An insider’s eye on the murky, surprising, funny and sometimes shocking history of the fame industry

Fame Formula Update

Mark My Words » Brexit and the end of the general public

Posted 44 hours ago

In PR we talk about reaching out and cutting through. We craft messaging that will engage that poised and docile mob we call ‘the public’. Well, if this morning’s result has shown us anything it’s that this pursuit is utter rubbish. Any illusion of commons threads that bind together our diverse country has given way to intractable division. Communicators speak of audiences as if they picture their publics as attentive theatre-goers sitting down to watch a show. In truth, they live in lead-encased silos through which no views contrary to their own will enter. Reason be damned. London overwhelmingly voted to stay in the EU. Of course it did. London is one of the world’s great cities, heaving with life, culture, ideas, talent. 48.1% of the country decided they’d had enough of that. The outcome is a repudiation -loud and clear- from the rest of England of the forces that … [Link]

Mark My Words » Outside the Referendum Bubble

Posted 8 days ago

“Lost for words”. This was how so many of us reacted to the senseless, brutal murder to MP Jo Cox. After a frenzied week of last ditch campaigning for the upcoming referendum the tragic event in Birstall has catapulted everything into miserable perspective. Only on Wednesday the Dumbish Armada was descending down the Thames. Even by the low standards of the tat that gets floated down our noxious waterway this was an eyesore. Nigel Farage, looking like a poor man’s Alan Partridge, had his Brexit love cruise gate-crashed by Geldof’s ragtag band of Kensington pirates. Between the mudslinging of nasty epithets and Dobi Gray songs a small dinghy, carrying two adults and two children, charted its way quietly through the chaos. It had a simple message emblazoned on a flag: “In”. At the time –with the foul-mouth Rat on one side and the Fisherman’s Friend on the other- this modest … [Link]

Mark My Words » Muhammad Ali: titan of the ring who invented a unique brand of showmanship

Posted 3 weeks ago

Muhammad Ali was a limitless divinity, touched by a tincture of madness. He was the showman beyond all showmen, conquering the decades with an all powerful chaos. When I was still in short trousers I witnessed his all consuming hype machine sweeping up all in his path. Nobody was immune to it: an intoxicating deity, an all powerful one man circus, beamed into our homes via a black and white analogue medium. What joy, what excitement. Ali was the enduring icon of my childhood: brash and ebullient, a heavyweight pugilist whose brilliance in the ring and bravado outside it made his face one of the most recognisable in the world. He distinguished himself as not only an unparalleled sporting genius; he also invented a unique electric showmanship, which conveyed a subliminal message to my future career path. Back in 2005 Borkowski promoted the World Sports Awards in the Royal Albert … [Link]

Mark My Words » A week of spin can’t save Top Gear from ratings slip

Posted 3 weeks ago

The spin and backtracking that have characterised Chris Evans’s steering of Top Gear have been more Downing Street press office than racing track. Last year it was “100% not true” that he was in line to fill Clarkson’s shoes; months later the BBC announced that they had signed him up for a three year stint. If the presenter’s people ever advised him against loose talk in the wake of this U-turn their caution wasn’t heeded. When pushed on ratings Evans stated that anything less than 5 million would be “disappointing”. Sunday night’s opening episode drew 4.4 million viewers. This still made the BBC Two show the most watched television of the evening- but this figure was a long way off the Clarkson-May-Hammond finale. Nevertheless Evans went on to hail the ratings as proving the show “a hit” and produced a figure of 5.6 million based on consolidated ratings that hadn’t … [Link]

Mark My Words » Jose Mourinho produced a PR masterclass to land his dream job at Manchester United

Posted 5 weeks ago

Jose Mourinho’s journey to Manchester United is the culmination of an impressive behind-the-scenes campaign of media manipulation. Assistant professors at Harvard Business School – where Sir Alex Ferguson has taught – would call it strategic positioning. It has been a masterclass in PR and playing between the lines. To read more: [Link]

Mark My Words » Manchester Utd’s PR is stuck in the dark ages

Posted 5 weeks ago

Louis Van Gaal reportedly first heard of his sacking from his wife after she’d seen the BBC breaking news alert. Harsh stuff. Despite the FA cup win there clearly was no love lost between the Dutchman and the Glazer family. As the bungled leaking of Van Gaal’s sacking showed –first he was out, then he wasn’t, then he definitely was- the club’s PR is stuck in the dark ages. Its communication with the media has been as cryptic and obfuscatory as a Panamanian tax return. Rather than putting forward eloquent spokespersons Manchester United delegate spin to maverick commentators like Paddy Crerand whose invocation of gas chambers and attacks on journalistic integrity wasn’t exactly a PR masterclass. Man U is not unique in its relentless pursuit of sponsorship –deals of which are contingent on Champions League-standard football. But the club’s readiness to chew and spit out managers and players, with little … [Link]

Mark My Words » Noises off: The EU referendum and the virtue of shutting up

Posted 5 weeks ago

Every political campaign eventually enters a silly season. Apocalyptic scenarios are invoked; pledges are carved into stone; statistics are rendered meaningless. Even the dead aren’t safe as our great icons are dragged up and ventriloquized by either side. For the EU referendum the shift from apathy to absurdity has been sudden and overwhelming. One day we were discussing the benefits of a common market and the next we are hearing about the fulfilment of Nazi dreams for European domination and our collective fight for survival against terrorism and environmental oblivion. Today we discover –to no one’s great surprise- that the great and good of British film and theatre think our membership feeds the country’s creative juices. Many of the signatories to this Remain letter are the self-same luvvies that are simultaneously bemoaning the obliteration of creativity beckoned by the EU’s TTIP and its threat to national arts subsidies. Who benefits … [Link]

Mark My Words » Woody Allen: The ties that bind old media to protecting old men

Posted 6 weeks ago

It was not a cover-up or an establishment conspiracy that let the likes of Savile, Harris and Cosby off the hook for so long. So much had been invested into building their public personae. Love ‘em or loathe ‘em they are part of our cultural fabric. For a journalist to ask awkward questions would be to piss on that fabric and potentially lock them and their colleagues out of the star’s orbit. Besides, surely it’s the job of investigators-not poorly paid hacks- to dig up the dirt? This is the blinkered thinking that accompanies our relationship to the ‘national treasure’. It is one thing to be healthily sceptical of accusations that at first seem far-fetched. It is quite another to refuse to even entertain the prospect. This thinking not only ‘takes care’ of bad publicity- it ensures that is doesn’t have any oxygen at all. Woody Allen is a case … [Link]

Mark My Words » Peston on Sunday needs a much stronger marketing push – and less of the daytime TV vibe

Posted 7 weeks ago

It was always going to be an uphill slog. Robert Peston’s new politics show seems to have been dwarfed by the Andrew Marr juggernaut. BBC One’s Sunday morning programme found an audience 10 times that of Peston’s debut 10am slot yesterday. The producers of the ITV show will, not unfairly, cite the hot weather as disproportionately eating into the later programme’s audience. It may be too early to start speculating on a New Day-style collapse for Peston on Sunday. But heatwave or not, should ITV be worried? Read more here [Link]