Ian Monk: Build 'em up to knock 'em down

A tabloid expose recently revealed TV chef Gordon Ramsay, contrary to previously unchallenged claims, never played football for Glasgow Rangers' first team. 'Footballer-turned-chef' had long been part of the Ramsay legend, fostered by canny PROs and nurtured by a supportive press.

Ian Monk
Ian Monk

The revelation that there was more fantasy than football followed other tabloid hammer-blows to the famously foul-mouthed chef's reputation. An extra-marital affair made front pages along with allegedly troubled finances and stories of emptying restaurants.

The media's toppling of Ramsay looks like a demolition job every bit as symbolic as the fall of Saddam's statue in Baghdad. He whom the media gods have created, so they are now destroying.

Reputation managers have long been aware of the UK media's visceral ability suddenly to turn on those they have made iconic. Editors can be disarmingly frank about the fact that the dismembering of a hero often provides as sure a boost for sales as the original canonisation. Build 'em up to knock 'em down.

It is a process familiar to England football managers, reality TV stars, businessmen, pop stars and politicians. It provides a constant challenge to PROs. For at the heart of celebrity is an essential conspiracy orchestrated by skilled reputation managers.

In the good times they broker the publicity deals of personalities who hunger for fame. In the bad they limit the damage the media pack can inflict on the star on whom it has turned.

The truly skilled reputation manager can maintain a sufficiently good balance between the two to ensure that no unwarranted demolition job is even started.

In the case of Ramsay, the conspiracy broke down. The truth about his football career was there to be discovered at any time. Football clubs are assiduous keepers of team sheets.

It was only once the chef became the prey that the media appetite existed to spit-roast him and serve him up with a touch of sauce. Desserts, just or otherwise, are likely to follow.

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

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