PR Must Stop Backing Max Clifford

1 11 2012

Yesterday the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) announced that it was going to make its membership list public – with no opt out.  At a stroke the importance of membership and the code of conduct that goes with it was elevated.  On the same day publicist Max Clifford took the lectern as keynote speaker at The CIPR’s Northern Conference in Leeds.   In building the reputation of the PR industry we scored an amazing goal then almost instantly put one into our own net.

My argument is simple.  The reputation of PR as a profession is at best average.  No individual has done more to shape the public’s impression of PR than Max Clifford, though Joanna Lumley and Jenifer Saunders have come close.   Clifford trades in deceit,  he says so himself.  He also says that he spends most of his time keeping people out of the press.  We’ve seen with Jimmy Savile how dangerous it can be when the media is deflected from scrutinising the abusive behaviour of powerful people.  The media constantly calls on Max Clifford to speak on behalf of the PR industry.   The chartered body tasked with promoting the PR profession needs to be challenging the idea that Max represents the industry – not promoting him as a keynote speaker at an annual conference.

Max is persuasive and charismatic, his media klout is phenomenal but he laughs at the idea that PR people should have ethics.  It’s a very dangerous combination. Let’s find new voices to represent PR.



6 responses

1 11 2012
Nick Fitzherbert

I agree wholeheartedly. Clifford is largely in the business of broking deals with the media, not PR. He once inherited a client from me – I had told the client that I could usefully do no more for them as they stood. Clifford’s solution – as revealed in a documentary – was to lean on the client’s chairman who also chaired a leading football club. Clifford suggested that if the client could come up with a juicy story on one of his footballers (eg one who had a stalker) he could get a story on the new business venture he was meant to be promoting in return. I don’t work that way.

1 11 2012
Andrew Thomas

The sad aspect was the deification he seemed to get from the Leeds Met business & PR students.
But it was very refreshing to see you giving him a hard time.

2 11 2012
Craig McGill

I need to disagree here. PR isn’t always about putting clients in the papers. In terms of crisis comms it can be about keeping something out the press. Now that’s not necessarily the way I work – I think you’re best to get stuff out there honestly and deal with it, engage and make things better – but there are a considerable number of people out there who will pay for things to not appear in the press – or have the appearance minimised.

2 11 2012


I don’t disagree with the idea of issues management but I think there is a line that PR people should not cross and protecting those who have committed serious crimes seems like a red line to me.


2 11 2012

A fair point Rob, but what then of those who do PR for multinationals who may have been involved in slightly illegal operations? Or Governments who have committed wars. Or even firms who operate very legal (but many feel is dubious) tax avoidance like Amazon, Google, Apple? Where is that line to be drawn?

2 11 2012

It’s difficult I agree. We all need to decide as individuals what we believe is ethical. I’m clear in my own mind that much of what Clifford does fails to meet the standards that our industry needs to uphold.

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