Maximum Impact 10.03.06

FIRST, let me put the record straight about a small piece on me that appeared on page two of last week’s Press Gazette under the heading "Max: I earn more than Dacre". It referred to a speech I made during the Journalists’ Charity’s annual lunch recently.

I was quoted as boasting that I’ve made even more money in the last decade than Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre. What I actually said — very much tongue in cheek — was that I’ve made a fortune being in the middle of the media game and probably made more money than Paul Dacre, but of course a lot less than Kelvin MacKenzie (who was sitting next to me at the time).

The comment was supposed to be a bit of fun as I have virtually no idea how much either Paul Dacre or Kelvin MacKenzie have made during their long and successful careers. As I doubt very much that either of them would ever be inclined to reveal this information to me, I will never be in the position to know either.

Confident and grateful I certainly am, but flash, hopefully I will never be, and that’s why it was important to put the record straight about precisely what I meant.

THEY say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Nevertheless I was surprised to find out recently that Phil Hall had been headhunted by Stuart Kuttner, managing editor of the News of the World, to become the next Max Clifford. The basic idea, it seems, is for Phil to be seen to be behind some big stories broken by the News of the World which would gain him a lot of publicity — with the help of the NoW — so as to help establish him as the source for big stories.

Phil, of course, was previously editor of the NoW, and when he was sacked I gave him a job. I then arranged for him to join Mohamed al Fayed as his personal press spokesperson and helped him launch himself into a PR career. Although Phil was not the source of my information, he confirmed it is the truth. Phil has declined the offer, but I am sure there will be plenty out there who would jump at the chance. I honestly hadn’t realised how much my stories, which of course have gone to other newspapers since my fallout with Andy Coulson, must have been missed by the NoW.

My attitude has always been that the split has been good for both sides. However I wish them well in their search and will be only too happy to advise them on likely candidates to be the next Max Clifford.

WHAT is currently taking place in the US could potentially have massive ramifications for the public relations industry. Philip Sherwell, Sunday Telegraph, revealed last weekend how American Idol runnerup Clay Aiken has so upset some of his fans, called the "Claymants", that they are suing RCA and its parent group, Sony/BMG, claiming they "duped them with their marketing and promotional campaign". In other words, Clay’s image has allegedly been shown to be false and deceitful and therefore unacceptable.

Very few stars I have ever known or worked with during the past 40 years have come even remotely close to the image they and those around them project; if this complaint with the Federal Trade Commission should prove successful then PR people will be spending a vast amount of their time in court trying to justify their creativity.

Putting aside an artist’s sexual preference, which may well prove important to devoted fans, even their names often have very little to do with the reality. I wonder whether Harry Roger Webb would have sold as many records as Cliff Richard? Elton Hercules John wouldn’t have had quite the same impact if he’d remained as Reg Dwight.

Would Eric Clapton have quite the same ring if he was known by his real name, Eric Clapp? Would people have got in such a twist over Chubby Checker if they knew him as Ernest Evans? Even dear old Albert Einstein doesn’t conjure up quite the same authority if you knew him by his real name of Albert Brooks!

What’s in an image? Just about everything — as I know better than most.

The fee for this column is donated to CHASE (Christopher’s) Children’s Hospice

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