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The fame formula (how the other half of PR lives)


Image: Celeb aggregator, We Smirch.com ("automatic dirt digger")

For some in serious, proper corporate communications - the kind where you frown a lot and drop your voice an octave to explain things of super-important, biz news agenda setting graveness - it is kind of annoying when a lay person sets them in context with celebrity PR, blithely bracketing their profession with the likes of *gasp* Max Clifford.

Outsiders are rarely aware of the nuances of PR, publicist, press officer and corporate affairs specialist.

Depending on the context the work-a-day flack might let the implied affiliation with the Heat-seeker variety of PR go unchallenged (at a party meeting someone new who seems impressed by celeb-ism, for instance), or deploy some grade-A gravitas and explain why and how what they do is so very, very different (meeting a prospective father-in-law, for instance).

But there's something fascinating, raw and compelling about the fame game, and even though I've never been a player, now I don't have to defend my serious PR credentials, I'll openly admit to enjoying arch-publicist and general showman Mark Borkowski's analysis of fame in an excerpt from his forthcoming book (out next week) The Fame Formula: How Hollywood's Fixers, Fakers and Star Makers Created the Celebrity Industry published into today's Media Guardian.

I'm allergic to celebrity news in a way which many red carpet-hugging PRs are probably allergic to my technology and media obsessions. I know I'd never have been able to commit to that particular game - but the game itself is utterly fascinating.

I'm spoiling nothing by revealing that Borkowski's formula is:

F(T) = B+P(1/10T+1/2T2)


F is the level of fame;

T is time, measured in three-monthly intervals. So T=1 is after three months, T=2 is after six months, etc. Fame is at its peak when T=0. (Putting T=0 into the equation gives an infinite fame peak, not mathematically accurate, perhaps, but the concept of the level of fame being off the radar is apposite.);

B is a base level of fame that we identified and quantified by analysing the average level of fame in the year before peak. For George Clooney, B would be a large number, but for a fabulous nobody, like a new Big Brother contestant, B is zero;

P is the increment of fame above the base level, that establishes the individual firmly at the front of public consciousness.

The conceit of a formula works as an analysis framework for looking at how some celebs play the keepy-uppy game of bouncing their name in and out of the headlines.

If, as I did, you got a vicarious kick (and some new lessons in how the media works) out of Piers Morgan's The Insider The Fame Formula could make for a very good read indeed...