Newsmaker: Max exposure

John Plummer

Max Clifford Celebrity representative and PR man extraordinaire - Warns charities that most stars are 'interested only in themselves'.

If you work in charity communications and were thinking of approaching Max Clifford for a few tips, a word of warning: don't.

"The thing that sticks in my gullet is the amount of people who are being paid a fortune to do PR for organisations and then come here for advice," he says.

"It's obvious from talking to them that they haven't a clue what they are doing. It's insulting to me because not only do these people not have the ability to do their jobs but they are being paid by the charity, which needs the money, and then have the cheek to come up here and pick our brains."

The PR king, who will be speaking at the Charity Communications conference in London tomorrow, has an uncomplicated view of the charity-celebrity relationship. "It's a marriage that works for both sides," he says. "It's good for celebrities, good for charities. Everyone wins."

But things aren't always so simple, as he inadvertently proves when the name of Britain's most famous perjurer-cum-charity fundraiser crops up.

"I usually have a couple of tables at the Press Ball, but I won't this year," he says. "I've just found out Jeffrey Archer is auctioneer."

Bob Geldof's celebrity-led coup at Make Poverty History further highlighted the dangers. But if charities often blame the stars if things go sour, Clifford thinks they should look closer to home. "The whole point about PR is control," he says. "So if it's a bad message, the PR people involved with that charity haven't done their jobs. When you are dealing with stars, you understand that and you anticipate that.

"And when you are dealing with someone like Bob Geldof, he has a huge ego and is probably difficult to work with. These people have their own agendas."

Clifford once remarked that half of all celebrities aren't interested in their charities. "I was being generous," he says. "Most stars are interested only in themselves. It's a very selfish industry and the bigger the stars the more they are inclined to become selfish.

"Another problem for charities is that celebrities have agents and managers to protect them, who themselves often aren't interested."

His conclusion, which some might find patronising, is that charities are out of their depth. "You have willing amateurs, and often they cause more problems than they are worth," he says. "I wouldn't want to discourage anybody, but the problem is that the wrong approach to the wrong person can stop something from happening. An awful lot of people who are trying to help are actually hindering."

Clifford admits leaning on clients to "give something back" and estimates that three-quarters of them support causes. He cites two of his biggest names, Simon Cowell and Kerry Katona, as the most committed.

He does his bit as well, raising hundreds of thousands of pounds, particularly for children's charities. Last year he gave £250,000 to Chase Children's Hospice Service in Surrey. He is also a vice patron of the Rhys Daniels Trust in Essex, which provides accommodation close to hospitals.

He's opposed to paying celebrities. "You would assume that they can afford not to be paid," he says. But he thinks it's reasonable for organisations to pick up the tab for expenses.

Clifford first fused celebrities and charities in 1962 when he worked with The Beatles. "I discovered early in my career that stars were a means to an end," he says. "They can do a lot for charities in terms of fundraising and getting the message across."

Today, charities need the stardust more than ever. "Without those stars, you're not going to get the attention and the revenue," he says.

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