11 February 2000
Get the message across — Max Clifford

By Johann Tasker

FARMERS would stand a better chance of getting emergency support if the public could relate to their plight, publicity guru Max Clifford has claimed.

Mr Clifford usually handles media relations for famous people involved in high-profile cases.

His stories frequently make the front pages of the nespapers.

The problem with farmers is that the public only hears from them when theyre moaning, he told Farmers Weekly in an exclusive interview.

“No farmer has ever, to my knowledge, stood up and said how wonderful business is and what a great living theyve made,” Mr Clifford said.

“Unless you address that, youre never going to get public sympathy.”

Mr Clifford said the plight of farmers had lost its impact over the years because the public was tired of hearing it.

“Its the only message you ever get and yet the British public feel they know of farmers who are worth an absolute fortune,” he added.

“So the message about the crisis doesnt get across effectively.”

But farmers benefited from the chocolate éclair attack on farm minister Nick Brown at the National Farmers Union conference in London, he added.

Mr Clifford had nothing to do with the incident, which propelled the farming crisis to the front pages, even in urban papers such as Londons Evening Standard.

Farmers should build on the publicity and further boost their image by focusing on more media-friendly farmers who are appealing to the public.

“Someone perhaps with a young family who maybe hasnt come from a farming background, but who epitomises the modern breed [would get more sympathy].”

This is not the first time that London-based Mr Clifford has become involved in controversial rural issues.

He has waived his usual 10,000-a-month fee to give free advice to Tony Martin, the farmer charged with murder after a youth was shot dead on his farm.

Mr Clifford said: “Its something I feel very strongly about. Ive had several chats with Tony and Ive been helping him behind the scenes for the past few months.”