What happens when I tell you I totally refute some seriously scurrilous allegations about me that someone whose name I can’t reveal has tried to make public? Obviously, you and your mates in cloud-cuckoo land will respond: “Oh, that’s cleared that up then, thanks for pointing it out.”
Unfortunately, most of us inhabit this planet, where certain basic psychological and behavioural phenomena are reliably shared across the species.
One of these phenomena is called, in our language, “curiosity”. If you tell me I don’t want to know about something, I inevitably do.
Prince Charles’s private secretary, Sir Michael Peat, and Clarence House have clearly lost their grip on this particular bit of reality. Well, after all, he not a seasoned PR pro. Not only did they refute an allegation that wasn’t in the public domain, they also presented early evidence to contradict it.
This evidence was, fundamentally: “Prince Charles told me it’s untrue and I believe him because he’s a good chap; anyone who knows him will tell you it’s laughable; and I’d like to insinuate that the guy who made the allegations is a bit bonkers, anyway.”
I have to say – from a technical point of view – there may well be some holes in this defence.
Damage limitation often requires a pre-emptive strike. Its not an exact art. But it’s not gospel. And if you are making a pre-emptive strike you do so to dispose the battlefield the way you want it – to your advantage.
Last night’s statement was magnificently incompetent and failed completely to achieve this objective. It heightened the slavering delirium among the jackals (that’s you and me): it flagged up that there will be more juicy delights to come.
Damage limitation is a high risk strategy. Any course, of action needs very careful consideration. Last night Clarence House just panicked.
It would have been wiser if it had just decided to lead the world up a garden path that would deflect us from the substantive issue.
For example, it could have threatened to sue every search engine on the planet for permitting the circulation of potentially libellous material.
Such an attack would open a huge blizzard of civil liberties discussions and muddy the waters over the allegation. Great. Job done.
What next? Oh, I don’t know. I’m tired of saying this. Stop. Think.Take a breath. Take a number of breaths. Honestly assess your situation.
Know that you’re going to have to face the allegations, no matter how fanciful, because someone’s going to put them out there, however hard you try to stop them.
You’re going to have to play it dead straight. Then plan your long-term, hard-graft, win-back strategy to reinstate the reputation of the House of Windsor.