OPINION: Naomi vs BA: a true PR mismatch

Supermodels appear to enjoy a curious immunity from the role-model responsibilities shouldered by sports stars and entertainers.

Ian Monk
Ian Monk

"Cocaine Kate" Moss' reputation and commercial earning power have largely survived tabloid pictorial evidence of her drug misuse. Equally, Naomi Campbell's global reputation has apparently flourished in the face of claims of excessive living and a combustible aggression in dealing with others. Last week she pleaded guilty in court to charges that included assaulting a police officer and using threatening words or behaviour to BA cabin crew.

The case and its fallout provided an intriguing cameo of the twists and turns of celebrity reputation management. More than 100 journalists turned up to Uxbridge Magistrates Court for the case.

Such was the ferocity of the media pack that two of its female members - a Sky News presenter and an agency photographer - allegedly injured one another in the scramble for the story, with one participant allegedly putting her hands around the other's neck. Because of the "celebrity" of the Sky TV presenter, this subplot made headlines of its own.

Meanwhile, in court, Ms Campbell pleaded guilty and accepted a sentence of community service. Her spokesman, the accomplished Alan Edwards, began reputation reconstruction straight after sentencing, with impeccable mea culpas and apologies to the police.

Yet a clever subtext to his remarks reminded listeners that the real villain was BA, whose Terminal 5 fiasco was responsible for losing his client's bags, along with those of thousands of other passengers.

Within 24 hours BA was cast more directly in the role of villain, when Campbell claimed her fury had been provoked by a racist remark from a BA staff member. Neither third-party evidence nor the identity of the culprit were offered, and BA denied the claim.

But the supermodel was on the front foot while BA was pushed into crisis-management mode. Such is the fine line between criminal notoriety and global superstardom in a world where reputation management can be all.

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

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