Mark Borkowski has run a successful PR company for the last 15 years.
Rosie Doggett, his new managing director, has been in PR since 20 December 2002. So why did Borkowski want this 20-year veteran of the ad industry to switch horses and join his firm?
'Mark phoned me and said: "I have a vision. I want to launch Borkowski & Friends. I've been speaking to Lynne Franks and I think it will be marvellous,"' Doggett explains. Franks is not involved in Borkowski's diversification, but was consulted as an industry veteran.
Borkowski (motto: 'Old-style PR is dead') has long been known for its work with entertainers: Cirque du Soleil and Eddie Izzard are long-standing clients. Over the last couple of years, the agency has focused on brands, reckoning it can make clients such as Vodafone as fun and sexy as a transvestite comedian. The agency's income is split between brands and celebs something like 80:20, Doggett claims.
Now Borkowski wants to expand further with Borkowski & Friends (the rebrand will take place in mid-March). It will be a sort of umbrella group, with PR at its heart but taking other disciplines including design, events and, of course, advertising. 'It is ridiculous for a brand that has a certain amount of money and time to spend time briefing people in advertising, PR, sales promotion, direct marketing, (and) the design agency,' she insists.
'I am going to say to clients: "There's a couple of non-PR briefs out there, can I have them?"'
Doggett is a suit and she knows it. She started her working life as a 'PA to senior people'. 'I was absolute crap,' she says. If that was the case then, it is certainly not now, according to Tim Fairs, marketing manager at client Blockbuster Entertainment: 'She is persuasive. She's commercially astute and gets things done but is able to add value to business strategy as well.'
Doggett moved from secretarial work to advertising, taking increasingly senior roles within GGT, Publicis and Saatchi & Saatchi, among others.
'Mark is now saying: "When do you want to teach me about PR?"' she says.
But she already has some views on the industry, albeit ones which may make PR traditionalists' toes curl.
'It's PS: PR,' she says. 'You know - what did we forget? Oh yes, PR.' PR is undervalued by some clients, she believes. 'Is that because we've never told them?' she asks. 'If PR is underpaid and overserviced, advertising is very well paid and makes the service it delivers look wonderful. Advertising takes itself seriously, because it has to justify its enormous costs. Not all advertising works but the trick is to make it look as though it has.'
How to make proper money is her main role in the new job. 'I've worked with many influential, powerful creative directors over the years,' she says. 'You either get (the Borkowski brand of) "creative" or you don't.' Despite this belief, she says firmly: 'I will never try to interfere with the creative process around PR.' Instead she will handle 'all the boring stuff: contact reports, time sheets, the paper trail'.
'Mark will be liberated,' she continues. 'It will be Mark times five.' And although she says her role will involve handling staff problems, it is hard to imagine her agonising over the coffee rota. But Doggett's presence will be felt: 'It is a bit like getting married: we will influence each other.' And, she implies, Borkowski will have to be on his mettle to avoid Doggett and her paper trails taking over the company. 'I've told him to up the ante on this high-end PR stuff,' she says.
Doggett is not short of confidence. But she knows she cannot suddenly enable Borkowski to compete with the advertising big boys, and says she has no intention of doing so: 'I am not taking the ad industry on.' She pauses, then adds: 'They would have me killed in the street.'
These are going to be interesting times at Borkowski. A prominent quote on the agency's website is attributed to Nietzsche: 'You sometimes have to get annoyed to make things work well.'
Doggett indicates she may be a bit of a disappointment here. 'I'm very bad at losing my temper,' she confides, meaning that she is very good at keeping her cool. 'Mind you, people think I could lose my temper,' she suggests. Vesuvius or not, Doggett is certainly direct, as Fairs agrees.
'I don't think she's a very political person,' he muses. 'If she has a view she'll let it be known.'
And across a snooker table covered with glass, Doggett explains why Mark Borkowski has hired the MD he never had. She says: 'I've got the balls to go to clients and say: "You're not paying us enough. Either pay us twice as much or we'll work half as hard."' The clients have been warned.
1995: Marketing director, FCB
1997: Group account director, Saatchis
2002: Commercial director, Potter Dow
2003: MD, Borkowski PR