Clifford fails to wilt under media glare

Quite aside from the recent dramas, it's fair to say Max Clifford is one of the more controversial characters in our business. Among his peers he often polarises opinion.

Ian monk: 'Clifford showed with a perfectly pitched response that those charged but not proven guilty have a right to a voice.'
Ian monk: 'Clifford showed with a perfectly pitched response that those charged but not proven guilty have a right to a voice.'

Despite our paths, and swords, having occasionally crossed I have never bothered to join either camp of extreme opinion.

We all do what we do. We represent our clients' interests with whatever levels of professional resource, wit, judgement and cunning we feel are appropriate. Passing judgements on others in the business seems a wasted indulgence. But in the context of last week's events, I became a Clifford fan.

The veteran publicist was pitchforked into a merciless public glare when he was charged with 11 counts of indecent assault, some based on allegations from unnamed accusers dating back almost 50 years.

A publicity hungry Crown Prosecution Service proclaimed the charges with an official gravitas and in a media glare that would have cowed most people.

Maybe it was intended to.

Delivering a dignified and empathetic response perfectly pitched and timed for TV bulletins would have been beyond most of us. Clifford did just that and played a blinder.

Even in the age of faux reality, a PR award for personal presentation in the face of criminal charges might be thought slightly over the top. If it weren't and such an award existed, Clifford would walk away with it.

No column can decide on the veracity of criminal charges. That remains the ultimate function of the court.

What is undeniable, though, is that UK prosecutors have recently started to use self-promotional PR when bringing charges. The CPS now regularly announces charges against individuals at live TV press conferences.

Inevitably this ramps up the pressure on those charged - regardless of their innocence or guilt. What Clifford did with a perfectly pitched and measured response was to show that those charged but not proven guilty have the right to, and need for, a voice.

Finding himself at the centre of the story, the PR man delivered a brilliant response with himself as the client.

Well done Max.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun

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