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Johanna Fawkes

on 11 January 2018

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MAX Clifford 1943-2017
Charismatic, narcissistic - successful manipulator of media
Convicted abuser of teenage girls
Illustrates celebrity power (proxy)
Loved by journalists; hated by PR leaders
Public relations' problems with truth: the legacy of Max Clifford
Johanna Fawkes PhD, University of Huddersfield

Max Clifford as PR's Shadow
Pseudo-events & dominance of appearance
Typologies of lies & truth
Culture of promotion
Appearance has become the dominant mode of relationship (Finkelstein, 2007)

We are all in the entertainment industry now, rehearsing our lines, never off stage, caught in the ‘attention economy’ (Fairchild, 2007)

Scholars suggest PR growth fuels and is fuelled by culture of promotion (e.g. Davis, 2013; Fitch, 2017; Aronczyk, Edwards & Kantola, 2017; Jansen, 2016)

"social survival depends on continual, audience-oriented , self-staging" Wernick, 1991:93
types of bullshit
a) the intentional lie
b) the near-lie, designed to give the wrong impression
c) the selective use of facts
d) favourable interpretation of facts (spin)
e) deception through self-delusion

Davis, E. 2017
Eternal truths
Authoritative truths
Esoteric truths
Reasoned truths
Empirical truths
Creative truths
Relative truths
Powerful truths
Moral truths
Holistic truths

types of truth
Baggini, 2017
PR in the post-truth era
PR thriving in Anglo-US spheres
Media relations and shaping public opinion important for PR (ECM); publicity still core
PRs outnumber journalists by widening ratio (5:1 and growing)

Celebrity PR has permeated culture

Clifford represents the shadow side of PR, the disowned, then disgraced, compulsive & self-declared liar
"One reason fake news isn't a bigger phenomenon in Britain is that we've had "post-truth" for decades - for as long as Clifford has plied his trade, and even before." (Rajan, BBC, 2017)

PR & the power of illusion
Pseudo events, dramatic productions orchestrated by publicists, political machines, television, Hollywood or advertisers… have the capacity to appear real, even though we know they are staged.

A public that can no longer distinguish between truth and fiction is left to interpret reality through illusion…. When opinions cannot be distinguished from facts, when there is no universal standard to determine truth in law, in science, in scholarship or in reporting the events of the day, when the most important skill is the ability to entertain, the world becomes a place where lies become true, where people can believe what they want to believe.

Hedges, 2009:50

Francis Ingham, director general of the PRCA, said: "I feel sorry for his friends and family. But it would be a lie to construct something nice to say on the death of Mr Clifford.

did our industry a disservice by pretending to be part of i
t. I note that most media outlets are describing him today as having been a publicist. That is - finally - an accurate description of his career."

In a similar vein, Peter Bowles, co-CEO of agency Dynamo, said: "Max was a showman and represented a type of publicist who genuinely believed that ‘all publicity is good publicity’ - a fact
professional communicators rally against
, and which, it turned out, his own sorry story shows to be completely untrue."

'A one-off hybrid'
Mark Borkowski, founder of PR agency Borkowski.do, said Clifford was "
not what we would call a PR man"
, commenting: "He was a one-off hybrid; a product of the time. He was part journalist, part news agency, part deal broker, part publicist."

Read more at https://www.prweek.com/article/1452488/one-off-not-pr-did-industry-disservice-comms-pros-react-death-max-clifford#xgyFukLjs88HUIRK.99
"Most in the PR industry lie through their teeth but don't admit it"
Clifford, 2000 in Piezcka, 2012:318)
Now: Managing the optics?
Full transcript