PR guru Max Clifford is expecting to receive a jail sentence this week having been found guilty on eight counts of indecent assault. Writing about the influence that Clifford has wielded across the media landscape for several decades is another master of spin, Richard Hillgrove, founder of Hillgrove PR.
I’m all for cut and thrust explosive headline grabbing PR, but only when exposing people that truly deserve it.
As a Crisis Communications PR and someone who people turn to when they have their reputations well and truly challenged, I fight for the people - hand on heart – who I believe, deserve it.
I have to look at myself in the mirror each night and know what I did to someone in the national media was right and based on facts and has merit.
Max Clifford on the other hand has built his career largely on a loose relationship with the facts. "I've been telling lies on behalf of people, businessmen, politicians and countries for 40 years,” he told a wide-eyed audience at a PR Week debate in 2007.
He often engineers stories and life to fit a front cover red top newspaper and often does things to people that simply don’t deserve it, often targeting people that are easy prey.
Ironically, Max Clifford has always sold himself as being the man that keeps things out of the papers for his clients. That’s perhaps because if people like Simon Cowell, who announced he was sacking Max Clifford after the verdict, didn’t pay him big bucks to keep things out of the paper, Max would also be the same man that would destroy him with the dossier he had built up against him.
A lot of people found themselves caught in the Max Clifford drift net basically paying him protection money, Simon Cowell included.
It is interesting that Simon Cowell hired Max Clifford straight after paying £50,000 of paedophile Jonathan King’s bail, after Max Clifford claimed victory destroying ‘the evil paedophile Jonathan King’ and receiving a special commendation from Surrey Police.
Clifford’s client list has been a rotating rogue’s gallery of clients over the years. Faria Alam, the woman who had sex with Sven Goran Eriksson, the former England Manager and Mark Palios, the FA chief executive; Antonia de Sancha, the fleeting mistress of former Cabinet minister David Mellor and Shrien Dewani, the man accused of arranging his wife’s murder in South Africa.
Clifford from the start set out to make himself as famous as his sleaze-infected clients. To help him sell his sleaze, Clifford would also make part of the deal, that the red top newspaper would also have to publish a picture of Max Clifford and state that the story was brought to them by Max Clifford. So he sold a story but also got an ad as 'the man to call'.
Floods of normal people with sleaze to sell would call Max first and then he would act as the in-between, cashing in big time.
A lot of business people ventured to Max Clifford to become famous and were badly let down, essentially because he doesn’t have any real business contacts. He only does things one way. The Head of Boodles the jewellers went to Max for Personal and Business PR and ended getting Kerry Katona trying on a ring in Boodles on New Bond Street in the Daily Star.
Duncan Bannatyne was with Max Clifford and got badly burnt before sacking him and hiring me for two years and 7 months, before I got sacked after Russell Brand on Radio 2 called Bannatyne gay. Plenty of business people have spent the £10,000-£15,000 per month to find that Max only ever really understood how to do things in a cut and thrust, red-top sleazy way. He had no nuance.
Max Clifford famously stated he never had contracts with clients. Rebecca Loos, the woman famously connected with David Beckham, once told me that she heard that Max Clifford was selling front cover magazine interviews about her and pocketing all the money, whilst telling her it was all PR-only and carrying no fee.
For a long time Max Clifford has set the tone for red top newspapers, making himself as irresistible as a drug dealer to the tabloid heroin addict.
In contrast, phone hacking journalists deserve a medal compared to Max Clifford. At least it was an undying quest for the truth at all costs that fuelled journalists to bend the rules.
Like a rogue Barrister, Clifford would have no qualms backing the criminals. He almost enjoyed the notoriety, knowing that he was representing the last person on earth anyone should be representing. That was part of the thrill. Like when he took the convicted murderer O.J.Simpson to the Oxford Union for a debate, surely a career highlight.
It will be interesting now if Max Clifford, convicted of eight counts of sexual assault on women as young as 15 will take the nuclear option with a number of clients he will see as having abandoned him. With a two year sentence, he will be out in under a year and it will be interesting see what he has to say for himself and some of his now former clients.