Personal PR Zoella Influencers

This week's personal PR winners and sinners: YouTube star Zoella and Telegraph boss Murdoch MacLennan

By Rich Leigh |

February 19, 2015 | 4 min read

Who's had a good week in the spotlight and who's had a bad one? This column takes a look at the reputations of people in the public eye – including chief executives, politicians and other famouses – neatly dividing them into winners and sinners.

Remember, you can nominate your 'winners' and 'sinners' for this column by tweeting me @RichLeighPR or emailing me. You and your company will always be credited (unless you’d prefer not to be that is).

With those formalities out of the way, I bring to you, this week’s…


If you’re one of those people that gets depressed by those younger than you achieving more success than you might in your lifetime, you should probably skip this bit.

She appeared on the last Band Aid single – despite not being a singer. Her new £1m house has been the subject of countless news articles this week. And she’s also joined a decent line-up of British celebrities on the BBC’s ‘The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015’.

Zoe Sugg, better known as Zoella, is a 24-year-old YouTuber with more than 7 million channel subscribers to her name… and she’s having a storming week, PR-wise.

According to this piece on the Mail, Sugg (also a best-selling author – of COURSE she is – having released 2014’s fastest selling book ‘Girl Online’) charges £20,000 a month to brands that want to advertise alongside her fashion tips.

Vloggers (and bloggers) are often sneered at – but Sugg, described by the Mirror as ‘the most famous woman in Britain you’ve never heard of’, is showing that the crossover into mainstream can be done.


Telegraph Media Group chief exec Murdoch MacLennan has had a couple of days of it, having been very publicly attacked by the Telegraph's former senior political commentator, Peter Oborne.

"I believe I am speaking for the vast majority of Telegraph staff that we have no confidence in the chief executive Murdoch MacLennan," Oborne stated in his resignation post on Open Democracy, ‘Why I have resigned from the Telegraph’.

According to Oborne, the paper is committing a ‘fraud on its readers’, allowing advertisers to influence content for fear of losing that sweet, sweet corporate cashmoney, apparently. The main target of Oborne’s piece was advertiser HSBC, having researched the Telegraph’s seemingly lacklustre approach to covering negative stories about the bank.

According to Buzzsumo the post has been shared almost 50,000 times, spawning hundreds of news articles and perhaps unsurprisingly, no less than six Guardian pieces at a quick Google News count in the last couple of days.

Oborne says that MacLennan agreed that advertising was allowed to affect editorial, ‘but was unapologetic’. Owners the Barclay brothers didn’t come out particularly well either, with Oborne highlighting the eyebrow-raising statistic that in the 81 years between 1923 and 2004 the Telegraph had six editors – the same number as there have been in the 11 years since they took over ownership.

The resignation has sparked healthy debate around advertisers’ power over editorial decisions, but as yet, the only response I can see from the paper is a statement calling Oborne’s blog an ‘astonishing and unfounded attack, full of inaccuracy and innuendo’.

If or how MacLennan and the Telegraph respond further to this – and if it will have any lasting impact – is anybody’s guess.

Rich Leigh is the founder of new agency Rich Leigh & Company. If you spot any PR winners or sinners this week, tweet them to @RichLeighPR

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