Revolutionary Measures

Why Royal PR should be a model for us all

A few weeks ago I talked about the breakdown of trust between the public and traditional institutions, be they the media, government or business. Yet arguably the most traditional institution of all – the British monarchy – is actually bucking the trend and engaging and resonating with the public more than ever. From the Queen visiting those affected by the Grenfell Tower fire to Princes William and Harry talking openly about mental illness, the Royals are increasingly seen as understanding, and empathising with, the mood of the country. This is in stark contrast to current political turmoil where the Prime Minister seems too scared to engage, while her cabinet squabbles around her. The Queen even seemingly managed to get a cheeky shot in about Brexit, wearing an EU blue hat with flowers resembling stars to open parliament.Queen Elizabeth

It is worth noting that it hasn’t always been like this. At the time of Princess Diana’s death the Royal family, particularly the Queen and Prince Philip, was seen as outdated and out of touch, hidebound by protocol and simply unable to understand the mood of the country and the wider world. That led to a major change around in how the Windsors approached PR, which has evolved into the machine that we see today, which is driven by four key factors:

1. Trust
We are in an age where there is a breakdown in trust, but that doesn’t mean that people don’t want to believe in someone or something. In fact, many are desperate to find somewhere to put their trust that isn’t going to let them down. The monarchy fills this space admirably, seen as working hard while taking the time to listen and engage with people’s concerns.

2. Range
The sheer size of the Royal family, and the number of generations it contains, mean that there are a range of characters and ages for different people to identify with. From the Queen and Prince Philip through Charles and Camilla down to Harry, William, Kate and their children there is someone for everyone to support, trust and relate to, dependent on their views and age.

3. Impartiality
I’m not comparing the Queen to Donald Trump, but in the same way that he has a multimillion dollar fortune to fall back on, so has she. That means she is seen as generally impartial, without an agenda or wider policies to push. I think many in the US see Trump in the same way, even if he definitely does have an agenda/ego driving his actions. This ability to be independent means the Queen is above politics and doesn’t get drawn into a blame game around events such as Grenfell.

4. Vulnerability
In the past the monarchy was seen as aloof and simply not affected by outside events. Since Diana’s death that has changed and it has opened up, demonstrating that the Royals are human too. The younger princes have discussed their mother’s death and the impact on their own mental health, while the continued illnesses of the Duke of Edinburgh has led to widespread sympathy for the Queen, who, after all, is 91 herself. We empathise with humans, and the Royal family continues to show that despite their wealth and power they are human too.

What lessons can communicators draw from this? I think the biggest is to take a long-term view. The reputation of the British monarchy was at an all-time low after the death of Diana, with many questioning their continued role. Rather than a knee-jerk reaction, the institution has changed how it operates, and in particular how it communicates, giving individuals more freedom to talk about the topics that they feel passionate about, all within an overarching framework that demonstrates empathy, authenticity and value for their audience. It may not be perfect, but other communicators looking to build genuine trust should see what they can learn from the Royal family’s success.

 

Photo Nasa/Bill Ingalls via Wikipedia http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/news/topstory/2007/queen_egress_8.html

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July 5, 2017 Posted by | Marketing, PR | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Queen vs Seb Coe

As many of us struggle back into work after the Jubilee celebrations we’re now being reminded that it is just 46 days until the start of the London Olympics. And we’ve got Euro 2012 and the Tour de France to fit in first – there are times I’m very glad I work from home……

While the Jubilee and Olympics are very different events, it is fascinating from a marketing point of view to look at how they are presenting themselves – and what London 2012 organisers can learn from last week’s celebrations.

jubilee marmite "limited edition"

jubilee marmite “limited edition” (Photo credit: osde8info)

What struck me most about the Jubilee was its openness – there were obviously formal events such as the flotilla, concert and service at St Paul’s Cathedral but the emphasis was on letting people celebrate in their own way. Whether this was a street/indoor party, going to the pub or setting fire to enormous bonfires the Jubilee catered for a whole range of interests. And if you wanted to ignore the whole thing you still got two days off work.

This openness extended to branding – anyone could stick the word Jubilee on their products without fear of being sued. Some has been inspired, such as rebranding Marmite to Ma’amite while others have been less inventive and simply added a flag and crown to their packaging.

This is in complete contrast to London 2012 where any use of Olympic logos by unofficial partners is immediately slapped down. While protecting your brand (and the multi-million pound investment your official sponsors have made) is important it can go too far and actually have a negative effect. Witness a Devon estate agent threatened with legal action for putting a makeshift Olympic display in its window when the torch relay came past. Not really a challenge to multinational official sponsors. Ironically it was in Devon that sponsors Coca Cola arranged for Will.i.am to carry the torch – hardly opening the Olympics up to the local community.

From a marketing point of view the Diamond Jubilee ticked all the boxes – people enjoyed themselves despite the weather and the Royal Family came out of the event stronger and more popular than before. There’s still time for London 2012 organisers to look at the success of the Jubilee and see what they can do to make the games an inclusive experience for the whole country. Over to you Seb………..

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June 11, 2012 Posted by | Marketing, PR | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment