dean-piper

The Influence Room Podcast- Changing the dialogue: Dean Piper

Posted on Jan 21, 2020 5:03:41 PM

The world of journalism has changed dramatically over the years with the development of social media. Someone who has 15 years experience within this industry and has experienced this shift is Dean Piper, founder of Beak Communications.


Overview

After seeing his great uncle live a glamorous life out in LA, Dean always knew he wanted to do something in showbiz. Whilst working at a post production house, he realised he wanted to explore journalism so decided to complete a 20-week course. Whilst working a job at a local paper, he was also doing work experience at the Daily Mirror. When they realised his potential, he was offered a job there working beneath the watchful eye of Piers Morgan.  

Dean expresses his feelings towards showbiz and how social media has screwed the celebrity and PR world. He discusses how being a showbiz reporter isn’t as fun anymore and it’s hard to get an exclusive, as celebrities have the ability to answer for themselves on social media. He openly states how he would struggle to be a reporter now as it's not as fun. Before social media and camera phones, he used to be out late at parties getting the latest story and was the link to the showbiz gossip. He now no longer is shocked by someone getting an exclusive. 

With bigger ambitions in sight, he realised that he no longer wanted to be a journalist forever. He knew that if he went along stitching people up one after another, he wasn’t going to have any contacts or friends in the industry. As a result he decided to set up Beak Communications, which is a PR and management agency, in order to celebrate talent within the global entertainment agency.

Five quick takeaways:

    1. The way that PR is working is completely changing, and that's why the influencer market is expanding so fast because the brands are not bothering with magazines, as they would rather give it to influencers. 
    2. The only reason mental health is going so crazy is because we're all comparing our lives on social media every single day.
    3. The general public have started to want the authenticity of their influencers.
    4. The mummy bloggers seem to be coming through right now as the most interesting platform.
    5. Advice for someone that wants to get into the celebrity world is to have a job, have a talent and also have a game plan.

If you enjoyed this episode and don’t want to miss the rest of the series, you can follow The Influence Room Podcast on Spotify and Apple iTunes podcasts.


 

Full audio transcription

- Bronagh

Hello, and welcome to The Influence Room Podcast, the show that explores what influence means from different perspectives. This week our guest is Dean Piper. Dean is someone who's been across the talent industry evolution for the best part of 15 years. He started his showbiz journey making tea at the Mirror after an opportune moment came via a columnist at the time, Matthew Wright. Dean then became a part of the infamous 3AM crew reporting on some of the most weird and wonderful celebrity moments of the 90s. And was also Mr. Showbiz for titles such as Closer and the Entertainment Columnist for The Sunday Mirror.

I sat down with Dean to get an insight into how he believes the influence of showbiz journalism has changed in a social media obsessed world, and how he has managed to maintain his illustrious black book, post tabloid life, which I knew before we sat down was by being the good person that he is. On to the interview.

- Bronagh

Hello and welcome to The Influence Room Podcast. I am here with the fabulous Dean Piper.

- Dean Piper

Hello.

- Bronagh

How are you today?

- Dean Piper

I'm all right. Yeah, I'm good. I've just had a coffee, so I'm probably going to go off on tangents today.

- Bronagh

I'm the same. I got the ones from ... We're just recording around the corner from Kensington High Street at Entale HQ, and I always get my coffee from Leon and it's like rocket fuel. So I might be a bit…. But we just before we started recording there, we just were talking about the talent space, and Dean, I feel you've seen the evolution of talent through your job as a showbiz journalist, and now, running your own company that is very talent focused. But I'd love to just start with where you grew up? What your passions were? Just to get a little bit of a sense of who you were before the showbiz life.

- Dean Piper

Well, I grew up over in Hampton and my mum and dad lived in Hamworth, on the board of Feltham, Hampton and Hamworth. I swam a lot, I was very normal, I went to a normal school. I was always a diamond in the rough. I was able to do all of my exam work and be a bit of a boffin, but then I could go and smoke a doobie in the park after school, so it was a very good balance. I was just the right amount of naughty and just the right amount of nice, but a very normal upbringing.

- Dean Piper

And really early on, I wanted to do something to do with showbiz. My great-uncle lived in Los Angeles, and he was an actor, and he had this amazing glamorous life. He was in loads of big films, as well as MacGyver in the 80s and things like that.

- Bronagh

Amazing.

- Dean Piper

And that had a huge influence. So the minute that I could get myself anywhere near celebrities I did, and whether that was going to a party in the park and getting up close and personal with Steps to going down and meeting someone at HMV when they did all of their store things. I was obsessed in a weird way, and I was the Kylie and Jason generation, so we all love that Girl Next Door could become a really big pop star.

- Bronagh

And when did you realise that journalism would be a vehicle to that industry?

- Dean Piper

Do you know what? I didn't want to be a journalist, it was quite weird. I went and did B. Tech in media Richmond College. And I did it, I did really well with distinctions and all that jazz. But the thing was, it was all down to my journalism tutor, Sarah Onions, who-

- Bronagh

What a name.

- Dean Piper

Sarah Onions, I know. It's such a good one, isn't it? And she was a journalist in her spare time, and I really loved her class. But she tracked me down. I think I bumped into her randomly on the street and she said to me, "What are you doing?" And I was like, "Well, I'm working at a post production house just around the corner," and it was pretty crap. It was rubbish. They did all sorts of stuff, some low rent TV shows, Nell McAndrew's fitness video, and then they do some porn stuff on the side of and it was just so dodgy. But she said, I was getting paid like eight grand a year or something, having a nice life, but I wasn't really going anywhere.

- Dean Piper

And she persuaded me ... Well, she didn't actually persuade, she just dangled a carrot and said, "You should be doing journalism. You should have gone to uni." And I obviously said, "Well, I'm not going to uni because I'm not going to waste all that money, and I don't want to end up with a load of debt." So I did a 20-week course in journalism, and then went to a local paper. And that's when I went, okay, you can get really into the showbiz world here. You've got the tools.

- Bronagh

The press pass?

- Dean Piper

Yeah, exactly. And it was the most un-me job ever, to work at the Sutton Guardian and do Death knocks and go to court and try and learn shorthand. I failed all my lower exams. There was a lot of pressure when you're at a local paper and you're getting paid 12 grand a year to be a journalist, but I knew I wasn't going to be there for very long. And I stayed ... I think I was there about a year, and then went and made tea for the Daily Mirror and the 3am girls who just launched. It was all very exciting then.

- Bronagh

And where did you find out that there was this opening at the Mirror?

- Dean Piper

That wasn't an opening. Just rewinding, when I was at a post production house, the company next door ... this is quite a naughty story, actually.

- Bronagh

That's fine.

Dean Piper: Okay, cool. The company next door, they used to mass produce all of the music videos of the time and I was a huge Madonna fan, obviously. And I go over to this company next door, Vanderquest, and they go, "Dean, all right mate, here's the latest Madonna video," and I grabbed it and went, "Oh my God." It was long with Ali G, the music video.

- Bronagh

Oh!

- Dean Piper

It was an epic-

- Bronagh

Iconic.

- Dean Piper

It was an iconic moment. And obviously, I think I knew I wanted to get into some form of journalism by then. I rang up the Mirror and I spoke to Matthew Wright who was the columnist then, and I sold him the video.

- Bronagh

Oh, wow.

- Dean Piper

And I had a canary yellow Fiesta, which costs 1200 pounds to keep on the road a year with the insurance. And so, the 1500 pounds that I got from the Mirror for that video, which they then put fully across the page, they basically made a cartoon strip of the video in the paper, they were over the moon. I got the money. I was able to go out and drink slippery nipple shots for a couple of nights and treat all my friends. I did about four of those videos and it just turned into a really nice little thing where I could keep my car on the road, and I felt like I was helping Madonna get to number one, which may I add? She did. And then years later I obviously got to know Madonna's PR and I told her and said it was me. And she was like, "Oh my god." She was like, "We couldn't find the snitch. We didn't know where the videos were coming from." But that's how I got into it.

- Bronagh

That was your first perspective of what it's like to get an exclusive?

- Dean Piper

Yeah, completely. And I felt a complete buzz. The fact that something that I had done had got into the paper. Looking back it would have lost me my job, but following that, once I got to know Matthew a little bit, and he was quite inspiring on the phone, and I don't know whether it was just talk, but he was always quite good about saying, look, if you want to do that, then you can do that. It doesn't matter if you can write, you can get there in the end. So it was a little journey, and we had to go through the local paper, but eventually we got there.

- Bronagh

And so then you joined the Mirror, and did you start on a work experience?

- Dean Piper

I started because one of the 3am girls, Jessica Carlin went on holiday, and I literally went in and made tea and was there for two weeks. So I took two weeks holiday from the local paper. And then it was Pride of Britain awards, which had just been, and Kevin O'Sullivan and Piers Morgan was the editor. They were like, right, we're going to go to the Pride of Britain awards. And I was like, I had no idea. I just thought, okay cool I'll go with it and see how it was, wearing a really crappy suit and I managed to interview I think, Paul McCartney I got a quote from, David Beckham. I just went for all of the biggies.

- Dean Piper

And literally, after that, towards the end of the two weeks work experience Piers and Kevin came up to me and said, "Piper, we've got a job for you." And I said, "Oh, well, what do I do about my local paper? I failed all my exams." "Fuck the exam," said Piers, and I just went, and that was it. So I just quit and then I was in Canary Wharf. I was 20, nearly 21, working with Piers Morgan and his crazy team.

- Bronagh

But you've brushed over, "I went up to Paul McCartney, I went up to David Beckham." That takes a lot of guts, and I think that is often the first big hurdle as a young showbiz journalist, to just see an opportunity and go for it. Were you scared? Or we just kind of-

- Dean Piper

Not really. I was adamant that I wasn't going to stay at that local newspaper, and I didn't really see it as this huge industry, and I didn't think about it in that grand way. I'd met a few people. I actually worked in a fishmongers in Twickenham when I was very young, and I used to serve all the celebrities. Richard E. Grant was doing Spice World, the movie, I'd be serving him trout. There were all of these little bits of encounters with celebrities that everyone poos.

- Bronagh

We're all equal.

- Dean Piper

You just have to just get on with it.

- Bronagh

That's it. You put these people on a pedestal and quite often, that's the tension. Some celebrities see themselves as a higher par.

- Dean Piper

There's only a couple that I've ever freaked out with, and I think if you're going to get into this industry, you can't be one of those little queens that's going, “oh my god it's so and so”, because it's a vehicle. And once you're in the industry, I think you realise the machine that goes behind all these people.

- Bronagh

What is that machine like? For someone who's maybe listening and doesn't really know, what's the buzz around the showbiz desk? What is a typical day for a young showbiz reporter?

- Dean Piper

As a showbiz reporter nowadays, it's very different when I was there. I was in Chinawhite Nightclub till three in the morning and then at my desk at 9:30 the next day, and you had to have an entire list of what you got. We didn't have camera phones, there wasn't social media, there wasn't any of that stuff. So you were the link to getting the showbiz gossip. I think it'd be a real struggle nowadays to be a showbiz reporter purely because it's not as fun. There's not millions of parties, there's not hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of film premieres and the acts that come into London. They come in, do their pictures and do a junket and then they're out. When I was there, it was Leonardo “DiCaprio is going to Chinawhite”, “Courtney Love has just put knickers on your head in the loo”, and you're running around back, "Oh, my God Madonna is at San Lorenzo. Let's go." It was really exciting.

- Dean Piper

And I think now, we'll come back to this, I'm sure all the way through this podcast, but social media has screwed the celebrity world. And I feel it's screwing the PR world as well in a way because there's so much access to the celebs in question. They can answer themselves to their fans. And we were speaking before, but a celebrity interview, I can't really remember the last time that I was in an interview and went, “Oh wow, I can't believe they got that exclusive.”

- Bronagh

Well, that's how I feel, people are so media trend now. And maybe it is because we're living in a cancel culture age where any wrong move and someone is done. And so I think there's probably a lot of paranoia. But equally, it's like nothing's real anymore. Social media has this realness about it, but you can curate your own narrative now.

- Dean Piper

I think that's the thing. I don't even know whether it's media training because look at Adele, Beyonce, all of these huge stars, even people like Sam Smith nowadays, they do very little press. There's probably three or four covers to launch an album. People like Ed Sheeran, it has no press. He just does a bit of radio, maybe a podcast. It's a very different climate I think right now.

- Bronagh

I want us keeping in chronological order, and this podcast is all about influence from different perspectives. What influence do you think The Mirror played at that time? Were you getting more access than other people? Who were your competitors?

- Dean Piper

It was very much you were either Team Sun or Team Mirror, and in those days where the news of the world are in the Sunday Mirror. You were either one camp or the other. 3am Girls were so bitchy. The stuff that we used to write was extraordinary. I think we did the top 1000 ... Was it 1000? No, it was a 1000. The 1000 most hated people in Britain, so for 1000 days, we just rinse someone every single day, and it was really bad. Looking back on it, I'm like ... And then The Sun was always a lot more PR friendly. They'd do what people wanted, and they'd have the biggest stars, really.

- Dean Piper

One of us was the gossip and I quickly found that it was a lot more exhausting being at The Mirror. But if you were at a nightclub, and there was a celebrity in front of you, and it got to a 2am, The Sun would be set on one side and you'd be set on the other and you'd just evil each other out. Who's going to go first?

- Bronagh

Who going to leave?

- Dean Piper

Who's going to go first? And we were all looking at the celebrity. I remember there was one night with Puff Daddy, and he just would not leave. It was like four in the morning and I was looking and going, "Oh, God." I was like, "I've got to stay." And eventually I think I got out of there at 5:30 and just went home just completely out of it. I was so tired because you can't get wrecked. It's not like a night out.

- Bronagh

No.

- Dean Piper

And in those days you had a Nokia. Was it 8210? And you had to text your editor the quotes.

- Bronagh

In a certain amount of words.

- Dean Piper

Yeah, and we had copy takers as well, and I didn't know what I was doing. I was so young, so I'd end up ... I got sent to review Kylie concert at one time. And then I had to review the concert via copy takers and they're like imagine you can imagine them with a fag on the go and a big beehive. "What's your copy? Where's it going?" And then you'd go, you need to hear them typing it. And then they'd go, "Is that it then?" But it felt primitive.

- Bronagh

But do you look back on that time fondly?

- Dean Piper

Yeah, I can look back on it now fondly. Tensions ran very high when we were on 3am. A lot of people drank too much, a lot of people went out too much. We were all just permanently tired. And when I did leave 3am, I had a bit of a ... I don't know, I think I spent two days in bed with the curtains shut because I was just exhausted.

- Bronagh

How did you maintain relationships? Because I think that's always the hardest thing for a journalist, particularly a showbiz journalist. Their objective is to get the story, and the story isn't always going to be favourable to the subject. And I see you as someone who has maintained really good relationships.

- Dean Piper

Oh, do you?

- Bronagh

I do.

- Dean Piper

Good.

- Bronagh

Everyone that I ask about Dean Piper, oh, lovely man.

- Dean Piper

Oh God!

- Bronagh

And that is hard because you're not always going to pander to people.

- Dean Piper

No, not at all. I really ended up tightrope walking because that's what you have to do. You can't go up to a celebrity at three in the morning, have a chat with them, and then turn them over the next day. It just wasn't what I wanted to do. I made a couple of mistakes. There were two, I think there were two. Emma Bunton was one, and I now know her really well. And I've really apologised about it, but I spoke to her really late on and we were both really drunk. I remember she always smoked Benson & Hedges, those gold cigarettes. She was coming home stinking of cigarettes, and I turned her over very early on with the paper. It went on the front page and she'd said stuff about the Spice Girls after they'd split. The paper was really happy. Gosh, she was so upset about the whole thing.

- Dean Piper

And I completely realised really quickly that I didn't want to be a journalist forever, I had bigger ambitions. And if you went along just stitching up people one after the other, you just weren't going to have any contacts. And also, the industry was just going to be really quite soulless because you would go into these events and you'd needed people to go, “hi, how are you?” And just hang out with them, and people become your friends.

-Bronagh

And everything you do is for the greater good of the paper. And sometimes as an individual, it's how do you navigate that moral compass where you're like, I can't do this, and then you've got a boss who's who says, we need to sell papers. Because that's always the hardest line to cross.

- Dean Piper

It was really difficult and I think because I did papers then I went to Closer Magazine. I did a little interlude at Loaded Magazine, which was really fun, but pointless. And then Closer was five years. And then right at the end of my tabloid stuff, I went to The Sunday Mirror and it was quite weird because I never thought that I'd go back to that building, and the climate had just changed tenfold. By that point, I knew everyone and now it was the years of doing really wanky pictures of [inaudible 00:18:03] people, which was really fun. And I liked the idea that you were hanging out with the celebs a bit more, and it was very PR friendly. But the last year I went a bit nuts because I'd crossed the line with so many people.

- Dean Piper

Some of my friends were getting married and I was going to their weddings and taking time off from work and then the editor was calling in. "You're not in Marrakech, are you?" And I'd say, no. And then you realise that you're on Instagram checking in at your lovely, glamorous hotel. It had just became too much. And I think you could go down one route or the other. I don't want to be a Piers Morgan and I'm not going to. There's too many opinions, and I think there's a real negative slant with what some showbiz journalists have done. But the good guys from the old days, like the Gordon Smarts and the people that we all grew up with, Jessica Carlin, Suzanne Cairns, our morals were intact.

- Bronagh

And I feel like there was a shift towards it being people would know The Sun or The Mirror. When did you feel a shift towards this celebrity journalist? Because I guess that is the way it's had to move forward. People build relationships directly with people rather than the institutions that they work for.

- Dean Piper

Well, as in freelancers?

- Bronagh

Well, I guess my perspective is that internally I imagine some papers were like, you need to get your name out there. People need to trust you over the paper.

- Dean Piper

Yeah, I think it definitely changed but I feel towards the end because the sales are going down so vastly. The Sun is so much stronger than everybody else. There's no denying that, so it has got to a position now where I just don't think The Mirror and the rest of the people are really doing showbiz well enough. I feel The Sun have really got this, they've very quickly realised that it's not just about print. You've got to look at your online, look at the mail online. It's completely changed the way that showbiz news is sucked in. And social media as well has really dented it, but I think you've got to think outside the box. You've got to think about the video content, the live stuff that you do, the access that you get to people. And I think celebrities as well have realised that they can do things that are not going to be as pressing.

- Dean Piper

In the old days, we'd sit down with Simon Cowell every time X Factor came on. And he'd have a good interview, but it's the same old stuff. It just happens every single time. Whereas now you could think outside the box and try and get something better.

- Bronagh

And then to touch on the evolution of the celebrity because I feel like you mentioned earlier on about Courtney Love and Leonardo DiCaprio, big A-list movie stars and musicians, I find it really interesting watching the Jade Goody documentary recently. Did you watch that?

- Dean Piper

Yeah.

- Bronagh

And that did hone in on this shift in people who were famous because Big Brother really changed how someone could become famous and really become famous for not having a talent.

-Dean Piper

Yes.

- Bronagh

And just tell me, what your perspective was at that time.

- Dean Piper

When everything started to change I was at Closer, so I dealt with Jade all the time. We had Colleen Rooney doing a column. There was Chantelle Houghton or Helton, whatever her name is, and there were a lot of celebs that are breaking through, but the talent just disappeared. Big Brother was great in one way because we all wanted to absorb this nothingness, didn't we? And it was escapism, and it was brilliant. But I feel like during the Closer years, we were watching the breakdown of Amy Winehouse. We were watching all of these huge stories. Britney Spears was another one when she started shaving her head, and there was so much going on. And there was such a big cry for these celebs that knew what they were doing, but some of them couldn't cope.

- Dean Piper

Jade, bless her heart, she knew what the game was. Her mum knew what the game was. They made a lot of money, and it was the machine, but she didn't really complain. There were a couple of times when it got dicey with the whole racism row and everything like that. But overall, I think watching somebody get cervical cancer and then die was a real ...God.

- Bronagh

Massive tragedy.

- Dean Piper

Yeah, massive tragedy. And also, a real lesson for the industry because this was fodder. There was a time when I was working at Closer and they would let ... Do you remember when all the celebs got really skinny?

- Bronagh

Yes.

- Dean Piper

Really skinny?

- Bronagh

Yeah, Lindsay Lohan.

- Dean Piper

It was Nicole Richie, Tori Spelling and Keira Knightley. And I was really hung over and came in and just I have glasses on in the conference, and I was just like bones are back, and just put my glasses on the thing. The editor went, "Bones are back, great cover line."

- Bronagh

Oh, God.

- Dean Piper

It sold 750,000 copies that week, and that was because I was hung over and I put my hangover two pence in, but that's where it was. The other juxtaposition that you've got to think about is, people wanted to read this, they really wanted it. They wanted a negative slant, they wanted the drama, they wanted the plastic surgery, the weight loss, the nakedness. It was a very weird time for a celebrity. And now, I feel like we're only just starting to look back maybe because mental health is finally being talked about. But if you want to go really deep the only reason mental health is going so crazy is because we're all comparing our lives on social media every single day. It's a massive round about and we're just going around in circles now.

- Bronagh

Well, that's it. It's almost like the worst needs to happen, and then-

- Dean Piper

But it has happened.

- Bronagh

Yeah.

- Dean Piper

There are so many people that have died or have had breakdowns from what has gone on in the media, and it's quite weird. You know we both know so many people in showbiz. And I feel like there is a certain amount of work that journalists, especially showbiz journalists, need to do to start changing that. Yesterday, this Gemma Collins thing, did you see this thing?

- Bronagh

No, tell me what.

- Dean Piper

She Facetuned herself as she supposedly has lost loads of weight. Mail Online have done it and they've gone, look at her amazing face. She looks like a Barbie doll. She's faced up to herself to a new dimension. We shouldn't be doing that, we shouldn't be making that a story.

- Bronagh

Or glorifying it?

- Dean Piper

No, and it's number two. It's right up there on the Mail Online, and it's not moving because everyone's fascinated with it, because she's a big girl and she's losing weight. But this isn't a good image to be putting out to kids. And then there's a bigger picture and you're going, what are these kids growing up wanting to be?

- Bronagh

I had this conversation a few weeks ago with a talent manager who used to work at a model agency, and she talked about it from the fashion world's perspective. She said, whose responsibility is this? Is it the journalists who are writing about them and creating the editorial? Is it the beauty companies that are putting certain ads that have a particular type of look? Is it social media platforms because ... Who’s responsibility is it to get away from this negativity and making people feel bad about themselves? Because I guess social media has definitely helped. It's given a lot of people a voice. It's ...

- Dean Piper

It has, but have you been on Twitter lately?

- Bronagh

Not really.

- Dean Piper

It's the most septic, negative place I think I've ever been on. It's not a nice place to be. It's a good place to be if you're in politics or if you're a proper political journalist. But the reality is, social media has got to just ... I don't know. I don't know where it's going, but-

- Bronagh

I know. At the minute, I try to use it for a purpose. And sometimes I even find myself, why am I posting this? Who am I doing it for?

- Dean Piper

It's like if you were to have kids tomorrow, in four years time what would your social media stance be? I wouldn't let them near it.

- Bronagh

Or at least make it all private.

- Dean Piper

Yeah, but it's just as bad because then it's always the little girls or boys. They're all in their little group and it's cliquey. Maybe things are going to turn around, maybe we're all going to get a little bit more about the whole scenario and climb trees and let our kids enjoy their little lives.

- Bronagh

Breathe in the green air.

- Dean Piper

Yeah, exactly.

- Bronagh

Can I get your perspective then on the influencer bubble, if you will?

- Dean Piper

Yeah.

- Bronagh

The bubble has burst, the influencer industry is massive. Well, people were making a shit ton of money. Now, it's a bit more spread thinly, but what's your perspective of people who have built their social media followings and have got instafame?

- Dean Piper

I'll give you two examples of who I've worked with. I work with Madeleine Shaw when she broke and it was her first book, and I felt like she was part of that initial wave of the healthy vegetarian vegan cooks. And it was really interesting working with her because before I got the job, I was like, oh my god she's this amazing person. She's doing this, and then you meet them. Not that she's not amazing. She's a lovely girl, but you're like, oh my god, these are just people that are just cooking and going, here's the one I made earlier.

- Dean Piper

The influencer market is a bizarre place. What's really interesting is that I feel like the general public have started to want the authenticity of their influencers, and anybody could just go, oh, right. They could buy 50,000 followers, try get a blue tick and then they think that they've got everything. But I feel like right now, there's a wave towards the people that get good engagement, the people that aren't just posting a load of crap all the time, the people that aren't doing paid posts all the time.

- Dean Piper

The mummy bloggers seem to be coming through right now as the most interesting platform. They seem to be making the most out of their money. But then I looked after Montana Brown from Love Island, which was so not me because I've never watched Love Island and I think it's disgusting. But she quickly amassed 1.4 million followers and got paid a six figure sum to do a clothing range with this American brand. And I was just like, what is wrong with the world? I just don't get it. Montana is lovely. She's 23, she's really hungry for everything, but she doesn't know what she wants to do.

- Dean Piper

There's a lot of people that are becoming influencers with no game plan. There's talent, but there's not loads of talent. And as far as the PRs and the agents and the managers, they're having to really work their ass off to trying to get them down the right channel. Madeleine was amazing. She believed every single lento in her book. She knew what she was doing, all of those girls, Deliciously Ella, blah, blah, blah. But then you got to look at Deliciously Ella, she then cashed in and did her sugar bundles that would just go out. She made millions off of it. It's really confusing.

- Bronagh

It is. Talent is always the scarce resource, and I think you have to take it for what it is. There's money out there that brands need to spend, and they're not getting their advertising in the same way they were five years ago.

- Dean Piper

I think that's the thing about press and PR. Now I'm doing PR and the thing that I've really noticed is that the brands that I've worked with, if we're doing print press and I'm like, ‘Okay cool we got an amazing mention in so and so magazine’, it does bugger all. But then if I get it on to Millie Mackintosh's Instagram, I get loads of sales. The way that PR is working is completely changing, and that's why the influencer market is expanding so fast because the brands that I'm going to, they're like, “Well actually, let's just not bother with that magazine. Let's just give four influencers this.”

- Dean Piper

Burberry is a really good example as well. A huge fashion house, very high end. Well, I was having a conversation with them a couple of years ago about London Fashion Week. And they turned around and said, "Well, actually, instead of flying out all of the editors to go on the front row," they flew out four Asian influencers. They were kids. Dressed them in Burberry, put them on the front row next to Anna Wintour and they got more sales and more buzz from these four influencers. They flew them first class, put them in hotels, gave them the entire this, that and the other.

- Dean Piper

The brands are having to think so differently to what they were even two years ago. So what I'm thinking about next is though, what's the job of the PR?

- Bronagh

Where's the gap?

- Dean Piper

And how quick is it going to move? What are we going to be doing in a year's time? All of these titles like InStyle, Mary Claire, I'm sure Elle will be next, they're all closing. And then they've got 24 year-old online reporters that you're going to, and you're like, oh my God, they've got everybody emailing. You can't get anything in. And you're like ...

- Bronagh

That must be so sad for someone who has-

- Dean Piper

It's really sad because I loved being a journalist, but I left journalism because there were six journalists that were doing the job and then there wasn't enough work. A good friend, Kate Spicer, she put a thing on Facebook last night just saying, I had this brand and I was going to do this and the PR company, one had written permission that their outlet was going to cover it before Kate did the article. And I was like, my God, you can't do that. It's like these kids that are getting into journalism, especially they're not realising how it should work.

- Bronagh

I think it's just everything has become devalued, every industry is going through it. TV industry, people they want to full series now. That series might take two years to make and then someone watches it in an afternoon.

- Dean Piper

But how many times have you put on Netflix in the last year and just gone, that was a bit shit? I thought it was going to be really good. There's no quality control to what's going on. It's moving so quick. What we really need to do is slow down things. It's not really going to happen. It's just this tidal wave that's just going on. The best thing is that the influencer market is thriving. It really is.

- Bronagh

But-

- Dean Piper

But the-

- Bronagh

... longevity is an issue.

- Dean Piper

This is exactly it. You don't know.

- Bronagh

Because it's moving so fast that you just wonder how can we keep up this rate, especially with all the issues of environmentalism? Brands can't keep bringing out new, new. We need to value the things that we have, and how can brands be a part of that story and almost embrace it, and maybe invest their money in social enterprise projects and do something that's actually good for the world?

- Dean Piper

Arizona Muse, this model, I've been working with My Wardrobe HQ, and they're like a rental, sustainable fashion platform. And Arizona is brilliant because she's on every billboard. You might not necessarily know her name, but she's their top model.

- Bronagh

I know her.

- Dean Piper

She's like a cat.

- Bronagh

I saw her in an event once and I was just like, oh my God.

- Dean Piper

I know she's unreal.

- Bronagh

A symmetrical face.

- Dean Piper

I know, she's so good. We've just done the cover of Grazia.

- Bronagh

Oh great.

- Dean Piper

She's amazing. It comes out next week. Anyway, she is a proper sustainable activist and she knows everything there is. She's now been going into brands like Tommy Hilfiger, and even H&M and all the high street stuff, just to make adjustments with them on sustainability. And just hearing someone like that, that's actually got that in mind, and the fact that you can make such a massive change, fashion especially is just so chuck away. I was really disappointed that someone that I know, Cara, did this range with Nasty Gal.

- Bronagh

I knew you were going to say it.

- Dean Piper

Well, everyone knows, it's boring. But this throwaway fashion is such bullshit. And that you know there's loads of money in it and you look at America. Jessica Simpson's made ... Was it a billion? She's grossed.

- Bronagh

Yeah, she's arranged a target or something.

- Dean Piper

Her range, she's pulled in a billion dollars. It's just really cheap, really unsustainable clothing that's gone across America. And it's sad because you're looking at fashion designers who are struggling. Mathew Williamson, he does interiors now. You've got all of these ones that are constantly not doing shows anymore because they can't afford to because everyone's just buying the rip-off of what they do so brilliantly.

- Bronagh

And chucking it in the bin and then getting something else.

- Dean Piper

For 20 dollars, for 20 quid, and then getting rid of it.

- Bronagh

Dean, tell me a little bit about what you're doing now because you've just touched on a few of your clients. But tell me, this is Beak Comms?

- Dean Piper

Yeah, Beak Comms. For the last five years my main client has been Body Camp, which is in Ibiza, in Mallorca, and I've approached that completely from the influencer point of view, and had a lot of celebs that I know and people come out to stay and worked off of the basis of social media, as well as doing a lot of press. And that's been really good because I've worked with the brand since the beginning and they're expanding next year, and it's going to be bigger as well, which is great. And then I've got a few other small brands, Amanda Harrington London tanning, and then My Wardrobe HQ.

- Dean Piper

Then I've got some celebs. There's Kirsty Gallacher, Sarah-Jane Mee from Sky, Natalie Pinkham, Gethin Jones. I've done people like Mel C and Tamara Ecclestone and then a few other people along the way, so it's good. It can be slightly unfulfilling though just because in PR now, you're really just introducing people and just going, take a look at this, maybe you'd like to do that.

- Bronagh

But that's years and years worth of investment of your contacts?

- Dean Piper

Yeah.

- Bronagh

I think you can't devalue that. You've got to 15 years building this up.

- Dean Piper

I wouldn't be able to do what I'm doing now, if I hadn't been in Chinawhite till 5am for over three years, so I'm very happy about the fact that all of those years of wearing myself out.

- Bronagh

And how do you find running your own business?

- Dean Piper

It's fine. I'm quite small, I've got no overheads. I've got one assistant that comes two days a week, and I don't really want to expand massively. A lot of those big PR companies that work with the brands, they take your client on, they charge you about three times what I would, they give it to a junior who's 22 and then they expect the press to come and then they end up leaving. Numerous people have come to me and gone, I spent 28 grand on PR for six months with this company that I got four bits of online press. So could I come to you? And then I go cool, and then we do it in two months. It's shocking how little some PR firms are doing, and I think that's something that really needs to be addressed.

- Bronagh

Changed up.

- Dean Piper

Yeah, big time.

- Bronagh

Also, I really want to talk about ... I know we've been shitting on Instagram a little bit, but you're growing more of a following because of this archive of amazing imagery that you have saved up over the years. You call it WTF Wednesdays?

- Dean Piper

Yeah.

- Bronagh

How did this come about?

- Dean Piper

It was a funny take on the fact that everyone does TBT and it's all really “wanky”. It's just so, “Look at me I’m on a sunbed and I’m doing this”. And I just went actually, I've got so many ridiculous stories, and I've got loads of stupid pictures because I did pose with everyone in the old days. And I had really bad hair and I used to wear really bad jewellery and I used to have glasses before I got my eyes lasered. So there's a big vault of pictures, which I just started to want to release because I think everything was just getting a bit serious.

- Dean Piper

And so many people are talking about the fact that everything's so groomed and perfect in the influencer market. I don't think you need to be that groomed. The whole point about Body Camp in particular that it connected so well was that it was really real. It was real people doing fancy dress, doing their workouts. There's people like Celeste Barber that I just love seeing because she takes such a good look at what it's all about. And that was my way of just going, cool, I did do a picture with, I don't know, Whitney Houston, and here's the story behind it and I had big floppy hair.

- Bronagh

That's it, and I think people really yearned for that, really yearn for the past when-

- Dean Piper

And I do want to. I have been working on a book. I'm working on some writing and I wanted to just flashback. I don't want to forget it all as well because it really was the showbiz world in 2001, 2002 onwards. It was a real laugh.

- Bronagh

And it reinforces why you got into it, and that's something that can never be taken away from you.

- Dean Piper

It was glamor and people had a job. The thing that I worry about most with the industry now is when they go to get their passport despite being on Love Island, what is their job when it says what do you do? Well, you can't just put I went on Love Island.

- Bronagh

A reality TV contestant.

- Dean Piper

Don’t be a knob. Have a career.

- Bronagh

Or have a purpose.

- Dean Piper

Yeah, I think there's got to be something bigger and I feel there are people like Mike committing suicide recently. There are so many people that are not coping with it all because going on a show like that and not having a plan and not having any thoughts on what you want to do, I think it's really dangerous.

- Bronagh

And you said it yourself, going to those events it can seem glamorous, but-

- Dean Piper

Oh, it's soul destroying.

- Bronagh

Yeah, and it can be such a lonely place. You're not really having valuable conversations with people. It's all very much you're being seen, you're getting your picture taken, and then you go back home when you're a bit like, oh, everyone's gone now.

- Dean Piper

It does make me laugh. I was thinking the other day just going back to when I was a journalist in 2001, there were people like Vanessa Felts there with Ben and who I love, I love them. I think they're brilliant, but they're still going to red carpets all the time, and I just go, ‘Oh my God how are they still doing that?’

- Bronagh

They just absolutely love it.

- Dean Piper

They just love it, don't they?

- Bronagh

Do you go to many events anymore?

- Dean Piper

I go to a few, but I put on a few events now and again. I tend to do more like that. If someone like Poppy or one of the guys goes ... I was in Cannes a few years ago and she was like, “Do you want to come to Robbie Williams? It's a shop ad thing”, and we went and we were front-

- Bronagh

Amazing.

- Dean Piper

.. watching Robbie Williams. Those are the things I'm going to go to now. We're not just going down to The Ned Bar for a drink.

- Bronagh

And I want to round it off in a positive way because I feel like-

- Dean Piper

Have I been negative?

- Bronagh

No.

- Dean Piper

Oh God.

- Bronagh

But I think we're in a really weird time and there are lots of documentaries coming now where all of this stuff is coming to the fore, and we have to make a change. And I do think there's more people doing positive things, so on that note, who in the industry, I'd say in the talent industry do you think has really shone the whole way through and has kept that integrity, and that you still look at as they are a superstar?

- Dean Piper

Oh God. There's two people but Melanie C, because working with her and getting to know her, after years of kind of knowing her as a journalist, I think I've realized that there's so much integrity in what she's done. When we worked together, she didn't want to be in the Spice Girls. We spoke at length about talent and about the celebrity world. She's not in for that, she's in to be a star and to be on stage. And I feel like the way that she handles herself online. She's not online a lot. She doesn't like social media. I feel like that's she's got a lot of integrity. So I have a lot of respect for her.

- Bronagh

And she's coped really well, if you think of like-

Dean Piper: She's coped really well, considering she didn't cope very well. We both said to each other, if social media had been around when the Spice Girls first broke, goodness me, she probably wouldn't have coped. 

- Bronagh

Yeah. Well, look at Jesy Nelson, her documentary and-

- Dean Piper

Exactly. And it's good that people like Jesy are talking about that, and making it an issue and a conversation. And the second person is such an obvious one, but Emma Willis. She's just a good person. What you see on the telly is what you see in real life, and I feel like even she was very reluctant to do things like the next clothing range and to do all of these endorsements, stuff that she does, she doesn't do many. But I feel that way that she's connected with her fans, she took time out from ... She could have been doing every single Saturday night thing. She took time out and went, actually I want to be a midwife and I want to raise the discussion about what's going on in hospitals.

- Dean Piper

She went for three months, she barely saw her kids and she was on the front line delivering babies. She's always been a really good egg, but goodness me, just chatting to her about that and just seeing the way that she's always got a moment and she's got such a good heart. And also knowing her a bit personally and seeing her with her kids and she's one of life's true treasures.

- Bronagh

Well, she seems just like a good egg, good tool.

- Dean Piper

She's the best.

- Bronagh

And what would be your piece of advice for anyone that's maybe wanting to get into show biz, maybe journalism? I know that kind of journalism is changing and so there's not...

- Dean Piper

To go on and say it's journalism? I'm not sure. It's definitely not the same as what it was when we were there, being able to go out and enjoy and get into trouble and enjoy every aspect of it. But I think if there's advice for someone that wants to get into the celebrity world, as a celebrity, then have a job, have a talent, and also have a game plan. One thing that I always got annoyed about with Montana or frustrated about not annoyed, was she's got this massive audience and she's got a lot of sway and a lot of influence when it comes to youngsters, and we work really hard to work out where to channel that. Have a charity in mind, have a brilliant cause. Don't just go down to red carpets with your knickers round your ankles. It's not about the buzz and the lights and the red carpet. It's about influence, and that's a big word.

- Bronagh

In a positive way.

- Dean Piper

Yeah, this isn't about a product. This is about your position and using your power wisely.

- Bronagh

And then also just to wrap up, for anyone that maybe doesn't follow you ... Or do you want people to follow? Because I think your page is like...

- Dean Piper

Yeah I think they should follow me.

- Bronagh

It's a bundle of joy. I love your posts. It's such a breath of fresh air on the nostalgia.

- Dean Piper

I've got some more left actually. I've got lots left. But yeah, from-

- Bronagh

I know you've got lots left. I don't want them to run out.

- Dean Piper

No, I've got lots and I've got lots of stories as well, so I'm trying to put the story behind the picture in there as well. But Dean Piper is alive, that's where I am on Instagram.

- Bronagh

Wonderful. Well, thank you so much, Dean.

- Dean Piper

Thanks for having me.

- Bronagh

This has been great.

- Bronagh

Thank you so much for listening to The Influence Room Podcast. If you want to learn more about the site, you can follow us on Instagram at The Influence Room, and check out our website and become a member if you're not already. We are really excited to hear about what you're doing, what you're passionate about, the stories you want and become part of the culture economy.

 

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