Critics of Max Clifford fail to comprehend his talents

The celebrities he manufactures may come and go but the silver fox remains centre stage, marvels fellow PR Mark Borkowski

Put any misgivings about Jade Goody's Barnumesque three-ring circus sideshow to one side for a moment. Instead, focus on the silver fox who has been the undisputed ringmaster of recent events in her life: Max Clifford.

He may not be attired in a garish ring suit, but Clifford is clearly visible as the man, centre stage, pulling the financial strings. This is not written as a genuflection to the cult of Clifford, more as an explanation of the reality. He is doing something more than a mere job – he is reacting to the peccadilloes of the age.

Clearly it is necessary for him to either not care about Jade or to refuse to be paid to do that job; to carry it off, he has to place himself in a zone devoid of any emotion. Max remains calm, confident and never flustered, despite the slings and arrows aimed at him. His style of delivery has been criticised, but it is deliberate, matter of fact. Max is a spokesman; he is doing a job that few can do. Reminiscent of a river pilot steering his charge through dangerous waters, he vigilantly avoids all the sandbanks that might scupper the good ship of any celebrity brand he is steering.

Clifford has always functioned in the wasteland between public merit and clandestine vice, creating content for the curtain-twitching masses – none of whom will ever admit to their trivia addiction. Jade's wedding was a high-water mark in the celebrity-obsessed world we have allowed to prosper. The enduring picture we have taken away, however, was not the pitiful Goody forcing a smile through the pain; it was Max, surrounded by a sea of microphones and flanked by camera lenses. Like an effortless highwire act juggling nine skittles, he kept the media audience in the big top entertained in a style that few understand, measuring each sound bite for maximum effect.

Waspish bourgeois media dinner parties, I am sure, have a curt point of view regarding Clifford's modus operandi. But they fail to comprehend his skill. Yes, he has enemies, but he knows the power of collateral. For decades he has not compromised his style; he knows what works and the power of his personal business relationships. He's happier to operate openly, on the phone and in the flesh. Max has not bowed to the digital age, and his instinct, shaped by decades of experience, is impossible to learn without years in the foxhole. Despite operating in the age of time compression, he confounds the 24-7 swirl. His tell-tale grey hair is an insignia, a livery, which indicates his membership of a unique guild that few have the skill or stamina to join.

I have often observed his methods of dealing with each media ruck and marvelled at his deft hand-offs, reminiscent of the Welsh wizard scrum-half Gareth Edwards in full flow. He is an adept distracter who knows how to deliver up a sound bite in an utterly disarming fashion while keeping the media paymaster happy. He's more than aware that one false move, one slip, could lead to a chain reaction that could negate the final payment of the big cheque.

When the cameras stop rolling and Jade becomes a sad footnote in the history of Celebrityville, Clifford will pop up again and again; he is a brand and he occupies a unique place in the media landscape. If you're in the public eye and you need to exploit your 15 months of fame quickly, he is accessible and has his finger on the pulse.

His type of PR has grown in the last 15 years to suit the times. But I do not see any Clifford clones or heirs to his throne coming up through the ranks. Is this because of the way PR is retrenching, underscoring the inability of the new breed to come to terms with the ever-shifting churn of media from both sides of the fence?

There are a number of PR people out there who need to take a clear look at Max Clifford. These are the people who decry his tactics and lampoon his deadpan manner with the press, the people rushing headlong into the digital media age without any grounding in the skills that have made him such a success: most notably the 360-degree vision that allows him to spot incoming missiles before they hit, be they aimed at him or his clients. Regardless of what anyone thinks of him, there is much that can be learned from him.

He is, first and foremost, a creation of the media and of his clients. His success in finding a continually crashing wave of "sordid human interest" stories for the tabloids has been unparalleled over the past 20 years, an age that has seen boundaries of morality and taste shift significantly.

Without the standards of modern media, he could never have been successful. Make no mistake: the floorboards of his office will creak under the weight of many more scandals for years yet.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Junior Business Systems Analyst - High Wycombe - £30,000

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Junior Business Systems Analyst role...

Guru Careers: Talent Manager

£30-35k (P/T - Pro Rata) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienc...

Sauce Recruitment: New Media Marketing Manager - EMEA - Digital Distribution

£35000 - £45000 per annum + up to £45,000: Sauce Recruitment: The Internation...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing / PR / Social Media Executive

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A thriving online media busines...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?