Media: Bruised, he may be. But you can't write off Max Clifford

PR Fellow showbiz publicist Mark Borkowski says the Clifford brand will survive the Hamiltons' victory

Max Clifford has worked in publicity since 1962 and has forgotten more than most media teenies know. He understands all about the really famous as well as the merely infamous. As his experience and status were at their height, so too was the cult of celebrity, leaving him in exactly the right place at the right time. Part journalist, part deal-maker, he is the ultimate media middleman, who looks after his own brand very carefully.

Some might feel that the brand is a touch tarnished after Clifford last week agreed to pay Neil and Christine Hamilton a six-figure sum in costs and damages over false rape allegations. The Hamiltons had sued Clifford over comments he made in August 2001 about their relationship with Nadine Milroy-Sloan. She had made a series of lurid, unfounded allegations of sexual assault against the Hamiltons - and ended up being jailed for three years in 2003 for perverting the course of justice.

Clifford certainly made a mistake by appearing to give substance to Ms Milroy-Sloan's allegations, and he admits it. Were it not for legal advice that flew in the face of his gut instinct, he would undoubtedly have settled the case far earlier in the process.

"He has eaten humble pie," crowed Neil Hamilton, but that is not true. Instead, Clifford has demonstrated the art of the apology in action. In an age in which politicians and big business foul up but never apologise for it, we enjoy seeing someone apologise. We appreciate the gesture even when we don't take it at face value.

In staying away from the High Court and having his apology read out by the judge, Clifford showed he was still the arch-strategist. Neil and Christine Hamilton are not national heroes. Had the claimant been an Olympic gold-medallist, Clifford would have been there on the stand, apologising in person. But he was not willing to debase his brand by creating a photo opportunity for the Hamiltons.

The 1950s Broadway publicist Richard Maney said: "The press agent is part-beagle, part-carrier pigeon and part-salmon." Clifford fits this mould. He sniffs out a story, carries it off to his lair and from there propagates it. It's a very effective business strategy. He doesn't need to trouble himself with staff or overheads; it's just a matter of dropping the pebble in the pond and watching the ripples. Fielding the calls.

The media world needs a Max Clifford. There was a time when the average bloke on the street was simply too scared to go to the papers. Clifford recognises that everyone potentially has a story to tell or a bounty to collect on crack-addicted, topless uber-babes, and he knows the exact value of that story. Moreover, he can tell you its exact price. He knows that myths are more interesting than facts, and he knows exactly how far to push the limits of the truth. He can balance those limits against the needs of his clients and he knows how to use the celebrity value of one client to boost the currency of another.

But even Clifford is far from untouchable, occupying as he does a corner of the public relations world where stories are sold for cash and the word "sleaze" crops up with great frequency. Clients such as Rebecca Loos and Simon Cowell beat a path to his door when they feel the need to kiss and tell, but even with Clifford's careful control it is not always a happy process. Once your story is out there, you do not have control over getting it right. The media who did not secure the exclusive will see the handing over of money as the signal to shred what was once someone's private life until there is nothing left. Clifford is no hero, then nor are the Hamiltons.

Yet in one sense Clifford might have been out-spun by the Hamiltons. Buried deep in the court reports came the news that, with perfect timing, Christine's autobiography, For Better, For Worse, is published next month. Whisper it in the corridors of PR, but she might have got one over on the master publicist.

Closer to the truth is the fact that if the Hamiltons appear to have had their day, it is only because Clifford has been wise enough to let them have it. He is aware that the media spotlight is focused on him as strongly as ever and that will do him no harm. In fact, it will only add to the cult of Clifford.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Administration Team Leader

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company prides itself on its ability to p...

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company prides itself on its ability to p...

Ashdown Group: Solvency II Project Manager - 10 month contract - £800 p/d

£800 per day: Ashdown Group: A highly successful, global financial services co...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'