REPUTATION CHECK: Poll shows public support for princes

PRWeek looks at the images of princes William and Harry among both the media and the public. Hannah Marriott reports.

What a difference a fortnight makes. Just last month Prince Harry’s public reputation rested on his frequent appearances falling out of nightclubs. But by the time PRWeek surveyed the public last week, Harry’s imminent deploying in the theatre of war had vastly altered his image.

Harry’s decision may have been controversial in the eyes of the media, but he has the support of the British public, according to an Opinion Matters survey commissioned by PRWeek, with 76.3 per cent saying they approved. The level of approval was higher among men (84 per cent) than among women (72.8 per cent).

Questioned further about whether, in the light of his playboy image, Prince Harry is bringing the monarchy into disrepute, only 25 per cent agreed. But this picture varies drastically across the country (see graph, bottom).

Asked if they thought both princes ‘spent too much time in nightclubs’, the public was fairly forgiving, with 64.6 per cent saying neither of them did.

William’s public profile remains stronger than his brother’s. Only 11.7 per cent of the 1,226 people surveyed believed he was bringing the monarchy ­into disrepute. William’s high profile break-up with Kate Middleton had not sullied his reputation in the eyes of most respondents – only 12.2 per cent said it had lowered their opinion of him.

Finally, 81.7 per cent of respondents said they thought William would make a good king, with women (85.1 per cent) keener than men (74.2 per cent).

PRWeek asked Simon Walker, who has previously handled PR for Buckingham Palace, and Daily Express royal correspondent Richard Palmer to what extent this, largely positive, public perception can be attributed to the media handlers at Clarence House.

Analysis 1: the PR professional’s view

Walker

Simon Walker, Senior PR adviser, Reuters (formerly Comms Secretary, Buckingham Palace): It’s easy for the media to describe the British monarchy as a ‘soap opera’. Like East Enders or Coronation Street, the Royal family provides the potential for endless speculation. It’s a mirror for discussion about social values and a descendant of village gossip.

In a society where few now live in such communities, a major effect of gossip is to help people update their own standards of behaviour.

Both princes have a role in the perennial lament about young people. Prince William’s image has been positive overall: a responsible, sensible young man. Prince Harry’s press is more mixed: too much drinking with aristocratic rich kids, balanced by coverage of his determination to serve in Iraq.

Clarence House press supremo Paddy Harverson is a skilled media operator who has played the hand he has been dealt as well as anyone could. Of course the tabloids are obsessed with trivia. It was ever thus. But there have been few own goals, and in an era of relative openness and communication, professionalism is paying dividends.

Analysis 2: the journalist’s view

Richard Palmer, Royal Correspondent, Daily Express: Ask people outside the media village what they think of Prince Harry and the two words most commonly used are ‘drunken’ and ‘buffoon’. When it comes to Prince William, you are more likely to hear ‘dedicated’, ‘serious’ and ‘responsibilities’.

The Clarence House press office team represents two young men who are increasingly reluctant to engage with the media.


Palmer

William, at least, has taken the trouble to meet a few royal correspondents and done enough official engage­ments and photo calls to give us a glimpse of what he is really like. But in four years of covering the royals, I’ve never been introduced to Harry, who makes no attempt to disguise his contempt for the press.

Since they joined the Blues and Royals, both brothers have shunned any direct contact with the media. Denied the opportunity to record their working lives, is it any wonder we have filled the vacuum with regular photographs of them coming out of London nightclubs, looking the worse for wear?

Harry’s deployment to Iraq is about to be similarly mishandled. We need access.

MEDIA PERCEPTION
PUBLIC PERCEPTION

Tone of coverage in The Sun, The Times,Radio 4
from 20-22 April

% who say Prince Harry is bringing the monarchy
into disrepute

  




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