Industry split down middle over consequences of Max Clifford conviction

Just over half of PR industry leaders believe Max Clifford's conviction for indecent assault has had a negative impact on the reputation of PR people, according to a PRCA survey.

Max Clifford: due to be sentenced on Friday
Max Clifford: due to be sentenced on Friday

In the PRCA Leaders' Panel poll of 133 agency and in-house PRs, 52 per cent said they believed that the news had had a negative impact on the industry’s reputation.

While 44 per cent believed it had no impact, 91 per cent believed the industry was in need of positive representatives.

Respondents were equally split on whether the media were correct to describe Clifford as a PR man, with 49 per cent voting yes and 49 per cent voting no.

One senior industry figure who believes it is right to describe Clifford as a PR man is Ian Wright, the former corporate affairs director at Diageo.

"I fear he is a PR man," Wright said yesterday at the PR Summit, in conversation with Brand Republic editor-in-chief and former PRWeek editor Danny Rogers.

"I think publicist is a subset of PR. [You're a PR person] if you take a shilling to manage the reputation of an organisation or a concept.

"But I don't think his conviction relates on a PR industry level. That abuse of position could have happened in any situation. I would think he is going to go away for a long time but I don't think it should put the industry on the back foot."

Pretty Green founder Mark Stringer also believes it is misguided to say that Clifford is not a PR man.

"To split hairs as to whether a publicist is in PR is like arguing about whether a blogger is a journalist. We may not have liked Clifford's tactics, we may not have liked what he did within the industry, but he was good at what he did."

He questioned the CIPR's view that Clifford is not part of the modern PR industry.

"It feels as though we're trying to rewrite history to try and appease our unease and disgust. The fact is, he was a PR man through and through. We might prefer to try and cast him adrift, so he doesn't tarnish the industry but the reality is we need to find new role models that the industry and public look up to, rather than trying to hide the ones we don't want to be associated with."

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