentum really quickly?
So, when you are, I don’t know, starting a new co-working space, or you’re creating a retreat package, or in your PR days you were putting together some fabulous event, what is it that helps you gain momentum quickly, and how can other founders learn from your approach?
Well, I think it’s important to be part of a team, even if it’s a support team because just talking to myself doesn’t go far. I mean, I have a small team here, and I talk everything through, and I need feedback as well.
And when I had the PR company, I had a big team, 50 people, and we worked very much collectively.
So, I think it’s really important to have.
And if you are a solopreneur, it really is important to have your POD, as I call it, which goes back to the POD of eight and POD is another acronym. I love acronyms, and that’s Power on Demand, and you can just talk things through.
And I run these Zoom coaching groups, both the business and personal development, Power of Seven, my personal development ones based on seven archetypes that I’ve developed.
And the other one is Soul to Soil, which is my business groups.
And I have been doing that since the pandemic. And I get groups of seven to 10 women who are all over the country, and they work with me once a month for about six, seven months, and they also have a WhatsApp group.
And I watched this group come together, share their stories even on a Zoom and how close they all get and how they start supporting each other and how they start telling each other’s stories and giving each other advice.
And it gives me such pleasure. I’ve got two groups coming at the moment. I did one last Saturday and I’ve got one next Saturday.
And I can see the Soul to Soil Business Group absolutely blew by the input from each other.
So I think that’s really the most important thing is you have your POD, you have your group that you work with, and you share, it’s absolutely essential.
There’s a whole manifesto of all sorts of things that I wrote, as I said 20 odd years ago. One of them is keep improving your technology skills.
And even at this point in my life, and when I was running the PR company, I didn’t know how to use a computer, but it’s really important.
Here’s my trusted phone, and I’m on WhatsApp all the time, and like everybody else, the first thing I do in the morning is check my messages because people are writing to me from all over the place, and we live in a communications time.
So it’s very important to not drift, to pick up your messages basically. I find it very frustrating when I try to get a hold of people, and they spend days getting back to me.
I mean, I get back to people really fast, that’s just me, and I think it’s a really important part of any career.
You can’t just disappear or if you don’t want to work with that person, or you don’t want to deal with it, just go back and say, “I’m sorry, I’m too busy at the moment to deal with this.”
But don’t just don’t leave people hanging.
Deal with your mail and deal with your WhatsApps or come off the group.
So the key to improving your technology skills is understanding social media, and we haven’t talked about social media, and I mean there are a lot of things about social media, which are obviously a bit suspect, particularly for young people.
But it’s really important to understand about posting and why.
I mean, if I was retired, and I was living a private life, I wouldn’t bother with social media.
But even there, I’ve got family and friends all over the world, and it’s a way of letting everybody know that I’m okay or my family’s okay to other members. It’s an incredible communications tool.
So I just think that it is really important that we keep up with everything, even at my age.
Harness different social channels for different objectives
Because you do YouTube videos and I know that you are active on X formally Twitter.
Do you have a social media strategy and is it just the relationship building, or do you feel like you have really nifty posts that will get the right engagement that you need at that time?
Well, I’m not on Twitter very much, actually. Hardly at all. Because actually I don’t really feel it’s too political, it’s aggressive, and it’s not really where I sit.
I’m probably mostly on Instagram and that is promoting the various things I do. And I do something every Friday called Friday Thoughts. So my Instagram tag is @LynneJFranks, if anybody wants to know.
And I do deal with messages I get there, and my Instagram posts go automatically through to Facebook, and it’s just keeping an eye on it because it’s all down to algorithms, and AI and bots.
So one minute Instagram’s going up, then it’s Facebook’s going up. And then LinkedIn is important for business connections, and I don’t use it as much as I should because otherwise I’d go crazy on all of them all the time. But LinkedIn is important.
So it’s different things for different reasons.
Facebook’s about community, Instagram’s about news and information and building up a brand. And LinkedIn is really much more corporate and business content.
And some of the big stuff that I’m also involved with as far as women and women’s enterprise and women’s investment are concerned are very much LinkedIn based.
That’s interesting. You have different channels for different kinds of communication.
The key to social media is lots of practice and being your authentic self
I’m also just keen to learn from your experience on the PR and marketing front because I know a lot of our listeners are either in the early throes of building businesses or they’re at that inflexion point where they’re trying to go from a very small business to step up.
And to do that, you need to be able to market your brand. You need PR.
What are some of the really smart campaigns you’ve done?
Ideally, cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap. Not spending a huge amount of money but still making a big impact that our listeners can learn from.
Well, social media is the tool for all of us, and there is no reason why there isn’t some platform there for everybody.
And the women that I work with on my coaching group, I mean we talk about that all the time. I mean, if you want to build up your Instagram numbers, and it’s not always about numbers. I mean people with huge numbers may not have the right people following them.
Sometimes it’s better to have 5,000 people who are really committed than a 100,000 people who are mostly bots. But I mean Instagram lives, it’s really coming out with a strategy for social media.
But print media and broadcast media are also very, very important.
And local, it really does start with local, especially now because local media is far easier to get involved in what you’re doing, wherever you are based.
And then quite often the national media will pick up from the local media.
So my book, The SEED Handbook, which is still available as an e-book or even to buy it, I’m going to be actually working on this programme to digitalise it.
A lot of it’s going to be on marketing and PR and people can also come to my workshops online where I go into more detail on how to write a press release, how to get it out there, who to get it out to.
There’s no one thing fits all because people are in lots of different areas of business and some are in B2B, so really you’re just interested in the business world.
So then LinkedIn is really where you would need to be.
So it’s about what your business is, where it needs to be, and getting used to the sound of your voice to be able to talk about what you’re promoting.
I mean, I’m doing an exercise with the women in my current coaching group next time we meet up, and I’ve asked all of them to do five minutes where they will present their concept and their story and what is so special about their business and how to bring it into people’s lives.
Because sometimes we’re not clear enough about, I’ve worked with enough women now to know that it’s not always that clear what actually their business ideas are, especially in the coaching area, which so many of them are doing.
So it’s getting that specific language out there and explaining exactly what you do is hard sometimes. And it comes from practice, but the more you do little films or lives on social media, the easier it will get.
And we look at somebody like the phenomenal successor, Trinny Woodall, who is with her makeup brand. She built it up on social media as well as TV.
I mean, Trinny has been doing TV before there ever was social media, so she knew what she was doing.
But I mean, just keep watching other people that you think are good and learn from the way they do it, I think.
But she is just a natural, she is a one take wonder.
When you see her sauntering out of an elevator, and then she just goes into what she’s wearing, what she’s been doing that week, and there’s not a break, there’s not a cutaway.
It’s all completely flawless.
I mean, definitely to watch her as self-publicist, but I think we would all be like, “I could never do that.”
No, she’s an example.
I think most women watch Trinny and say, “How does she do it?” But we must remember that when she was with Susanna, Trinny and Susanna back in the day, when I was in the fashion world myself, they were doing television all the time.
So they had a lot of practice. And it’s all about confidence.
I mean, any of us can do that, we don’t all have Trinny’s great posture and looks and everything else, but we all have our own style, and it’s just being natural coming from the heart.
Don’t feel you have to work to script.
Just know with us what you want to put over there and just come out in the most natural way you possibly can. That is true to yourself.
I mean, I did something last week where, I mean I do regularly make films, but I just literally put the camera or the phone up in front of my face and I just said, whatever I said, and I was just true to myself about something that I wanted to share.
And I had the most amazing reaction.
And I found that some of my best reactions are things where I haven’t got it all set up and organised. It’s just literally me putting the phone on and just talking to the phone and being myself. I think that’s really what everybody wants in a way.
Yeah. Not too rehearsed, but shoot from the hip style.
Yeah. Be yourself.
There are no mistakes, only learning curves
What about times when things have gone wrong?
So you’ve just mentioned a time when you weren’t reading from a script, you just wanted to talk about something you were passionate about, and you’ve got a great response.
Have there been times, and we love hearing about mistakes that people have made and what they learned from them.
Have there been times when something has backfired, gone terribly wrong?
And what happened in the aftermath?
Well, I don’t think anything went terribly wrong. You just learn.
I mean, I don’t think it’s so much about mistakes or regrets because it’s just another opportunity to learn.
As I said, I put this kitchen and these wonderful facilities together for a vegan café, and then who knew the pandemic was coming?
And also the wonderful woman that was running it for the first six months decided to go off and live in Italy. And so I didn’t know that was coming either. I never managed to replace her ever since.
So there’s always things that turn up that you don’t expect, but as I said, it’s always got to be a learning curve and be flexible and say, “Okay, well that hasn’t worked like that, but if I just do it a different way, perhaps it will.”
And then when it gets to the point where it’s not going to work, then let it go.
Or if there’s something that you’ve wanted to do for ages, and you’ve put a lot of energy into it, and then it doesn’t really work, you’ve got to say, “Okay, I’m going to let that go for now.”
Post it somewhere and then see if it comes back another time in a different way, in a different format, which they do quite often.
Do you mean that you have to be almost quite pragmatic and quite, I don’t know, almost step back from everything that you’re working on occasionally and just see if it actually does have legs?
If it has got a future because we can all be quite, I don’t know, in the weeds with it, or you can get stuck into your projects, and you can head down, and you can maybe work on something too long before you realise that it’s not what people want. It’s not what customers are buying.
It’s so important to be keep aware and be in the reality of what exactly as you say, maybe what you’ve got isn’t quite right, but maybe just needs a bit of tweaking and it could be perfect.
So don’t stay stubborn about something you want to do. That’s got to be a certain way. Always stay open to change and surrender to whatever that ends up looking like.
Build a business with soul purpose
Yeah. And you mentioned earlier on the activism and that’s been a really strong thread throughout your career, and when you talk about the fact that you are very passionate about all your projects, I think it leads into the fact that you are an activist at heart.
I think I remember hearing you say, “I’m committed to creating a better world for the next generation.”
That was from your TEDx talk, The Return of the Wise Woman, which I really loved. I loved that talk.
Oh, thank you. Well, that was in 2012.
That in 2012, and now it feels like we are in the age of activism.
Do you think that is the way to live and build businesses with purpose today is to think of the causes as well and the impact that you want to see down the line in five years and 10 years and make your business and what you’re working on align with that?
I think it’s essential. I think to do something without purpose, and I call it soul purpose, it’s just a waste of time, life and energy.
Everything that we do, including starting a business, really should come from the heart, and should come from a vision of wanting to create something better, better for the generations to come, better for our community, better for ourselves, healthier wellbeing, and not invent something that is going to be made of plastic that’s going to end up in the sea right from the beginning.
And I think that business is getting a lot better about that.
Small businesses and large businesses are realising that we have one world here, and we don’t want to destroy it.
So I think there is much more a consciousness and awareness than there used to be. When I first brought out SEED there was no talk about sustainability.
Now it’s become, everybody’s sustainable, but are they really.
We need to all look closely at how we can improve. And of course it’s become a bit of greenwashing as far as the big companies are concerned, but the big companies have to change too.
And I think just being conscious about everything we do, whether it’s work, whether it’s personal, whether it’s in relationships, it’s about staying true to ourselves and coming from that integrity that I talked about earlier and that transparency.
And really meaning it, really meaning it.
Taking a more holistic viewpoint of both your personal and professional life
And that’s I think what is really original about your approach to business is that you don’t speak about a business or work as being separate from the rest of someone’s life.
It’s like everything is so closely intertwined, and you can’t almost distinguish what is your professional life and what is your personal life. Everything is in the mix.
Yeah, that’s really interesting.
It’s a holistic aspect. I mean, it is all the same thing. If we’re doing work that we really hate, we’re going to be unhappy and it’s going to affect our health, generally. And it’s not necessarily going to help anybody else either.
So whether it’s our personal life, our professional life, our personal philosophy, it really is one thing.
And again, I think that is a feminine way that we do bring everything together in one way, in one collective way of looking at how we want to live and how we want to work and how we want to be with our community and our families and our friends.
And we’re not all perfect, I’m certainly not perfect.
In fact, again, part of the SEED manifesto, the last point in the manifesto is, “I’m not perfect, but I’m doing the best I can.”
That’s as much as we can ask for really.
Being the inspiration behind an Absolutely Fabulous character—has it helped or hindered your career?
And, Lynne, when we first met, and it must be about 10, 20 years ago, I remember asking you about the link to Absolutely Fabulous.
And I remember you turning to me and just being like, “Oh, for God’s sake, won’t anyone let it go?”
And at that point I think you were so tired of people drawing that parallel.
And then a couple of years ago I saw you on This Morning and you were talking about that link, and it was like your whole outlook about it had changed.
You were like, “If people stick that on my gravestone, so be it. I’m just accepting it.”
So I’d love to know how has that constant sort of association with Jennifer Saunders’s character in Absolutely Fabulous, how has that helped or hindered you throughout your later career?
Well, I did use to find it really irritating because I so believed in all the work I was doing, and I still do with women’s empowerment, that I felt that it was like, “Oh, it makes everything look so silly.”
But I find it so funny.
I mean, again, on social media, I don’t know if you ever see, they have these tiny clips where they’ll take one gag, and they just take it out of context and put it onto Instagram, and it’s hysterical.
And I’ve realised that it hasn’t done me any harm. It may have added to my general legend, it may have sort of distracted at times from some things I really cared about.
But in a way I asked for it.
I was reading an article that came out about me years ago, specifically. Not that I sit here reading my old press cuttings, but there was a reason, I was being interviewed by the same publication. I just wanted to see what they’d said like 30 years ago.
And I’m reading this thing, and the journalist did not get me at all. I mean, she didn’t realise that I’m joking half the time.
But I was larger than life in the PR days and I did have this crazy sort of life.
And I did PR for Dawn and Jennifer because I was PR for Lenny Henry for many years. Love Lenny, love them all.
And so through him, I met Dawn and Jennifer, I started working with them. I’d introduced him to the fashion industry.
I think it was one of the first Ab Fab episodes that the characters, Patsy and Edina, were behind the scenes at a big fashion awards.
And that really did happen when I took Dawn and Jennifer to the beginning of the British Fashion Awards and got them to give one of the awards out, and they were backstage with the models.
And there was so much stuff there that they did pick up on.
And Jennifer has said in her own book, “Yes, it was based on Lynne because wherever Lynne was, there were things happening.”
So I guess I was very, very oversensitive.
And it was a waste really, because Jennifer asked me to go on to one of the early programmes as a guest appearance, and I was all very, “Oh, no, no, I wouldn’t do that.”
Of course now I wished I had, I would’ve loved to have gone on it and showed it to my grandchildren. I mean, they’ve never heard of Absolutely Fabulous, and they don’t know anything about it, so it would’ve been lovely to have shown them the whole thing.
But yeah, I’m a larger-than-life character, and I didn’t walk around with a bottle of champagne in my hand and fall all over the place or wear Christian Lacroix.
But it was a very, very funny, brilliant show.
And really, as I got older and more mellow, I realised that if in a way, if anything it’s a compliment to being somebody interesting.
And I did write a book at one time called Absolutely Now, so it hasn’t done me any harm at all.
In fact, it’s an honour in a way because Dawn and Jennifer and the programme, Joanna Lumley, and Ruby Wax, who I was also friends with and also had access to all sorts of things about my life that she definitely shared, were real pioneers in women’s comedy.
And as I’m all about feminism and women’s empowerment, women’s entertainment is also very important.
So it’s great that I could inspire something which was such a trailblazer for women in entertainment.
No, I love it.
And I think that it is a massive nod, and it’s just aspects of a character, isn’t it? It’s not like the whole thing was based on you, but just snippets of things, that experiences that obviously Jennifer had through you.
I think it should be seen as an homage, shall we say?
Yes, let’s call it an homage. I mean, when it was irritating was when it was the only thing people wanted me to talk about.
And I was like, “Oh, no.” But c’est la vie, that’s fine.
It’s just part of the many things that I’ve done. And yes, let’s call it homage, I like that.
What is the role of the “wise woman”?
But you are still so busy, so I said in the intro that you’re in your 70s, but one, you don’t look like you’re in your 70s. And two, you certainly don’t act like you’re in your 70s because you’ve got so much going on.
So do you feel like human beings are living longer, so we need to find purposeful ways to keep working later in life?
And especially I suppose women, do you feel like we have a lot more to offer as we get older, and our responsibilities change? What is the role of the wise woman?
I think you’ve coined the phrase the “wise woman”.
Yes. In fact, on my own podcast, Frankly Speaking, which I will be bringing out again soon, I talk about podcasts for the wise women everywhere, and I mean wise women of all ages because you don’t have to be in your 70s to be a wise woman.
But on the other hand, if you have lived a long life, and you’ve done lots of things, there is a certain amount of wisdom.
And you’ve been blessed as I have with reasonably good health, and I live healthily, and I am healthy, really, then I think it’s really important that we can share that experience and that wisdom that only comes from life’s experience with others, and particularly with younger people as well.
I’ve got seven grandchildren, and my oldest is 20, and my youngest is seven. And Lola May, who is my oldest granddaughter, it’s wonderful talking to her cross generationally, what’s going on in life.
I’ve just been away in Thailand with her and her mother. So there were the three generations of us, and we had the best time, and we do have loads in common. We see each other back here too.
We all love dancing, and we do ecstatic dance, 5Rhythms it’s called, my daughter’s a teacher, and we’ve got so much in common.
And so I think Lola is a very wise woman, but I do think that a lot of my brilliant women friends who I loved so deeply passed away, and that is part of my heartbreak.
There is Anita Roddick, Gabrielle Roth who created 5Rhythms, Sue Lloyd-Roberts, who was one of the leading women activist journalists for the BBC for many years. I’ve lost so many friends far too prematurely, it is heartbreaking.
So I feel like if I’m lucky enough still to be here, then it’s part of what I owe in a way to my friends that haven’t made it, to keep spreading the words that we all believed in so strongly, which is feminism, equality, the environment, human rights, and all the things you’re caring about business, soul purpose.
I represent all my friends who haven’t made it, as well as those who are still here.
And far too many of my friends died prematurely, and I don’t know why. I mean, I was part of the Aids generation, so I lost a lot of gay male friends who were in the fashion world particularly, but so many of my friends haven’t made it through.
So that’s it, I’m here with all of them on my shoulder, doing what we all believe in.
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