Relaxing Royal standards poses a whole new set of PR problems

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.

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

occasion?



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

demonstrated.



This places the PR industry’s reputation peculiarly at risk. I hope the

reputation industry recognises this.



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