It is futile to pretend, one year on, that the death of Diana,
Princess of Wales, has had no effect on the nation. Republicans have
suffered a serious reverse, Prince Charles has rocketed in the nation’s
esteem and the Queen perpetuates Diana’s memory by adopting a more
informal style in conducting public engagements. This is likely to be an
uncovenanted bonus for those with an eye for the main chance. Already
McDonald’s has been the beneficiary with those stunning pictures of the
sovereign underneath the golden arches.
But just as the new relaxation provides more opportunities for PR
chappies, so it compounds the PR problem of coping with a Royal visit.
How could you make sure that the Queen or, perhaps worse still, Prince
Phillip was not captured on an official visit to Soho apparently
emerging from a sex shop? The price of informality can be counted in a
cheapening of the product.
There are, of course, those who say that that is precisely what has
occurred over the last 12 months since the Queen responded to the
press’s pandering to the hysteria immediately after Diana’s death with
that nauseatingly uncaring headline ’Show us you care’. But it is too
early to make that judgment. There is no inherent reason why a greater
informality in the relationship between the Queen and her subjects
should devalue the monarchy. It all depends on how it is handled.
The prime responsibility lies with the Royal Family itself and Mr Blair
who advises the monarch. This does not fill me with optimism in view of
the Prime Minister’s readiness politically to exploit Diana’s death and
then to convey the impression that single-handedly he was dragging the
monarchy into what is left of the 20th century. But there is also a
responsibility on the communications industry. Will it rise to the
Well, so far newspapers have observed with astonishing restraint the
Press Complaints Commission’s code of practice which was tightened
during the year primarily to protect the privacy of Prince William and
Prince Harry. But the ridiculous fuss over the Princes abseiling down a
Welsh reservoir wall demonstrates that no public interest stone will be
left unturned to justify the use of snatched pictures.
And what will happen if Britain suffers from ’Diana fatigue’, as some
polls and events last week suggested is happening? Where would the media
find their new money-spinning icon? Already their thoughts have turned
to her elder son, Prince William. Whatever else may have changed since
Diana’s sad death, bad taste and commercial hypocrisy remain untouched -
as the past year’s exploitation of her in death have so brazenly
This places the PR industry’s reputation peculiarly at risk. I hope the
reputation industry recognises this.