Profile: Fraser Hardie, senior partner, Blue Rubicon

It has been a cracking few days for Blue Rubicon. Not only was it named Consultancy of the Year at the PRWeek Awards last week, but during our interview with the London-based agency's supremo, gleeful squeals and exclamations of 'we won!' can be heard as a major new client signs up.

The agency is characteristically discreet about the win, which PRWeek later discovers is Cadbury Schweppes' corporate account.

Fraser Hardie, however, is not a man to rest on his laurels. If he is feeling elated at these events, he does a quite exemplary job of not showing it. ‘I don't like poor performance in anything. That probably makes me a bit relentless,' he says.

Blue Rubicon, founded in 1999, is now 42-strong and boasts A-list clients such as McDonald's, GlaxoSmith­Kline and Unilever, as well as the ­Government. The agency has a reputation for producing excellent work rather than shouting about achievements.

Hardie, 39, says this has been a conscious decision, ‘partly because we want to be a stealthbomber in the ­marketplace and partly because we believe in doing rather than saying'.

He gives the impression that he would be more comfortable, and judge his time much better spent, ­focusing on client work rather than ­recounting achievements.

Hardie was brought up in Perthshire, Scotland. Having held senior comms roles at companies such as Rio Tinto and Powergen, he set up Blue Rubicon seven years ago with former Channel 4 home-news editor Chris Jones. The pair played rugby together at Newcastle University, where Hardie studied agriculture.

The agency started with three clients - Hardie's two former employers plus The Wall Street Journal Europe - and pulled in £700,000 in fee income in its first year. Hardie reckons it will have achieved ‘well over' £4m for 2006, and forecasts between £5m and £6m - and 50-plus staff - by the end of 2007.

Will he then sell up? The firm has had ‘several approaches over the years' but says it is ‘determined to stay independent for the foreseeable future'.

Hardie puts the agency's success down to placing equal weight on ­research, analysis (the company has
a four-strong planning division), creativity and ‘consistent, relentless ­delivery'. ‘We want to bring genuine knowledge and not the bleeding obvious, which is what a lot of PR companies tend to come to the table with. If you want to occupy a seat at the top table then you have to come with serious brainpower, good analysis and genuine insight,' he argues.

He says his in-house experience has been invaluable. ‘That's where you have to really join up communications, where you have to understand how to work across agendas - complicated issues, multiple stakeholders, crossover of debates and topics.'

McDonald's UK head of corporate affairs Nick Hindle worked with Hardie at Countrywide Communications. He rates Hardie as ‘one of the best thinkers in the business' who is ‘determined to get it right'.

Hardie does at least relax outside of work. Married with two young sons, free time is spent skiing or playing cricket for a West Sussex village team. But his incisive, analytical personality is apparent even in the company's name, the significance of which he explains via a potted history of ­Julius Caesar's invasion of Rome. The upshot is, ‘when you cross a rubicon you make a decision or a journey that can't be reversed' he says. ‘I think it sounds quite nice and ­people remember it.'

Hardie believes the need for ‘joined-up communications' will make it difficult for some PR companies to continue to make money. ‘I'm not a great admirer of the quality of work in our industry,' he expounds. ‘I say that as a former client, not as an ­arrogant shit.

‘When we set up you had to be really quite bad not to be growing at 20 per cent. That breeds complacency. There's nothing like a good recession to clear out the people who are just ­making money because there is a market.'

Rivals hoping for any let-up from Blue Rubicon and its exacting founder should prepare to be disappointed.

CV -  Fraser Hardie

1999 - Founder/senior partner, Blue Rubicon

1998 - Acting director of corporate affairs, Powergen

1997 - Head of communications, Powergen

1995 - Group media spokesman, Rio Tinto

1993 - Associate director, Countrywide Communications

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