Seven tips for handling a potential royal scandal

Has the Palace spoken too soon in the case of Prince Andrew and claims. which he denies, that he once slept with an underage girl? Here are seven tips for handling a potential royal scandal.

Think twice before denying claims outright and seek allies, advises Christine Smart
Think twice before denying claims outright and seek allies, advises Christine Smart
1.  Think twice before denying claims outright 
From a PR perspective, organisations or individuals seeking to protect their reputations should think twice before denying claims outright, unless they are 100 per cent confident that the statement will not be disproved at a later date. Ultimately, it is better to be seen as an honest Joe who simply got wrapped up in an unfortunate set of circumstances than someone who will blatantly lie to the world without a second thought. The latter would cause more lasting damage to your reputation.

2.  Get a good lawyer and be prepared to ride it out
Revelations of this type can take months, if not years, to unravel. In this case, there could be more revelations to come as Victoria Roberts has promised to write a ‘tell-all’ book. Considered and careful legal intervention will be essential if the Duke of York is going to succeed in keeping his name out of the publication.

3.  Avoid commenting on speculation and stick to the facts
The latest news stories suggest that Prince Andrew was among the influential people who voiced their support for Jeffrey Epstein, during another recent US court case against him, which resulted in Epstein's conviction for soliciting underage prostitutes. The fact that a court order has declared these documents ‘confidential’ means that we will never know what Prince Andrew did or did not say in support of his friend. The Palace is right to avoid commenting on this.

4.  Consider telling your story in your own words
The secrecy surrounding the prince’s association with Epstein is not helpful and will fuel speculation rather than quash it. So perhaps the Palace should consider creating an opportunity for Prince Andrew to tell his story in his own way to a sympathetic media ear. This kind of controlled media interview where questions are agreed upfront and content controls negotiated could help to set the record straight, but legal constraints may apply.

5.  Prompt action is better than doing nothing
Prince Andrew has reacted to the situation quickly and appropriately by breaking his skiing trip to Switzerland and is now back in Britain. This was a wise move and is a sign that he is taking the matter seriously. What he chooses to do next is critical. He will need to make a statement of some description and acknowledge the serious nature of the allegations against him. The denials from the Palace were certainly speedy and more credible for that, but at some stage the British public will want to hear from Andrew himself.

6.  Seek allies
It is always a good idea to look for allies in a crisis and in this case it seems the prince may have turned to his ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson. She has recently spoken out in support of her ex-husband, describing him as the ‘best man in Britain’. This will help to balance out some of the negative media reporting.

7.  Stay positive and plan your comeback
For those in the public eye, the court of public opinion can be a hard place to seek solace. Those involved need to stay positive. If the Duke of York is concerned that his reputation and the reputation of the royal family has been irrevocably damaged by his association with Epstein, he should take heart. If Prince Harry can rebound from being ‘public enemy number one’ when he dressed up as a Nazi at a costume party, to become a national hero thanks to his charity work, perhaps Andrew could take some lessons from him? 

Christine Smart is a senior consultant at Smarts Illuminate

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