Meeting Max Clifford and Hearing his Lies

4 05 2014

Chelsea ShirtAround 20 years ago I met Max Clifford for the first time at  an industry lunch in Manchester at which he was the guest speaker.  A few years before he had been responsible for bringing about the public disgrace of the British government minister David Mellor. Max Clifford had touted the story that Mellor, a well known Chelsea football fan, had asked the actress Antonia de Sancha to make love to him whilst he was dressed in his Chelsea football shirt.  The story made the front page of The Sun newspaper.  In my book ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ I described our conversation when Clifford told me that the story was invention.

During lunch, I took the opportunity to ask Mr Clifford whether the story had in fact been true. He laughed and admitted it was a total fabrication. He added that he had tried the same tactic with the colourful left wing labour politician Derek Hatton, five years earlier. That time the story was “leaked” to the press entirely with the politician’s consent as a way of getting publicity in order to raise his profile in advance of a hoped for TV career . The other principal difference was that Derek Hatton was a Liverpool fan. The story didn’t make the front page but according to Clifford it did appear in The Sun. After lunch and after Clifford had given a short address, questions were thrown open to the floor and a guest asked the same question that I had. Bizzarely Clifford responded by saying that he didn’t know if the story was true “but who would you believe” he asked, spinning for Britain, “David Mellor or Antonia?”  





Digital PR Is Dead

26 09 2013

Yesterday I spoke at the Freshtival event in The Lowry Theatre at MediaCity UK just a stones throw from where I work.    I talked about PR in the last ten years and gave some predictions about PR in the next ten years.  I also made the argument that in 2013 Digital PR is Dead, which also happens to be my opening chapter in the newly published Share This Too.  Here are the slides from the presentation.





The Future Now at Insight Thirteen

22 01 2013

If you want to see into the near future you are unlikely to have a better chance than at the Insight Thirteen one-day seminar in Manchester this Friday (25th January).  It”s a day of looking forward to the likely developments in PR, Digital, Design, Search Marketing, Advertising, Corporate Communications and Social Media.

The Insight seminars are the real deal.  The organisers ‘Don’t Panic’ did their first conference on PR and social media in 2006 – that’s the same year Twitter first appeared – so they know about the future.  I was flattered too be asked to Insight Twelve last year.   It was  a stimulating experience, amongst the many insights were predictions on the online threat to personal privacy, the rise of non-broadcast video and domestic 3D printing.

The line-up this year is as good as ever: Stephen Waddington, European digital and social media director at Ketchum, Nicky Unsworth, MD of  the the UK’s most awarded ad agency outside London, BJL and Dawn Holmes, Head of Business Intelligence, Brother UK will all be speaking.    The Insight events are unusual in that they are difficult to categorise but I can sum up my perspective in three words. You should go.





Big Ben on Drugs

5 11 2012

You discover some extraordinary things at conferences and the CIPR Social Media Conference at Microsoft’s UK HQ was no exception. Big Ben is a major influencer on the subject of drugs, apparently. Hat tip of course to Richard Bagnall.





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.





Why Facebook Hasn’t Hit a Billion Users

5 10 2012

Yesterday Facebook announced that it had passed the billion mark. It made news around the globe.  This was part of a media onslaught that also included the unveiling of Facebook’s first agency made commercial.

I have serious reasons to doubt accuracy of the figure.   Earlier this year the company I work for was asked by the Student Loans Company to ascertain what proportion of their target audience were Facebook users   We guessed it would be most but we wanted to provide a robust response.

We took population data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and matched it against age banded user data published by Facebook.  This was not entirely straightforward because the age bands that Facebook uses are not the same bands as the ONS uses.  Undeterred we found the following.

UK Population by age:

  • 20-24 – 4.31 million
  • 15-19 – 3.91 million

To get an 18-24 approximate figure we took the 20-24 figure and added 2/5 of the 15-19 figure. This gives us 5.87 million for the size of the population. Facebook data for this age group said that there were 7.33 million users.  So to answer the question that would mean 125% of the UK population aged 18-24 have a Facebook account.  The only reasonable explanation is that a good proportion of people have more than one Facebook account.  Anecdotally we know this to be true.   There are also a lot of fake accounts – 83 million according to Facebook’s own figures.

The billion user story is great for PR, at a time when Facebook really needs it.  There may be a billion Facebook accounts but I’m confident that they haven’t hit a billion users, yet.

If I’m wrong Mark, feel free to say so in the comments section below.





Twitter Outs Trenton Oldfield the Boat Race Swimmer

7 04 2012

Looking for information on the web about the protester that disrupted the boat race today there was nothing via Google News and the in-depth report on the Daily Mail gave no clue as to the swimmer’s identity.

A twitter search revealed his identity in a trice.  His name was spreading across twitter less than an hour after the race was finally completed.  Despite the less coiffured hair in the pictures taken after he was dragged from the Thames, there’s an unmistakable likeness to this image from a conference in Zagreb.

Oldfield had planned his protest meticulously and had prepared a long blog post explaining his ‘anti-elitist’ act of “civil disobedience”.  I’m not going to bore you with his reasons (he does that very well in his post if you are inclined to read it).  A quick search will also tell you that he’s a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and studied at the London School of Economics.  He says in his post  that “part of my inspiration for today’s action comes from a protest action that took place 99 years ago – when Emily Davison ran into Epson (sic) Derby race. On the 4 June 1913 Emily ran into the horse that the king had entered.”  Ironic really considering that Emily went to Oxford.





Kutcher to Play Steve Jobs in Biopic

2 04 2012

If you are casting a biopic and you can find a high profile actor that looks  remarkably like the subject of the film then you have a great PR story from the off.  It’s even better when the subject of the film is perhaps the most iconic figure in a generation.

I had never considered it before but the resemblance between actor Ashton Kutcher and Apple founder Steve Jobs is really quite uncanny.  Kutcher at 34 is only three years older than Jobs was at the career defining moment when he was ousted from Apple for the first time.

Two films about Jobs are in planning, and this one needs a boost as the other is based on based on Walter Isaacson’s bestselling biography of the Apple founder, backed by Sony with Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing and The Social Network) rumoured to be the screenwriter.  Not much is known about this version other than it will follow Jobs  from “wayward hippie” to Apple co-founder “where he became one of the most revered creative entrepreneurs of our time”.  It will have a  screenplay by Matt Whiteley and is slated to shoot from May.

One obvious challenge will be maintaining the likeness as Jobs ages and succumbs to ill health, which prompted a dramatic weight loss over the last few years of his life.  That said, many actors, including Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Natalie Portman and 50 Cent have lost substantial amounts of weight where the screen role has demanded it.





Prime the Pump or it Tends to Run Dry

30 03 2012

old petrol pump

The current UK public panic at the petrol pumps started me thinking about the certain similarities with social media.  Before you decide that’s a stretch  bear with me

Some years ago when I took my first look at analytics I was shocked to discover there was no ‘long tail’ when it came to traffic stats.  When you  post on a blog or add something to a social network site the impact usually last for a very short time, it’s quite normal for 90% of hits to be in the first 24 hours.   That basically means that if you want to engage through social media you need to do it regularly and preferably on a daily basis.  Pioneer PR blogger Richard Edelman knew it with his daily ‘6AM’ blog.  The founders of BEBO knew it (Blog Early Blog Often).

There are some exceptions, traffic from search tends to increase over time, but it’s no substitute for new content, and without new content your page rank will decline.  Social networks, where the content is ephemeral, are on course to drive more traffic than search: for a few days if February Facebook drove more visits to The Guardian than Google did.

The message is simple – if you wanted to fuel traffic you have to make sure that sure that you are providing new content all the time, if you don’t your visitors will fill up somewhere else.





Is Jonathan Franzen a PR Genius?

16 02 2012

I’m a relative latecomer to Jonathan Franzen, but something has struck me about the latest incumbent of the office of ‘great American novelist’.  Either by instinct or design he knows how to grab a headline.

In 2001, his novel ‘The Corrections’ was chosen for Oprah Winfrey’s book club. Franzen initially agreed.  Then came a volte face when on national radio he said he believed the Oprah logo on the cover would dissuade men from reading the book. Franzen’s invitation to appear on Oprah’s show was withdrawn and major media attention ensued.  ‘The Corrections’   became one of the decade’s best-selling works.

When the author’s next major work appeared almost a decade later the novel ‘Freedom’ was subject to highly unusual “recall” in the UK.  An earlier draft, to which Franzen had made over 200 …er ‘corrections’, had been published by mistake.  Thousands of books were pulped and thousands of column inches written.

Recently when Franzen appeared at the Hay Festival in Cartegena he condemned the e-book reader, prompting another avalanche of press copy.   Jonathan Franken is without doubt a brilliant writer.  He’s also a brilliant publicist.

 

 








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