Jade Goody, PR and the media

Am I alone in feeling increasingly uncomfortable at the way Max Clifford is using his considerable skills as a publicist to help Jade Goody secure her children’s financial future before she sadly dies of cancer?

Jade has never been shy of the media since she was evicted from the Big Brother house in 2002 – indeed, her magnanimous response to the vitriolic treatment she’d experienced from the tabloid press clearly helped establish her as a “reality star” and enabled her to build a successful business.  That was until she revisited the BB experience with disastrous consequences in 2007 – and again with the Indian version last year when her cervical cancer was confirmed live on television.

I noted a comment by Rich Simcox on a post by Jon Slattery: Jade sells posh papers as well as tabloids says Max Clifford but is she “Freak TV?:

What I would object to, of course, (and I think this is roughly the point Nick Jones was making last night) is if Jade was being manipulated and exploited by the papers for their gain, not hers. But she’s got Max Clifford, ffs, who quite frankly is a genius.

So, this story throws into sharp relief the old question about the role of PR in journalism and whether there is any such thing as an ‘ethical PR’ practitioner.

Jade is not directly being exploited by all the coverage being generated and this is arguably the only way that she can realise a valuable trust fund for her young sons. 

I don’t think Clifford is a genius and find him unctuous in his media appearances explaining his role in getting maximum money for Jade.  He and the press are spinning stories by the minute – presenting donations, such as a wedding dress from Harrods as generosity, rather than a contra-deal for publicity.  It is classic Bernays; old-fashioned press agentry where everybody wins (although Jade’s is a hollow victory).

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve always been fond of Jade, as she battled with the terrible hand she was dealt in this world.  She’s made mistakes, but always accepted the consequences.

We are all complicit in the current headlines, as we know the stories are being created and communicated to earn Jade every penny.  She deserves the millions from magazine deals for a rushed wedding, to be followed by christening of her boys more than any footballer’s wife or Z-list celeb.

But it doesn’t feel right to me that in our society, a young woman’s tragic death – and the legacy left to her children – comes as a result of the worst form of public relations.  Again, what does it say about the morality of newspapers and those brands who are taking Clifford’s calls for “creative” ideas?  Or those who are buying the papers?

The counter side though is that Jade has raised debate about cervical cancer, its diagnosis and treatment.  Charities such as Cancer Research UK report young women in particular have taken action as a result of Jade’s story.

Cervical cancer causes the death (in Jade’s case at just 27 years of age) of 1,000 UK women each year.  Their stories don’t make the headlines – and many will face their own financial nightmares as they come to terms with their tragic fate.

It seems sad that Jade has to sell her story in this way – but I cannot criticise her for it, nor for maximising Max’s contacts.  It is sad, but not half as sad as anyone dying of cancer.  I just hope that with all the hype, she is able to find the time to tell her boys how special they are, and that they will remember their mother as much more than the tabloid stories.  They will deserve better than Max when the time comes to say goodbye.

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.

8 thoughts on “Jade Goody, PR and the media”

  1. Thanks, Heather. I thought this was an excellent post, mostly because of its inherent decency but also because it accepts that Max Clifford is a PR practitioner – better to take this straightforward stance than the try and define PR attempting to say what it isn’t. There is no point in self-righteously claiming “Clifford isn’t a PR, he’s publicist, when he quite patently deals (very successfully) with media relations and, through this, reputation management.

  2. Thank you Philip. I believe that Clifford is a publicist, but as publicity is a sub-set of PR, that makes him a PR practitioner also. Mind you, he seems to have a very particular approach to media relations – he was quoted in PR Week recently in relation to the Lawn Tennis Association account that he didn’t work with in-house PR people. It seems in Max’s PR terms, it is his way or no way. Again, very Bernays.

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