Jailed News of the World journalist Neville Thurlbeck given 'second chance' with new PR agency

Jailed former News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck has told PRWeek that he is "extremely grateful" to have been given a "second chance" by the media as he reveals details of his new PR agency.

Pic credit: Chris Radburn/PA Archive/Press Association Images
Pic credit: Chris Radburn/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Thurlbeck, who spent 37 days in jail last summer for his role in the phone-hacking scandal, said reaction to his venture into PR via his Clear Vista Media consultancy had been "unanimously positive".

Clear Vista Media was formed in January with the Retail Ombudsman being its biggest client; since 7 December Thurlbeck has also held the role of director of comms for that body.

The agency’s other clients include entertainment acts such as The X Factor winner Joe McElderry, the Pasadena Roof Orchestra, and TV magician Jamie Allan.

Thurlbeck said the origins of the venture began two years ago, during the phone-hacking trials, when he formed TalentGB, a service that showcased artists and carried their show reels online. It then "morphed organically" into a PR service.

"A lot of [the clients] were asking me to do PR, so I did a bit of PR. Joe McElderry was probably the most substantial work. So after the News International crisis and my personal involvement in that ceased last year, suddenly the PR started to really take off.

"It had to be housed under a different umbrella because it was too diverse. There was corporate PR coming in so it couldn’t be under an entertainment umbrella. That’s why Clear Vista Media was formed, to give a broader umbrella to the client base."

Asked how people have responded to his new venture since he left prison on 12 August, Thurlbeck said: "Obviously, when I was stepping out [of prison] for the first time it was an unknown quantity in terms of how would the media respond to me. I was very lucky, and very grateful to find that the reaction was very warm and positive, unanimously so.

"In the last three months... I’ve been in contact and liaised very closely with all the media groups, all the newspaper groups, all the major broadcasters, sometimes several times, and their response has been very open-minded and there has been no negative reaction from them at all. They have been kind, encouraging, and thankfully they’ve decided to give me a second chance.

"For that, of course, I’m extremely grateful."

Thurlbeck said there was demand in the PR industry at present for "people who communicate successfully, understand how the media work, and client needs, giving attention to detail and getting the message clearly across and being consistent and determined to do that".

He added: "There’s a growing need for that now with so many opportunities online, with so many new digital businesses starting up and with people becoming more media savvy and turning to PR people more readily than they used to in the past, when it was seen as a luxury add-on to a company."

Thurlbeck is the sole founder and MD of the agency and currently its only practitioner, although he plans to hire three of four "seasoned" PR professionals as associates.

Thurlbeck was among four ex-News of the World journalists to plead guilty to phone-hacking and was jailed along with Greg Miskiw and James Weatherup. The newspaper’s former editor Andy Coulson was also jailed after a jury found him guilty.

Thurlbeck’s sentence was six months, although he served just 37 days at Belmarsh prison.

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