Posts Tagged ‘prince harry’

Harry: Prince of Propaganda

Prince Harry is the ultimate recruitment poster boy for the Call of Duty generation. As a soldier Prince, he is in his element: today’s media is plastered with pictures of him in subtle battle dress, poses framed by an apache helicopter gunship, underlining his sense of purpose and presenting him in hero-like dimensions.

From Las Vegas to Camp Bastion, Harry’s headlines – both good and bad – build a modern heroic monomyth around him. He may be a professional soldier – but am I alone in preferring to read about his rock ‘n’ roll hedonism rather than this latest “I killed in Afghanistan” meme?

Hadley Freeman made an apt caricature of Harry’s media appearance in the Guardian, comparing them to “an especially sloaney university’s production of Top Gun (it’s the sunglasses)” and bringing attention to the media “omerta” that surrounds him.

Despite spending a considerable amount of money keeping Harry physically safe, the investment seems to be missing when protecting his image during his end-of-tour media commitment. Arguably, his complacent PR minders dropped their guard. However, some of these soundbites are already having negative resonance in the region he works hard to improve.

Harry uses the language of the squaddie in his interviews, comparing his experience to that of a computer game. Such comments have angered senior officials who have said it is disrespectful to those who died alongside Captain Wales.

Criticising the media was another own-goal – by now the prince should know better and should rise above the clichéd clamour. Harry is popular with the crowd, so why does he allow his cynicism towards the Third Estate create future tensions?

Harry’s comments have been a media failing for the military, diplomacy and his supporters here in the UK. As Rob Crilly pointed out in his recent Telegraph article, the fight against insurgents will be “as much about PR salvoes as it is about rockets and bullets”. Flippant comments have handed extremists a propaganda prize that will have a far more enduring sting than the inconvenience of the media junket.

Prince Harry Delivers

Back in August Mark predicted Prince Harry’s overexposure in Vegas would result in a significant tourism boom for Sin City, writing in his blog:

‘(Prince Harry’s) party machine  focused exceptional  attention on Las Vegas this week. It’s now enjoying  astonishing and unprecedented Royal endorsement, the kind of patronage money can’t buy… Without spending a cent, the casino owners will cash in on a massive jackpot; a payout of undreamt fortunes.’

This morning the papers report that the naked pictures of the Prince have resulted in a $23 million boost to the city. Proof- if ever it were needed- that sometimes all good PR requires is a little bit of cheek.

Prince Harry’s Magic PR Touch

The success of Innocent and Red Bull beverage brands inspired a slew of wannabe drink entrepreneurs ten years ago . Many of the hopefuls wandered  through my doors looking for PR.  One afternoon, two well healed young men stepped into my office bristling with an array of technicolour bottles, full of herbal fizz. A turbo charged mixture  they believed would make them very, very rich. I sat with them interrogating their back story, probing  for a hook which I could hang a campaign on. I believe great launch campaigns stem from the interrogation of a simple core truth, which can be expressed clearly to an audience. It’s not uncommon to unearth a story which the prospective client hasn’t realised is the killer app to create brand infamy.

On this particular occasion I struck gold. One of the guys spilled the beans. He was  a personal friend of Prince Harry. It took a further twenty minutes to excavate the real treasure,  the herbal tonic was adored by the Royal rat pack. However,  the client refused to believe there was any value in an endorsement from a party loving Prince, who favoured  the elixir  as a hangover cure. This dispatched the drink to the ideas junk yard in the sky. It was to be one of many, ultimately  crushed by the global drinks clients.

I guess the Las Vegas casino and tourist businesses have the opposite view of the Lad Prince. His party machine  focused exceptional  attention on Las Vegas this week. It’s now enjoying  astonishing and unprecedented Royal endorsement, the kind of patronage money can’t buy. Perhaps another way to view this week’s  rumpus is to call it a  staggering  PR coup – a global publicity campaign for the mischievous  joys of sin city. Elvis, Siegfried and Roy, Cirque du  Soliel  are so yesterday.  Overnight in every corner of the globe, young lads and women will be saving their cash to head for the shallow pool parties offered by the casinos to emulate the antics.  Without spending a cent, the casino owners will cash in on a massive jackpot; a payout of undreamt fortunes. I can imagine the “Visit Las Vegas” bureau chiefs high fiving one another the length of the strip, reminiscent of the smart casino PR folk of the 1960s who knew a trick or two about spinning the misfortune of celebrities on the lash in Vegas.

So, what lessons can we learn from the soap opera?  Two low res grainy camera phone images captured the fun and vitality of the party spirit of Sin City.  A simple visual metaphor empowering an enthralling narrative. It possessed the triggers and amplifiers to generate a PR story, making it  shareable, and captivating.  It was funny, sexy, shocking, spectacular, illuminating, with a touch of  schadenfreude. I preach about  the Now! Economy, in a world in which nothing is certain, and everything is up for grabs. The Now Economy!  is defined by speed, co-ownership, engagement, subjective truths polarity, celebrity and story. Communications in the Now! Economy will come to be defined by terms and tactics conventionally thought of as the domain of PR, because it is only through stories- stories that enrapture and over-ride the sceptical modern mindset- that the public can truly be excited and inspired. Harry’s tale contained all the drivers required to produce a perfect PR storm.

I expect the Prince and his minders to be more aware in the future. Lightening rarely strikes twice. But I suspect he’ll be welcomed with open arms to party in a variety of resorts across the globe. I estimated the value of the publicity generated by the Harry tale to be the region of the same return as the opening of a Hollywood blockbuster. Consider the value to the tax payer if his fun loving troupe was payed a fee to move the three ring circus into a country  in need of a boost.

How about Blackpool? If the hoteliers could only build a party venue big enough for the Prince to misbehave, who knows, the fortunes of the seaside town might be rejuvenated overnight.

Sir, don’t fly off to Afghanistan, spread your mirth, laughter and outrageous antics to destinations in need of a PR boost.

Of Harry, Usain and an Amazing PR Turnaround

Today’s prince Hazza/Usain Bolt story is remarkable in demonstrating just how far the royals- and prince Harry in particular- have come, PR wise, in an infinitesimally small space of time. The pair’s ‘race’ was gleefully picked up by scribblers across the tabloid and broadsheet press- all of whom absolutely fell into line with what must have been a palace PR agreed interpretation. Harry’s banter-fuelled premature start and Bolt’s quasi-ironic deference combined to create a feel-good, saccharine masterpiece of a stunt.

What struck me as incredible was this total confirmation of Harry’s newfound status as palace PR vehicle. Not 5 minutes ago, back when Wills was the nice-but-dim publicity even keel for the House of Windsor, Harry was a one-boy PR disaster. Of course, there was the uniform scandal (though perhaps that seems tame following the new heights to which Max Mosley took the genre), but it seemed every week there’d be some new splash of Hal stumbling out of Mahiki, sporting a pith helmet and waving a giant cartoon spliff.

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Royal Fairy Tales in the Digital Age

The “Fairy Tale” Royal engagement, announced yesterday, prompted an outpouring of joy in this morning’s papers. The red tops in particular are euphoric, filled to the brim with jubilant headlines and rapturous copy. I suspect the coverage arouses hope that the event will provide succour to their declining readership and influence. Past trends suggest papers do sell on these occasions, but beware the thread of over-optimism.

Hypnotised by the acres of print and online clamour, I have become absorbed by the stratagems and apparatus of the rejuvenated Royal PR pixies. This was not a unrehearsed, impromptu public announcement. The manoeuvre was contrived and pre-planned and immensely successful. Gobbets of positive content were distributed by sources close to the couple as well as the disconnected, well-prepared Royal experts. There was no vacuous emptiness on display. The proceeding nine years of official and off piste snapped moments, images of the couples’ courtship were all recycled and resulted in a gluttonous feeding frenzy. In the information age, nine years is a lifetime, generating a huge amount of detritus to reprocess and attribute.

Back in 1981 two thirds of the great British unwashed thought a Royal wedding was a good idea. Can the same be said now? Will they be put off by the fact that, just as we see the flowering of sensible Royal PR, we are also enduring the PR cliche, the spew and slew of endless opportunist press releases, cashing in on the euphoria?
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Karaoke Culture

We are living in a karaoke media culture – everything we see is a pale, recycled copy of something that’s gone before and, worse still, this sincere flattery of icons and iconography past is being actively encouraged.

Miley Cyrus is heading off down the well-trodden path of over-sexualised image that has been presented 1000 times before and is well known to end in ruin at least half the time. Even Kylie has got in on the act, kissing Ana Matronic from the Scissor Sisters; a direct echo of Madonna and Britney’s “lesbian” kiss.

Prince Albert of Monaco is doing a karaoke version of his father by marrying an American celeb, who is a pale imitation of Grace Kelly. And then there’s the Princes, William and Harry: William is currently back with Kate Middleton, whom the press insist shares much in common with his mother, Princess Diana; Harry is off clearing mines in a bid to be like his mother. A Freudian could no doubt get some considerable mileage from the undercurrents created by the media’s presentation of them.
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Taking the Flack: Prince Harry and the Royal Press Machine

The papers have been full of Prince Harry’s new girlfriend Caroline Flack, the presenter of Gladiators and, it has become clear, a full throttle Alpha Female and a hedonist of the first order.

But now The Sun has announced that Harry’s dumped Flack because he misses Chelsy Davy, quoting him – through a friend – as saying: “I lost the best thing that ever happened to me and I’m paying for it.”

I wonder if this is the true voice of the Prince, who has proved time and again that you can’t keep a young, rich and eligible man from seeking out trouble in one form or another, or the voice of the Royal press machine.

Harry and Chelsy

Harry and Chelsy

It seems more likely that the Royal press machine is helping to distance Harry from his troublesomely party-friendly girl before things get out of hand. They’re clearly very good at talking sense into the Prince and have an excellent relationship with the editors of the tabloids. Seeding the line that Harry is heartsick for Chelsy is an immaculate piece of flackery in action – and the Sun’s source also tellingly insists that Caroline Flack is “just not the Royal Family’s type”.

One thing is for certain, the press are not going to be able to feast on the headline “The Prince and the Showgirl” for much longer. Whether this volte face is followed up by Harry returning to the girl he is said to miss remains to be seen; having been discovered in the wrong part of a nightclub indulging in a dose of the forbidden, Harry will no doubt have to settle for a nice girl from a good school who adores men in tight polo kit. Someone more country set than metropolitan uber-babe.

Prince Harry and the Racist Remarks

How disappointing to read about Prince Harry’s use of racist language in the press over the weekend, not so much because it’s Harry – it’s no surprise, really, that he’s prone to calling people ‘Paki’ and ‘Raghead’ in fun, given that his idea of fun has seen him dressing in Nazi uniform for parties – but because such language, behaviour and petty racism is still deemed worthy, at best, of only a mild rebuke by the Fourth Estate and by a worrying percentage of the public, as, by and large, the reactions to the News of the World story on their website proves.

Clarence House’s PR, of course, spun the story in the slickest way imaginable, by swiftly leaking the story to all the papers, to take the sting out of the News of the World’s outraged exclusive – a textbook case of lessening the impact of Harry’s unthinking tongue. It’s disappointing, though, that the Fourth Estate’s reaction, which on the whole amounts to little more than a slap on the ankle, tacitly gives permission for such language to remain in use. Surely they should be far more critical?

It’s possible, of course, that the Royal PR machine behind the Princes is just a little too good, but I wonder, in these recessionary times, if it’s not as much about the media keeping Clarence House sweet so they don’t lose access to William and Harry, whose antics, wholesome or otherwise, help keep their circulation up. The way the story has played out certainly suggests that the media were happy to collude with the damage limitation, because of the inside track they were given at the News of the World’s expense.

It’s disappointing that Prince Harry is not the role model he’s been asked to be. But then Harry is something of a blast from the past – he’s the product of a privileged lifestyle that is prone to be blunt of speech, sometimes to the point of rudeness or petty racism, unthinking of the consequences or the people he insults. It is to be hoped that Prince Harry will learn what it means to set an example, will learn the art of diplomacy, but it is equally possible that he will mutate into his grandfather if left unchecked and become another just chip off the block of institutionalized racism at the heart of the establishment.

At a time when tension in the Middle East is running dangerously high and all sides are digging in and whooping up new reasons for continuing the violence, however, surely the revelation that the third person in line to the throne is perfectly happy to bandy about divisive language in the name of fun should have provoked a sterner dressing down from the press and public. 

Unfortunately, at the moment, it seems as if Prince Harry is dripping oil on the fire when he should be aiming it at troubled waters. Let’s hope Clarence House’s formidable PR team can point him in the right direction. I wait with interest to see what demonstration or stunt they will concoct in the near future to further limit the damage.

The Best Gift

The Borkowski poet in residence imagines what Prince Charles would like for his birthday…

I’d like tea with Lord Mountbatten
I’d like a gin with dear old gran
I’d like a brand new book by van der Post
I’d like poetry to scan

I’d like a son who didn’t dress up
like Max Moseley just for fun
and a chance to stop my sons’ lives
from appearing in The Sun

I’d like my plants to answer back for once
and tell me what they feel
I’d like houses built from Portland stone
and not from glass and steel

I’d like a handy time machine
to take me back to 71
so I could marry Camilla then
& have her as mother to my sons

I would like a peaceful life
for the press to bugger off
I’d like them to stop presenting me
as an out of touch old toff

But I would give that all up
if mother would just say
‘Charles it’s your turn to be King,
I’m stepping down today’.

The re-branding of Prince Charles

What is the best present could Prince Charles hope to be unwrapping on his 60th birthday, today? He will get many, but I suspect that the period of calm that has prevailed at Clarence House over the last five years, interrupted occasionally by the binge drinking bouts and going-to-parties-dressed-in-Nazi-regalia adolescent antics of his 20-something sons, is the one he will be valuing most, as it will allow him to celebrate his birthday in relative peace.

For decades, the Prince, as part of the Royal Family, one of the biggest brands going, has suffered the slings and arrows of outraged and outrageous press coverage. He was, for a long time, damned if he did and damned if he didn’t. But things have changed of late; the Prince and, more importantly, the people he has surrounded himself with, have reengineered his public, charitable and state image and reinvigorated the Duchy Originals commercial brand as a going organic concern, despite the occasional hiccup over high salt and fat content, which has seen the Prince marry successfully his public and private concerns.

It’s a long time ago, now, since the Gymkhana days of the 1950s, when the Royal Family were closed for business at the weekend, and it is strange to think that there really was a time when one could phone up on a Friday at 5 p.m. and find that the pearly-necklaced debs who ran the public face of the Royal Family had all shuffled off to Gloucestershire and would not be back in until Monday.

That changed with the arrival of Princess Diana and the wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981. Diana’s cataclysmic arrival marked a sea change in the press – it was the beginning of the soap opera days and it took decades for the Royal Family to understand what had happened, let alone begin to cope with the consequences. It marked the beginning of the Heat and Closer era, where an unhealthy interest in the minutiae of a celebrity’s life was the order of the day.

The Royal Family simply couldn’t cope with this massive increase in daily interest; nor could they cope with a press who were less and less willing to kowtow to their way of running brand Windsor. Suddenly men like Kelvin Mackenzie at The Sun were refusing to play ball with brand Windsor’s cosy PR agenda. Princess Diana and, later, Fergie were “hold the front page” news. As a consequence, Diana and Fergie got to grips with the new PR agenda far more quickly than Prince Charles and the rest of brand Windsor.

This just amplified in the wake of Charles and Diana’s separation in 1993. Diana was a masterful player of personality PR, as the interview with Martin Bashir proved. Revelation after revelation tumbled like lead onto the head of Charles – his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles being the most damaging one, along with the reaction to Diana’s death from the Royal Family, which was out of step and out of tune with the rest of the country.

Since then, the people behind brand Windsor and particularly Prince Charles have been trying to re-brand their clients and understand how modern PR can be made to work for them. In the last 10 years, most celebrities have come to recognise that they are brands, but if you’d said that in the 1980s you would have been ignored and, in the case of brand Windsor, laughed out of court. It helps that the heir to the throne has always engaged in good works, but resentment, for many years, was never far from the surface of the popular press.

The last five years have seen something of a sea change in the perception of the Prince and his dealings with the world. His sons are part of this – apart from the odd fancy dress faux pas, they have inherited their mother’s easiness with the press. But the real power behind the man one step away from the throne is Paddy Harverson, who was appointed communications secretary at Clarence House in 2003.

There is no doubt that the Prince has needed people around him who recognise the importance of the brand, given the changing nature of the press and the rise of the importance of branding. They had to find someone they could trust, someone who was not part of the Royal Family’s usual coterie, so they brought in Harverson, whose reputation as a man who could make the best of troublesome situations preceded him. Working for the Royal Family is not the most rewarding job in PR. They needed someone with the skill to manage the most difficult of situations.

Harverson is certainly a man who understands how to manage difficult brands, supercharged egos and constant press attention – he left his job as the FT’s first sports correspondent to become the inaugural communications director at Manchester United, arguably the second largest British global brand after the Royal Family and equally full of different, difficult and diverse characters. He oversaw the departure of David Beckham, Rio Ferdinand’s drugs test and a great deal more in his three-year tenure at the club. Since 2003 he has set up an entirely new era in communications for Prince Charles and his sons, whilst maintaining a discreet low profile, again in a post especially created by Clarence House for him.

It was an inspired choice; in the last five years, he has managed the press relating to Harry’s Afghan trip, William’s relationship with Kate Middleton and, most importantly, the slow embrace by press and public of Camilla Parker Bowles in the run up to and wake of her marriage to Prince Charles, keeping a careful eye on breaking stories all the while.

Much of the antagonism towards Prince Charles and Camilla has dissipated on Harverson’s watch. Although there are still problems – as one might expect from the Royal Family – the focus has shifted away from them – the press now deals more with a prince who has married the woman he truly loves, whose work with the Prince’s Trust is much admired, whose opinions on green issues are, on the whole, respected.

Make no mistake, there will always be problems – Harverson has two boisterous, highly privileged young men to deal with and the honeymoon period of Charles and Camilla’s reintegration into the public’s affection is definitely over. If Prince Charles is to take the crown he needs to avoid the elephant traps that will always be there, waiting for him.

With Harverson looking out for him, however, Prince Charles has finally become the sort of man the British public might accept as their next monarch – quite a feat, given the travails of the 1980s and 1990s – and that really must be the best present a PR man can give. As long as Harverson keeps a weather eye out for the traps and doesn’t leave, everything will be fine, barring some horrendous revelation. Harverson would, without doubt, be a tough act to follow.