Lucy Mayo, Board Director, Nelson Bostock Group: I was deeply saddened to learn that Roger Nelson, co-founder of Nelson Bostock Communications died on Christmas Eve 2023.
I was lucky to start my PR career at Nelson Bostock, joining the ‘family’ in 1996 with Roger Nelson and Martin Bostock at the helm. As the fourteenth member, it really was a second family for me. Martin and Roger created a wonderful supportive environment where we were able to learn our craft across a varied mix of clients, from Sega to Stoves, Videotron to Virgin Games, Bacardi to the BBC, and of course Canon and Toshiba, who remain clients today. We were trusted and given opportunities to progress quickly, but always under the inspirational guidance and mentorship from them both. We also laughed a lot! Closing the office to go out for birthday lunches and enjoying many a night in the Sun In Splendour opposite our office in Portobello Mews.
In 2003, Nelson Bostock became part of Creston PLC and is now part of UNLIMITED. The agency has continued to evolve. Today, we are an important part of the UK’s leading conversion agency and we harness the power of our Human Understanding Lab to deliver exceptional work for our clients.
However, the unique culture of Nelson Bostock has remained with lifetime friendships forged at work. This is testament to the environment that Roger and Martin first created and their legacy lives on in many of us.
I am delighted to share with you a tribute to Roger, written by Martin Bostock.
A Tribute to Roger Nelson from Martin Bostock
Roger was my closest friend for 48 years, and my business partner for 25 of those years.
He was a giant of a man in many ways, a true force of nature and a totally brilliant PR professional.
We met in 1975 when I was working behind the bar of El Vino, the legendary Fleet Street watering hole beloved of journalists, lawyers and PR people.
One day, into the sea of sober black, grey and navy suits strode a young man in a bright blue seersucker jacket, sporting an elegant cream fedora. In a mid-Atlantic twang, he asked me for a Negroni; a cocktail I had never even heard of (El Vino only sold wine and spirits). Because I rather liked his cheeky approach and his very different appearance, I knocked up an approximation of his preferred tipple under his direction. And so began a very special friendship.
Roger was a typical native New Yorker – a German-Jewish, Polish-American, Puerto Rican, Creole Indian Swede! Born in Manhattan, he moved to Europe with his family in 1965, first to Germany then finally settling in London.
After university, he tried his hand at various jobs including journalism before deciding on PR – an industry which perfectly suited his creative brain, his witty charm, his complete fearlessness and his belief that anything can be achieved if you want it badly enough.
Two years after we met in El Vino he helped me get my first PR job – as an account assistant in the agency where he was already working. We worked hard (and played harder) until eventually we both left – me to pursue other agency and in-house roles and he to set up as an independent PR consultant. Over an agreeable lunch in 1987 we agreed to join forces and Nelson Bostock Communications was born.
With neither external investment nor anything resembling a business plan, we opened for business with a single client (American Express) on a project basis. Based in a wonderful loft in Notting Hill Gate’s Portobello Road, our prime goal was to stay in business from day one (August 1st) until Christmas. We made it by the skin of our teeth, though we did actually head home for turkey knowing that we had no confirmed income at all for the following year.
And yet…. the rest really is history. We won a lot of fabulous clients (and a few horrific ones); hired a lot of wonderful, brilliant people; had a huge amount of fun and laughs and endured a certain amount of pain. That’s PR for you!
All of us who have worked – or still work – at Nelson Bostock owe a huge debt to Roger. His role in winning and retaining many of our biggest clients (some of which are still with the agency) cannot be overstated. His ability to dream up the ‘big idea’ is the stuff of legend amongst those who worked with him (“let’s project a Sega logo onto the planet Saturn”). His quick-fire wit (almost as fast as his crazy driving) charmed many a client into signing up or agreeing a fee increase.
He also had a true passion for technology which helped set us on the path to success. Remember that the agency began in the analogue age. No internet or email. No smartphones. Just a fax machine and a portable AMSTRAD word processor. It was Roger who dragged us kicking and screaming (me in particular) into the digital age, driving investment into networked computing, email and all that followed. This proved highly relevant when the internet began to change forever the way clients did business. Not many PR agencies in the 1990s and early 2000s were comfortable in the digital space, but thanks to Roger, we were. And it made a huge difference to the agency’s success.
Taking risks was a fundamental part of Roger’s make up. Whether it was setting up new ventures (Things With Wings and Fever to name but two) or jumping on a plane to Moscow to pitch for a crazy Russian mobile phone business, he was never happier than when trying something new and scary – especially true of speedy cars.
Roger and I shared a firm belief that we should always try to hire people smarter and better at PR than ourselves, and we worked hard to keep them happy. Roger’s commitment to morale-boosting sessions in the pub after a pitch, or just for fun, was the stuff of legend. As for the company awaydays and Christmas parties – best draw a veil over some of those.
After the successful sale of Nelson Bostock to Creston PLC in 2003, Roger decided to embark on a new adventure; back to his native New York with his wife, Sally and their twin daughters, Atlanta and Miranda. He and Sally loved to travel around the USA, and explored huge swathes of his home country.
Our loss was America’s gain.
An irreplaceable man in so many ways, he will be sorely missed.