News Analysis: Celeb comebacks give Jacko hope

Although cleared of child abuse allegations, Michael Jackson faces a huge challenge to restore his credibility. Alex Black puts the performer's chances in context by examining the relaunches of other public figures.

According to celebrity publicist Max Clifford, Michael Jackson faces a 'near-impossible task' to rebuild his reputation and anyone in the PR world who could do so (Clifford himself having rejected approaches from the Jackson camp to do just that) would have pulled off 'the PR coup of the century'.

But Coalition Total Communication director Ashley Mann believes anyone taking on Jackson would, of course, be aided by the fact that he was found not guilty of all the allegations against him.

'One would need to emphasise the fact that he was found innocent by a jury,' says Mann. 'Then you would need to look towards his fanbase, which is large and extremely loyal. He is one of the most famous entertainers of all time, so if you focus on the music, it should be possible to rebuild his reputation.'

But although it is often impossible to rebuild the reputation of someone publicly associated with something as serious as child molestation, figures in the public eye have all bounced back from high-profile scandals (see below).

Seasoned celebrity PROs say the key to a revival starts with display of honesty followed by a 'mission statement' highlighting how the person in question will continue to do what they are famous for - and do it well.

'Things need a chance to die down, and then you can start working on a campaign emphasising the person's achievements,' says The Outside Organisation head of corporate Jonathan Morrish. 'For example, if you're dealing with a sportsman, as long as they continue to perform in their sport, you should be able to rebuild their profile around that.'

Move the story on

Hackford Jones co-founder and director Jonathan Hackford argues: 'Each case is unique, but if a person continues to do well in their field it gives their PR agency a better opportunity to move the story on. If they go back to being genuinely successful, then it makes it easier to get positive coverage.'

Ultimately, for a PRO to have a successful working relationship with a celebrity client, they have to be confident the incidents that generated the original bad press won't be repeated.

Ashley Mann says the public are usually likely to forgive a one-off incident, but rebuilding the reputation of someone who has had years of bad coverage is impossible unless the person in question makes an effort to stop generating bad publicity.

RICHARD BACON

FALL - In 1998, Bacon was sacked from the BBC's Blue Peter after admitting to cocaine use.

REVIVAL - In 1999, he became a 'roving reporter' for The Big Breakfast and by 2002 was promoted to main presenter of the Channel 4 show. Bacon participated in Have I Got News For You and was a regular on Five's The Vicious Circle. He now presents the Friday drivetime and Sunday afternoon shows on London radio station Xfm.

HOW IT WAS DONE - After the Blue Peter sacking, Bacon released a statement that read: 'I fully accept and agree with the decision that has been taken.

I regret what I did but it was in my personal time and I therefore hope that it does not reflect on the show.'

WHY IT WORKED - Bacon recognised that he was unlikely to work in children's TV again, so announced he would 'lie low for a while and then rebuild my career in adult television'. His young age (23) and acceptance of the sacking made it easy for Channel 4 to take him on.

HUGH GRANT

FALL - In 1995, the star of Four Weddings and a Funeral was arrested by Los Angeles police after being caught with prostitute Divine Brown.

He was fined $1,180 and placed on probation for two years.

REVIVAL - In 1999, after starring in some well-received but unspectacular films in terms of box-office takings (An Awfully Big Adventure, Restoration, Sense and Sensibility), Grant took the lead role in another Richard Curtis hit, Notting Hill.

HOW IT WAS DONE - Fearful of the effect the scandal would have on forthcoming film Nine Months, Grant did the rounds of US celebrity chat shows, in which he apologised for his behaviour and described his actions as 'dishonourable, shabby and goatish'.

WHY IT WORKED - 'Grant got caught in a very embarrassing situation,' says Max Clifford. 'But he went on TV, produced several charismatic performances in accepting the blame, and wrote it off as a moment of madness with no long-term detrimental effect on his career.'

LAWRENCE DALLAGLIO

FALL - In 1999, Dallaglio told undercover reporters from the News of the World that he had sold drugs during his teens and used banned substances during a British Lions tour to South Africa in 1997. He subsequently resigned as England captain and withdrew from the national team on the eve of an Australian tour.

REVIVAL - In 2004, he captained England in the Six Nations competition after Martin Johnson's retirement.

HOW IT WAS DONE - Dallaglio claimed he had lied to reporters, who were posing as representatives of Gillette and proposing a £500,000 sponsorship deal, to impress them. Dallaglio then told a news conference that he felt humiliated, and had been 'foolish and naive'.

WHY IT WORKED - Missing out on the Australia tour aside, Dallaglio's career was unaffected because he didn't let the scandal affect his form. He returned to the England side and performed well for his club Wasps and the British and Irish Lions touring team.

SOPHIE ANDERTON

FALL - Well-documented battles with drugs and alcohol meant the tabloid press shadowed Anderton's every move. Photos of her stumbling out of nightclubs in various states of disarray became commonplace.

REVIVAL - An appearance on I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! in 2004 was followed by the adoption of a more sober lifestyle. Anderton secured new modelling work, including a contract with American fake-tan brand Fake Bake.

HOW IT WAS DONE - The lifestyle change led to a more professional approach to work and the end of negative tabloid stories. Tales of hedonistic excess turned into stories of career success, with photoshoots rather than paparazzi snaps.

WHY IT WORKED - 'Sophie lived her life through the media, so there had to be a fundamental change in her lifestyle before anything could be done,' says CoalitionTotal Communication's Ashley Mann. 'Once we had that, and she was out of the papers for a while, we could focus on her revived career.'

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