Ian Monk: Real personas vs nasty alter egos

Gordon Ramsay is under constant media fire, while Alan Sugar is hounded from pillar to post over the question of whether he can simultaneously wear a government and an Apprentice hat.

Ian Monk
Ian Monk

There are even rumblings about Simon Cowell as the latest Britain’s Got Talent protégé, Susan Boyle, teeters close to breakdown.

The cult of the celebrity bully is being emasculated by the media. PROs acting for all three had previously positioned their clients as pivotal to the zeitgeist of an age that prided itself on an abhorrence of bullying in any social context, except as a driver of TV ratings.

How things have changed. Ramsay, in particular, provides a case study in the handling and mishandling of celebrity. Amid a plethora of tabloid exposés earlier this year, the media were on the trail of rumours that his whole business was in financial trouble.

For weeks, he and his advisers opted for their usual mixture of schmoozing and bruising. Endless lunches and dinners for chosen journalists at his finest restaurants were mixed with non-stop legal pressure exerted by lawyers threatening writs and injunctions.

After an uneasy period when tabloid rumours of impending financial disaster remained unpublished, Ramsay gave an interview to The Sunday Times admitting he had been within a whisker of financial meltdown. Predictably this caused a tabloid and mid-market backlash, with unflattering follow-ups including a focus on the previous dissembling over the financial position of the business.

Ramsay, meanwhile, was grossly insulting to a TV interviewer in Australia. Presumably on PR advice, he apologised, claiming this was on the instructions of his mother. Unforgivingly, The Sun tracked down Mrs Ramsay, who plainly had not been briefed on the line.

In real life, Cowell, Ramsay and Sugar are no bullies – they have simply made millions from carefully nurtured TV images. However, reasserting their ‘real’ personas while dealing with the come-uppance being dished out by the media to their monstrous alter egos will be a PR challenge.

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