8 Jan 2008


Profile: The man behind the McCanns - Clarence Mitchell; spokesman for the McCann family
(PR Week Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Clarence Mitchell has only been in PR for a few months. But at the CIPR's presidential reception three weeks ago, he was certainly the star turn.Once word got around that the spokesman for the McCann family was in attendance, the great and the good of the PR industry were almost queuing up to talk to him, all eager to find out a little more about the mystery of Madeleine's disappearance.

Mitchell is a seasoned hard news reporter, who worked for the BBC for nearly 20 years, and then for the Government's Media Monitoring Unit (MMU) for two years, before being seconded out to handle the media in Portugal for the McCanns towards the end of May.As a reporter, Mitchell says he was 'always seen as a fireman', and would be flown in 'when there was trouble kicking off in Northern Ireland', or in other dangerous locations such as Iran and Iraq. He also covered the death of Princess Diana, the murder of Milly Dowler and the Fred and Rosemary West mass-murders.

Like any reporter, Mitchell became used to being dispassionate. He describes one of his 'lucky breaks' as being on the motorway behind the Kegworth air crash on the M1 in 1989: 'It sounds dreadful, but that's journalism - you need to be in the right place at the right time.'In his current role, of course, Mitchell is far from neutral - indeed, he is vehemently convinced of the McCanns' innocence, a fact that has not been lost on the press covering the story. One national newspaper journalist describes Mitchell's work with the McCanns as a 'crusade to right what he perceives as a real injustice'.Mitchell wears his commitment to the family almost literally on his sleeve, sporting a pair of bright yellow and green campaign wristbands. He also has a yellow and green ribbon pinned to his lapel, signifying the search for a missing person and strength.Mitchell was first sent to meet Gerry McCann at East Midlands airport two weeks after Madeleine's disappearance. The pair flew back together to Portugal. Mitchell then spent an intense month of 15-hour days with the family.He had to return to his government role, and others handled the McCanns' PR. But even then, he says, the family still called him for advice in his own time. 'We had become friends,' he says. 'But I couldn't help them beyond the odd phone call, because officially the Government couldn't be seen to be involved.' In September, he quit his government role in order to work for the family, at a time when much of the media seemed to be turning against the McCanns.Mitchell is clear about the reasons for this change of feeling: 'I have to be careful what I say, but somebody who has good connections with the police decided early on, it appears, that they were somehow involved, and decided to plant stories.'The Portuguese press ran these stories - 'they have a very lurid end to the tabloid market, just as we do,' he says - and then the British press picked them up.Mitchell is obviously angry with the press, many of whom he believes were simply 'recycling rubbish': 'As a former journalist myself, some of the behaviour of the British press has been shameful.'Mitchell played a great part in quashing the most negative of these stories. He explains that he had a very simple strategy: 'When I came aboard Gerry and Kate were being accused left, right and centre. What people don't always understand is that the papers aren't running these stories necessarily because they believe them - they are good angles. They will also run an equally good angle from the other side.'Mitchell also gets fired up at accusations from some sections of the press that the McCanns have been too concerned with PR. He says that the majority of the time he is turning down requests for interviews.And at the beginning of the campaign, when then McCanns were raising awareness, the strategy was different. As someone with three young children, Mitchell says: 'I would say that any family in this situation - myself included - would hit the phones and do what they could.'Mitchell admits that he does get angry. But one journalist covering the case says that the fact that Mitchell 'is not afraid to say what he thinks' can only be a good thing for the McCanns.When Mitchell left the BBC in 2005 it was because he had reached a plateau, having being passed over for the role of royal correspondent and realising he would never present the Ten O'Clock News.He describes his post at the Government's MMU as an 'inward-facing, administration role', adding: 'Sometimes when there was a big story I'd be thinking, I know where I'd be today.'Now, he's back at the heart of the story. Indeed, Steve Anderson, the Mentorn Media creative director, who was the executive producer on this month's Panorama Special: The Mystery of Madeleine McCann, goes as far as to stay that this was the job Mitchell was 'meant to do'.Mitchell seems completely driven by personal conviction and adrenaline, and it is understandably difficult for him to predict what he will be doing next. Officially, he says, he is now communications director for multi-millionaire Brian Kennedy - the McCanns' main benefactor - so he will still be employed when the situation is resolved. After that he will look into opportunities, either with Kennedy or elsewhere.At the end of the interview, Mitchell cannot help but bring the message home: 'Don't forget that in the middle of all this there is a little girl out there, alive, and she needs to be found and brought home.'CV2007: Spokesman, the McCann family2005: Director, Media Monitoring Unit2001: Correspondent for BBC News1999: Presenter, News 241988: BBC TV news reporter1986: Reporter, BBC Radio Sheffield1985: Reporter, The Sunday Express1982: Reporter, Hendon and Finchley TimesTURNING POINTS-

What was your biggest career break?There have been a few at different times. Getting into papers in the first place, after a couple of years in a boring job I didn't like, in a bank. And being on a motorway when an aircrash happens in front of you, from a reporter's point of view, is a big break. Having the Prime Minister as your local MP is a big break. I've been in the right place at the right time many times. And without the government role I would never have been in touch with Gerry and Kate, so you could say that was a break as well.- What advice would you give someone climbing the career ladder?Know what you want to do, absolutely focus on it and keep ploughing away. Eventually people will start taking your seriously. That applies to journalism, to PR, to any walk of life.- Who was your most notable mentor?I haven't had a mentor as such. I'm pretty much self-driven, although there have been people I have respected. My very first newspaper editor, Dennis Signy, was very influential and I'm very grateful to him. A number of BBC editors have also been very kind. That said, you make your own luck.- What do you prize most in new recruits?Drive, a degree of ambition, but properly focused. Passion underscored with scepticism.


josiepublic said...

Liv darling Id like to leave a new year message to Clarence if you don't mind.

Hey Clara, I think you may be in a pickle because you believe that any PR is good PR (I hadn't missed that over the months) But if you can pull your head out of the woolly spin for a second lets not forget Ratners.

Us ordinary people recognize tat when we see it and even those who didn't at first will have been educated by YOU!!!

This was never about you but a little girl who it seems at the worst may have come to harm at the hands of her parents and at the best wasn't worth the thirty quid for a babysitter and whose body has ended up in an unmarked grave.

You think we are scum? God help the innocents of this world if the likes of you are allowed to interfere in an ongoing investigation and are not charged for attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Lets hope that you are remembered for this one big story- may it follow you forever.

You cant defend the indefensible.

Justice for Madeleine.
God keep you sweetheart.XXX

felicity said...


How fab to hear from you darling!!

I really like you New Year message to Clara suggesting he has a word with his (non-existent) conscience.

Like you say we recognise tat when we see it. I have just been reading the DE and there is speculation whether he personally can profit from interviews, books etc. I would query whether he can because he has come into possession of that information whilst working for the d/g man - I have a feeling his employer will own all the rights to this and has quite probably made him sign a contract just to confirm it - maybe this d/g man just smelt more money to be made. What a nice chap eh?

These grasping idiots including her father completely lose sight of dear little Madeleine in the avaricious race to make money. How sickening!

You can't defend the indefensible and their record will speak for itself.



I just read yet again on the DE from 2345 this time that you are really missed so I hope we will be hearing your words of wisdom more often - we all love and respect you so much!

Viv xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

docmac said...

"When Mitchell left the BBC in 2005it was because he had reached a plateau, having being passed over for the role of royal correspondent and realising he would never present the Ten O'Clock News."

Hmmm... 20 years as a journalist and then this. Now he has so much to say about journalists and the media printing stories because of a 'good angle'. Do I detect just a tinge of bitterness Clara? I suspect if you were offered the editorship of a mainstream UK paper tomorrow you may even take it. What would be your 'angle' then? It's all about image, ego and control for you, old boy. Just like it is for Gerry.

Just 2 more things: are your own press releases not shaped to present a 'good angle' too? Lastly, as you are a paid employee of the McCann's main backer you couldn't really say any different could you?

Doesn't fool me though and I'm sure the majority who read your lame tripe feel the same way.

By the way, nice to see you around, Josie.

felicity said...

Hey Doc good to hear from you in your busy day!

I also get the impression Clara is frustrated in his career and does not progress and last anywhere because he does share a similar bombastic personality style to Gerry - that would help them get along - or would it?? Both would need to be in control. Does Gez have to knuckle under a bit here - he does not like just standing by and keeping his mouth shut does he. I could see some major rows developing between these two - would love to be a fly on the wall when that breaks out! Apparently he spends two days a week coming down to Rothley from his home in Bath so who is he spending his days with now that Gerry is back in full time work...Would Kate be allowed to dictate "policy" or spend time alone with him - suspect not! Presumably Gerry is taking a day off tomorrow for this big meeting or maybe it is at night.

What do you think of McVey standing down?
I suppose some of what he says about the press just presenting an angle is true. It did not escape that almost like clockwork the DE would run an anti-McCann story immediately followed by a Pro one ! Maybe he is a little resentful that contrary to his best efforts there have been so many damaging ones for the McCanns.

Like you say the fact that he is just a paid mouthpiece for the McCanns wealthy backer makes it impossible to place any credence in a word he says - by leaving proper journalism he has left a potentially decent future behind and sold his soul to the devil and having just had another look at his face at the top of me blog would not want to be close to him!

Agree great to see our Lady back bless her!

Luv Viv x

felicity said...

What on earth does Claris mean "our commercial interests are protected" - does he have a dirty little finger in the pie as well - or does he just mean his boss d/g man's interests? How do they expect us to accept their commercial interests have anything to do with little Madeleine? The sooner this lot are brought to justice the better and I am so pleased their legal status as arguidos is putting a block on their revolting schemes.

Viv x

Talks in progress to make Madeleine McCann film

Fred Attewill
Tuesday January 8, 2008
Guardian Unlimited

Madeleine McCann. Photograph: AP

Representatives of Madeleine McCann's family have spoken to an entertainment and media company about turning the story of her disappearance into a film.
Clarence Mitchell, the spokesman for Gerry and Kate McCann, said the meeting with IMG before Christmas was positive, but that no deal had yet been signed.

Talks on a lucrative film deal were held amid concern the £1.2m fund dedicated to finding the four-year-old, who vanished in Portugal last May, is rapidly running out.

Article continues


The family have hired a Spanish private detective agency on a £50,000 monthly retainer, and a widespread advertising campaign is adding to the bill.
"We have had a preliminary meeting with some producers and directors from IMG with a view to discussing an idea for a film. We've not agreed anything, we're not about to sign anything," Mitchell said. "We like the proposal, we thought it was fair, but there are others."

The board of Madeleine's Fund is due to meet this week and will discuss the proposal. Mitchell said the film may have a "cinema feel", and would be key part of replenishing Madeleine's Fund.

"If in theory a large film were to be made our lawyers would make sure our commercial interests are protected," he said. "Madeleine's Fund is just over £1m. The money is going on investigators and advertising. It's dwindling. The money is going. I would imagine we've got a few months left. It's not going to last the year unless we get more money in."

In addition to a film deal, Mitchell said it was a book deal was possible "at some point down the line", as part of efforts to find Madeleine.

Mitchell said he was still being inundated with offers for interviews with the McCanns, but added: "They cannot get involved in anything personally until their status [as suspects under Portuguese law] is lifted."

felicity said...

“If we feel any particular proposal in the media has validity in helping us find Madeleine, we are happy to discuss it (...) The media are making money out of the situation themselves and we feel it is only fair and right that some aspect of that should come to the fund to help find Madeleine." - Clarence Mitchell, Times Online.

Viv x

ratonthebeam said...

Clarence's first degree is in Russian Literature. He likes Russian things. I think he maybe applied for a job with Pravda and they turned him down, and he's been living out the fantasy ever since. Well sorry Ludicrous, but the old days of the Soviet Union and complete control of the proletariat are long gone and people are capable of speaking and reading for themselves, now.