MARKETING MIX: PROFILE; The Max factor: Max Clifford * public relations guru

Public relations guru Max Clifford opens his heart to Marketing and tells why he has chosen to represent foetuses, hamsters, alleged murderers and, if rumours are true, royalty.

Public relations guru Max Clifford opens his heart to Marketing and

tells why he has chosen to represent foetuses, hamsters, alleged

murderers and, if rumours are true, royalty.



That’s how Clifford himself might sell our interview. But he seriously

wants to stress the good he does. ‘I am looking after the interests of

my clients. I am protecting them, taking care of them and making sure

they are professionally looked after,’ he says. ‘With Mandy Allwood (the

mother expecting eight babies) the story was going to break anyway. I am

stopping a lot of people getting to her.’



Whatever you may think of his methods and his clients, Clifford has to

be acknowledged as a publicity genius. His cramped headquarters in

London’s West End is crowded with framed tabloid front pages featuring

his star clients. OJ Simpson accompanied by Clifford takes pride of

place. Antonia de Sancha is pictured arriving at a party after her David

Mellor fling. Next to her is a picture of a smiling Freddie Star with an

unharmed hamster perched on his shoulder.



Clifford cheerfully admits that the stories he places are ‘sometimes

totally untrue’ - an attitude which has earned him the contempt of many

in the ‘respectable’ end of the PR industry. ‘Possibly 70% to 80% of a

major star is protection rather than promotion. I think an important

part of PR is lying and deceit.’ This approach, he says with a laugh, is

of course ‘totally unique in the PR industry’.



Part of the derision from his PR peers probably stems from jealousy

about the fact that Clifford claims never to have pitched or asked for a

PR account. Stars, heart-throbs wanting sex lives kept in the closet,

wronged women - they all come to him. And some he turns down. ‘I was

asked if I would represent Michael Jackson and I said no, because I’m

not sure of him.’ Of OJ Simpson he says: ‘I was as sure as I could be. I

agreed with the verdict of the jury.’



The ‘sleaze factor’ only makes up some 20% of Max Clifford’s income. He

has business accounts such as the Crystal Clear electronic facelift kit,

UK construction company Laing Homes, Spanish car giant SEAT, and the Red

Fort restaurant in the West End. Stars on his books include Marlon

Brando, Muhammad Ali and Frank Sinatra.



One of Clifford’s nicknames on the tabloids is ‘Mr Smoothie’, and he is

as good at managing his own image as that of his clients. Our interview

is held on the day the story breaks alleging that Princess Diana has now

signed on as a Clifford client. Five newspapers, one TV station and two

radio stations call in the space of an hour. Each receives a slick

answer and smooth denial, although Clifford clearly loves the idea of

having the best-known woman in the world on his books.



Journalists interviewing Clifford are presented with the same sort of

carefully cultivated image as he provides for clients. You are told of

his background: how he started his PR career at EMI, helped launch the

Beatles, launched his own firm in 1962 and has been the king of kiss-

and-tell ever since. His family is part of this image. Teetotal, non-

smoking Clifford loves his wife, Liz, and dotes on his 25-year-old

daughter, Louise, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and has had 12

operations. This bit of patter is undoubtedly genuine. He donates about

a third of his income to the Royal Marsden Hospital.



There are those who don’t believe this image. ‘A sleazeball’s

sleazeball,’ is the verdict of David Mellor MP, about the man who put

him into the tabloids after his fling with de Sancha.



Not surprisingly, those who use his services are more charitable. He is

not an ‘evil manipulator’, as many observers declare. ‘He’s a cunning

and wily entrepreneur, seizing the main chance,’ says Sue Douglas,

editor of the Sunday Express. Piers Morgan, Daily Mirror editor, who

admits he has paid Clifford six-figure sums for stories, describes him

as ‘an enigma. It’s not necessarily what he gets into the papers. It’s

what he keeps out.’



But when it comes to allegations about his rumoured new signing, the

king of kiss-and-tell’s lips are firmly sealed. ‘Let me reaffirm that I

don’t pretend to be representing Princess Diana,’ he insists.



Next day Di and her anguish over ‘stalker’ snapper Martin Stenning made

the front page. It was trade mark Clifford and, as he admits, he does

tell lies.



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BIOGRAPHY

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1961-1962

Junior reporter Merton and Morden News

1962-1964

Press officer EMI Records

1964-1968

Ran PR firm with Syd Gillingham Clients included Tom Jones and Jimi

Hendrix

1968-present

Founder Max Clifford Associates

------------------------------------------------------------------------



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