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“Absolutely Fabulous!” Fashion PR’s first family

There can't be many family businesses whose office dog has appeared in a fashion shoot on the pages of Glamour magazine. Or where the office manager is the founding family's re-trained childhood nanny.

Neville McCarthy Associates' current and former client list encompasses the worlds of lifestyle, luxury, beauty, wellbeing and food and drink.

Current and past clients span the gamut from Salvatore Ferragamo to Ralph Lauren, Cartier, Gucci, Donna Karan, Theo Fennell and Loro Piana to Diageo, Buccellati, William & Son, Vertu, The Intercontinental Hotel – London, Steinway Lyngdorf, Ponds and House of Fraser.  

Recent events dreamed up by Neville McCarthy Associates have included bringing together the world's top 10 bartenders for a two day Martini workshop at Mayfair's Browns Hotel, clay pigeon shooting from a luxury barge while riding along the Thames, followed by an intimate dinner at Hampton Court for international press and co-ordinating a press trip to the Tre Golfi Regatta in Capri and the Piazza di Siena equestrian trials, all sponsored by luxury clothing brand Loro Piana.

Caroline Neville has always been aware of the might of the press. Having started her career as a journalist in the early 1960s aged 20, Caroline took on a job at Woman's Own magazine. She thought she'd be writing a column but on her first day she was asked to clear out a cupboard.

After refusing, she was fired. A year later, she had set up her own agency, with her first client paying her a handsome retainer of £1 a month.

When the journalist Ann Leslie profiled her in a Daily Express newspaper feature on successful people to watch in the 1960s, Neville's business trebled overnight.

"I really felt the power of the press. The world of PR was so new, there were no rules at that time and we were one of the very first," remembers Caroline.

When Caroline organised a fashion shoot with Patti Boyd, she wasn't to know the following day the model would announce her engagement to Beatle George Harrison.

But only too aware of the value of these now priceless photos in her client's clothes, she put in calls to every national newspaper, securing unprecedented coverage for her fashion client.

"Everyone thought I was a bloody genius. But I was lucky and I knew the value of the celebrity endorsement those photos offered and I grabbed the opportunity," remembers Caroline.

Today, Neville McCarthy Associates continues to tap into the press's power daily. When Cosmetic Executive Women, the international beauty trade organisation of which Caroline McCarthy is now UK president, last announced its annual best beauty products in the Daily Mail's You magazine, sales of Ponds cold cream soared 350% in a week.

The company is still very much a family affair. Caroline's husband Maurice who started his career as a printer on Fleet Street now runs the finances. Her son Dominic joined after working on Vogue and GQ magazines and as marketing manager at Harrods, while daughter Louisa, a former stage actress who appeared numerous times in the West End production of Annie, joined as account manager last year.

"There is a real family feeling in our open planned office. I bring my dog Nero into work every day. He keeps everyone on a high. He's even appeared in an accessories shoot in Glamour this month. Our nanny who's known me since I was two is today our office manager," says Louisa.

Press coverage is calculated by how many mentions a brand secures in which publications, how many key messages are communicated, the size of images, how many people saw it and the cost of space or air time multiplied by three.

"If you think of the luxury goods market, many of the brands were founded by families – Gucci, Ferragamo even DeBeers, so family values run deep within the sector. Even Ralph Lauren now has a son in the business.

At the moment we work for three family businesses – Buccellati, Loro Piana and William & Son. Companies feel comfortable knowing we have the same corporate sensibility and values," says managing director Dominic.

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