Posts Tagged ‘royal family’

Sally Osman, Paddy Haverson and the Royal PR machine

Today marks a momentous day for Sally Osman, who, in June, will take on the role of Communications Secretary to HRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall.

Whilst researching my book, The Fame Formula, which examined the PR legends of Hollywood, a pattern started to emerge: the very best publicists in the game were not taking on the A-listers as one might expect. Although such individuals can offer a publicist great collateral, they are dangerous. The wisest publicists are always wary of stepping into warm shoes.

When Jay Bernstein – who represented names like Sammy Davis Jr and Farrah Fawcett – looked back over his career and those he could have represented, he noted that there is always a reason why someone leaves a big job, and you will be judged by your predecessor’s success.

When a brand is successful, it’s important to take a hard look at who’s representing them.

Paddy Haverson, who took on the position in 2004 was a prudent and wise PR who knew how to harness the worst of times, turning them into stimulus for fairer weather.  will be a tough act for Osman to follow – he was an inspired choice, and in the nine years he spent in the role, managed to turn the media’s perception of the Royals completely on its head. His representation was almost near-faultless.

Osman and Haverson share a great set of contacts, wonderful relations and both are clever planners and execute decisive action. Success is a result of good judgment. Good judgment comes from experience, and experience is earned through poor judgment.

I rate Sally Osman, she is a strong PR, but she has a big challenge ahead of her. She has big shoes to fill, perfecting how to say ‘no’ to numerous requests, and potentially making a lot of enemies along the way. She will know all this, and I wish her every success in the new position.

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.

Pippa- Maybe down but Not Out

A deep collective breath is perhaps needed. Pippa Middleton’s identification with firearms last weel, thanks to the somewhat incautious actions of friend Romain Rabillard, has led many to predict that her fledging career in the public eye is already over. Like her sister, runs the thinking, Middleton’s image relies on propriety- all 3 Middleton siblings have a tidy line in British demureness and easy class (bum jokes aside, that is). Now she’s been seen with a gun-toting aristocrat, speeding down a Paris Rue (or possible Avenue) to what the media must assume was some kind of hedonistic love-fest, we’ll all fall out of love with her. I cannot imagine this being the case.

Unquestionably, she’s damaged a previously untarnished image. However, if recent public opinion surrounding the Royals shows us anything, it’s that this is no longer a family (or extended family) you can write off at the drop of a hat. Besides, whatever becomes of Pippa, it’s highly unlikely that such an affair would do much to worry the custodians of the Royal Brand, who keep their charges in a very different space.

It seems like no time at all since we saw Harry splashed all over the papers, dressed in an SS uniform, stumbling out of a party. I wonder how all the commentators who wrote him off then felt when they saw the almost sickeningly adoring coverage around his recent meeting with Usain Bolt. Probably as gobsmacked as the rest of us, to be fair.

Undoubtedly, Pippa will have learned a hard lesson- when you’re associated with the Royals, you’re damned whatever you do, and you’re judged by the company you keep. However, I’d say this lesson comes at an opportune time. Still in the first flush of fame, this episode should teach Pippa how to begin thinking of herself as a brand. The key now will be for her to think about what she represents, move away from the users and hangers on who inevitably attach themselves to the newly famous and begin considering the serious commercial applications of her brand I’m sure remain just around the corner.

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.