Danny Rogers: Who are the next Borkowski and Hedges?

The biggest PR news of the past week has been the departure of two highly influential operators, both of whom are leaving the consultancies they set up two decades ago.

Opinion: Danny Rogers
Opinion: Danny Rogers

First, consumer specialist Mark Borkowski announced he was leaving Borkowski PR, which has rebranded as Beige in his absence. Then Neil Hedges, founder and CEO of corporate PR agency Fishburn Hedges, revealed he was stepping down from the group, of which he was also chairman.

During the past 20 years these two operators have totally redefined the fields in which they work.

Borkowski is a maverick, whose creative nature often sat uncomfortably with his growing eponymous agency. He clearly became frustrated with running a mid-sized shop with an array of corporate clients. More than that - like many consultants of his experience - he was looking to rediscover the passion for his work. Borkowski is regularly listed among the top ten most influential publicists of his generation. We should expect an exciting new venture soon under the Borkowski brand with an innovative and social media focus.

Hedges' departure was less dramatic, which is in the nature of the man, but arguably of even greater significance. This is because Fishburn Hedges has become the model for so many younger agencies.

As FH's MD Fiona Thorne told me last week: 'Neil was a man ahead of his time.' He set up an agency without borders or silos back in 1991, long before 'integration' and 'media neutral' became buzz words.

FH remains successful to this day, and it was the blueprint for such powerful consultancies as Blue Rubicon, Open Road and TLG.

But Hedges is more than just an agency architect. Despite a steely resolve, he represents a dying breed of true gentlemen in the industry; someone who will always extend politeness and courtesy to everyone, from clients and journalists to colleagues. And this is something he always managed to instill into the culture of FH.

However, before this starts to resemble an obituary we should remind ourselves that Hedges, like Borkowski, has not retired. He remains a valued non-executive director of Luchford APM, and has yet to announce his plans.

This tribute does remind us, however, that we are now looking to the next generation of operators who can redefine the comms industry. Without more characters in the mould of Borkowski and Hedges, it will become a much less colourful and rewarding industry in which to work.

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