You know the saying? Goes alright till it goes all wrong. Prince Harry would have done well to have heeded it before he issued his latest scathing statement attacking the press.
Whilst the timing of this statement may well have been taken out of Harry’s hands to pre-empt a counter move, it shows that vigilance and preparation is everything. If it wasn’t a reactive move and he naively believed that the goodwill garnered from the trip to Africa allowed him to regain some control of the media agenda, then he has been very badly guided by his team yet again. Either way, the statement has taken the Sussex household backwards, leaving them looking emotional and badly prepared for the resulting commentary. The Africa trip has been a success and would have heralded a better platform for their ambitions. Instead, it’s now overshadowed by a letter and all but forgotten by the crowd.
The first principles of a tactician is to be prepared, to be willing to listen to all the noise and perceptions that exist and at the same time, become something of an expert in behavior and precedent. Isolating Thomas Markle left him exposed and ill equipped to deal with his new and unwanted fame and open to being targeted by a newspaper. Harry and Meghan should have recognised where the potential pitfalls lay and been prepared to keep their potential ‘enemies’ as close as their allies. Despite the Palace’s long and sometimes acrimonious relationship with the tabloid press, the Royal Family rarely challenge specific points or features and for good reason. The media are kept at arm’s length but Harry’s statement is not a refusal to engage. It’s an open declaration of war.
In winning any battle around communications, it’s vital not to underestimate the power of language to make points and create feelings. Clearly the statement from Harry is heartfelt and we understand why. Emotion and clarity are vital but there is a way of getting a point across with careful use of language that avoids ruffling the wrong feathers. With more careful wording, Harry could have made his point and kept the media on his side and more sympathetic to his position. Instead his barely concealed vitriol did the reverse.
Winning in the media has always been about relationships. A bit of give, a bit of take. Meghan and Harry have a right to privacy and to be treated fairly, but it works both ways. They are first and foremost public servants and to that end, they must be prepared to share key moments as well as their ambitions and opinions. An earlier and fuller glimpse of Archie would have gone a long way to dampen the escalating spotlight and hostility but Meghan and Harry pushed back, stubbornly controlling access whilst building their own channel from which to publish their views and agenda. Whilst this is a move for an independent and less constricted voice, it also isolates them further from the Palace machine. There are pros and cons to this.
There is no doubt that their ambitions and hopes are heading in a positive direction. What they desperately need now is advice from beyond their bubble that allows them to be focused and fight for their ideas and beliefs in a well thought out and strategic way whilst co-operating with key media.
As the great Indian poet Kabir said “Just throw away all the menacing thoughts and stand firm”. These are wise words. Prince Harry is an emotional man. He must stand firm now but not be overtaken by the wrong agenda or ill-advised counsel. There is vanity in approval after all. There are many who will support Harry, but just as many who won’t. Approval is hard won these days.