Mark Borkowski

Mark Borkowski
Mark Borkowski
Born 1959 (age 51–52)
Stroud, Gloucestershire
Nationality United Kingdom
Occupation Public relations, lecturer, author
Known for Publicity stunts

Mark Borkowski (born 1959 in Stroud, Gloucestershire) is a British PR agent and author with an interest in the history of public relations and the art of the publicity stunt.[1] He attended King's Stanley Junior School and St Peters High School in Gloucester and began working in public relations at nineteen years old.[2] As founder and head of Borkowski PR, he is a well-known lecturer and speaker on the art of publicity. Borkowski has a column in The Guardian and has written two books on publicity stunts as related to public relations and has won several awards for his work.[3]



Borkowski’s first job was as the in-house publicist at the Wyvern Theatre, Swindon promoting touring productions and producing poetry and rock events. He moved on to the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, in 1981. The first production he promoted was Nell Dunn's Steaming, starring Brenda Blethyn.[4][5] One of his early publicity stunts there was to “kill off” a tap-dancing dog that he had invented to promote an amateur variety night.[6][7] He also produced more music and performance poetry events.

After leaving Stratford East in the mid 1980s, he became a freelance publicist, specialising, uniquely at the time, in theatre and circus, including avant-garde and world theatre and innovative site specific producers, while also working for West End theatre. For The Pirates of Penzance launch in 1986 at the Palladium, he organised a sword-fighting workshop for the cast with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.[8]

He founded Borkowski PR in 1987. The company works on consumer brands, celebrity and arts and entertainment. They have worked with Michael Jackson (briefly),[9] Noel Edmonds, Graham Norton, Van Morrison, Carlos Acosta, Joan Rivers, Macaulay Culkin, Sir Cliff Richard, Bolshoi Ballet, Cirque du Soleil, The Three Tenors, Eddie Izzard,[10] Led Zeppelin, Stomp, Michael Flatley, Virgin Megastore, Horlicks, American Express, Oxfam, Amnesty, Selfridges, Vodafone, Harrods, Cadbury, Mamma Mia! and Sony UK Ltd amongst others.[1]

Borkowski has had a long association with the Edinburgh Festival; to publicise Archaos, the grunge circus, he organised a series of jumps on motorbikes over traffic queues in the centre of Edinburgh in 1988 and staged the first UK Cowpat flinging competition to launch Hank Wangford at the Festival in 1989.[1][11][12]

In the 1990s, Borkowski worked for television shows such as The Word, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Our Friends in the North and Cracker. Borkowski is now a regular TV and radio pundit on PR, the media and celebrity, often attacking the celebrity industry whilst still working within it.[13] He lectures to the industry, to corporate trade associations and at academic institutions. His column, Stuntwatch, appears on The Guardian Online.[14]


In 1994 Borkowski created a cause celebre and front page outrage when he publicised the London production of the controversial religious rock musical Bad Boy Johnny and the Prophets of Doom.[15] In 1996 Borkowski ran a “wild, rock’n’roll campaign” for Carlsberg-Tetley's Thickhead brand of alcopops that resulted in a huge media backlash against alcopops, which were already controversial, and the withdrawal of the product within hours of its launch.[16] The press attention he and his company generated for Archaos in 1990, following tabloid coverage of “nude trapeze artists and men dancing together”, stirred Bristol Council into banning the circus from appearing on the downs. The Borkowski campaign to promote the performance poet Murray Lachlan Young also ran into difficulties when the poet, overwhelmed by the media attention, retreated from public life and performance for four years.[17]


Borkowski is responsible for helping to revive Noel Edmonds' career and helped deal with the press at Edmonds’ recent wedding, which was notable in that the photo rights were deliberately not sold to a celebrity magazines such as Hello! and OK!.[18][19] Borkowski has also acted for celebrities in court, coaching them before they appear – notably in divorce cases for Slavica Ecclestone and Karen Parlour in her divorce from Ray Parlour.[20][21] Cliff Richard brought in Borkowski to work on the musical Heathcliff and Borkowski also ran the campaign to get the singer’s "The Millennium Prayer" to number one on the UK singles chart, despite minimal radio airplay.[22][23]

Publicity stunts

Borkowski has written two books on the subject of publicity stunts. His own stunts include planting a field full of Cabbage Patch Kids for Hasbro,[24][25] gift wrapping a house and helicopter,[25] commissioning the world’s first chocolate billboard for Thorntons[25][26] staging a ballet of remote controlled vacuum cleaners[25] and creating a newspaper column for a cat. (for Bacardi Breezer)[1] Borkowski was allegedly once expelled from the BBC for letting scorpions loose in a Green Room to promote the Jim Rose Sideshow tour in the UK; he also walked an elephant into a fish and chip shop with The Andrews Sisters to promote Trivial Pursuit.[24][25] In 1988, he helped Ian Botham recreate Hannibal’s walk across the Alps, again with elephants.[13] In 2000, he held a World Record Custard Pie Fight, involving 1,000 people, at the Millennium Dome.[24][25]


Borkowski received an Outstanding Achievement award from Fringe Report in 2006, citing him for creating “a new branch of theatre – theatre of publicity”[27] and from World's Fair, the circus industry's trade paper, for services to the circus in 2001. His company won the Gold Award from PR Week for Campaign of the Year in 2008 for their Wispa social networking campaign to relaunch the chocolate bar.[28]


Borkowski has written two histories of public relations, focusing in particular on the art of the publicity stunt. Improperganda was published in 2001. The Fame Formula started life as Sons of Barnum (a show by Borkowski at the Edinburgh Festival in 2004) and was subtitled: How Hollywood's fixers, fakers and star makers shaped the publicity industry.[7] It sparked controversy when The Times suggested that one of the fakers and star makers in question, Maynard Nottage, was himself a fake, i.e. that he never existed. Borkowksi, according to the paper, may himself have been the victim of an elaborate hoax.[29] Borkowski confirmed his belief in Nottage's existence and wrote that "Nottage’s rough collection of papers, the majority of which were written in hindsight in the 1940s and 50s, were handed to me after lengthy negotiation with his cautious family, just prior to writing The Fame Formula, at the beginning of 2007."[30]

The Fame Formula received mixed reviews; the Guardian said that the Fame Formula “is a terrific, witty romp through the - often dirty - undies of the Hollywood fame factory and draws some interesting conclusions about modern-day celebrity culture”[31]</ref> but a harsh critique from The Scotsmans book club[32] led Borkowski to respond with a gift-wrapped pig's anus for each of the reviewers,[33] a stunt borrowed from one of the publicists in the book, Jim Moran.[34]


  1. ^ a b c d "Who the Hell is Mark Borkowski?". Retrieved 2011-01-12. 
  2. ^ Hughes, Scott (1997-07-28). "CV; MARK BORKOWSKI Founder, Mark Borkowski Press and PR". The Independent. Retrieved 2011-01-12. 
  3. ^ "Mark Borkowski Profile". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-01-13. 
  4. ^ Morris, Sophie (2006-08-21). "My Mentor: Mark Borkowski On Philip Hedley". The Independent. 
  5. ^ "Brenda Blethyn". Imdb. Retrieved 2011-01-13. 
  6. ^ Gaisford, Sue (07-1-1993). "RADIO / Just the three of them". The Independent. Retrieved 2011-01-13. 
  7. ^ a b Shuttleworth, Ian (2004-08-10). "A Place for Everyone at the Fringe". Financial Times. Retrieved 2011-01-13. 
  8. ^ Bond, Matthew (2008-08-19). "How to make a movie legend". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2011-01-13. 
  9. ^ "When Mark Nearly Met Michael". BBC. 2009-06-29. Retrieved 2011-01-13. 
  10. ^ "Mark Borkowski:Redhammer". Retrieved 2011-01-13. 
  11. ^ Borkowski, Mark (2009-08-17). "My Edinburgh: Mark Borkowski, Publicist". The Independent. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  12. ^ Borkowski, Mark (2008-08-10). "Going for a Song". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 2011-01-13. 
  13. ^ a b Burrell, Ian (2008-07-28). "Confessions of a stuntman: Mark Borkowski on the fame game". The Independent. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  14. ^ "Mark Borkowski". (London: Guardian News and Media Ltd). 10 October 2007. Retrieved 13 July 2009. 
  15. ^ Lister, David (1994-01-29). "Spotlight on topless nun as chapel hosts musical: David Lister on a mixed response to an irreverent production". The Independent. Retrieved 2011-01-14. 
  16. ^ "My Greatest Mistake". The Independent. 2004-02-09. Retrieved 2011-01-14. 
  17. ^ "Life after million pound poetry". BBC. 2006-01-13. Retrieved 2011-01-16. 
  18. ^ "Jasper Gerard meets Noel Edmonds". The Sunday Times. 2006-04-02. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  19. ^ Callen (2009-07-24). "TV presenter Noel Edmonds marries for third time". Bristol Evening Post. Retrieved 2011-01-19-. 
  20. ^ Wade, Alex (2009-07-16). "Brand' awareness in the divorce courts". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  21. ^ Timms, Dominic (2004-05-14). "Arsenal star's ex-wife hires PR firm". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  22. ^ "Was Cliff's Racket At Wimbledon Just A PR Stunt?". PRWeek. 1996-07-12. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  23. ^ Whitehead, Jennifer (1999-12-10). "On A Win And A Prayer For Number One". PRWeek. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  24. ^ a b c "Old Borkowski interview goes online: Meet the Modern Day Barnum". 2008-06-20. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  25. ^ a b c d e f Wells, Dominic (2008-07-30). "The golden age of scandal". The National. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  26. ^ Borkowski, Mark (2007-04-04). "Chocolate Billboard". Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  27. ^ "Fringe Report: Awards 2006". Fringe Report. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  28. ^ Lee-Roberts, Christopher (2008-10-28). "PR Week Awards 2008". Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  29. ^ Evans, Brown (2008-10-17). "Mystery of the starmaker who left no trace of his life". The Times. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  30. ^ Borkowski, Mark (2008-10-17). "Maynard Nottage: not so mysterious". Retrieved 2010-01-15. 
  31. ^ Byrne, Colin (2008-08-09). "Spinmeisters of the Universe". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-01-26. 
  32. ^ "The Scotsman's book club review The Fame Formula by Mark Borkowski". 2008-08-09. Retrieved 2011-01-26. 
  33. ^ Sherwin, Adam (2008-08-29). "People: John Sergeant and Kristina Rihanoff; Victoria Beckham; Roger Waters". The Times. Retrieved 2011-01-26. 
  34. ^ Borkowski, Mark (2008-10-01). "Thrills, spills, reviews, readings and parties". Retrieved 2011-01-26. 

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