This article, on the betrayal of Heather Mills’ secrets by her publicist, was published, in edited form, in today’s Guardian. This, however, is the unedited version.
Michele Elyzabeth’s kiss-and-tell all story about her working relationship with Heather Mills in The News of The World is probably the most heinous crime that any publicist can ever commit.
For publicists, clients come and clients go. We live with the bitterness never letting slip the secrets we were entrusted with – those are the rules of the game. In my book, The Fame Formula, one very famous publicist sums up the frustration like this: “A client will pay you $20,000 a month for you to tell him the truth. A year later, expect the star to pay another publicist double the amount to tell the client what he wants to hear.”
Heather Mills ran out of PRs because they all told her what she didn’t want to hear, so she turned to the self-styled French aristocrat and beauty salon owner, Michele Elyzabeth and dubbed her the official worldwide Mills-McCartney spokesperson. But Elyzabeth appears not to play by the PR rulebook. She was, I would suggest, doomed to failure the moment she told the US TV Show “Extra” that her client had received a court order granting full custody of daughter Beatrice, a story that was not corroborated. In branding her client “a calculating, pathological liar and the biggest bitch on the planet”, Elyzabeth has committed the ultimate PR sin.
The current breed of über-publicists – many of whom were trained by PR firm Rogers & Cowan, where Michele Elyzabeth claims she learnt the rules – have gone to their grave without breathing a word of the potentially devastating stories about their AAA list clients, as they are paid to. Elyzabeth’s behaviour would suggest that if she did learn from Rogers & Cowan, she forgot their lessons pretty quickly.
But certain areas of the publicity industry attract such crustaceans. The Fame Formula shines a light on some of this kind of PR, the type who inveigle themselves into their clients’ inner private lives and then betray their trust, despite the professional code of conduct that says never profit from personal relationships with clients. Mills should have listened to the hard truths and taken some of the sterner advice from more responsible publicists.
That said, I doubt Michele Elyzabeth will find it easy to get such a high-profile client again. In PR, trust is worth ten times its weight in gold.
To read the Guardian version, click here.