Editorial: Royal PR adviser needs loose rein

Media reaction to Simon Lewis’ appointment as communications secretary to the Queen has been sceptical. What can someone from the corporate world offer the Royal family?

Media reaction to Simon Lewis’ appointment as communications

secretary to the Queen has been sceptical. What can someone from the

corporate world offer the Royal family?



A leader in Monday’s Daily Telegraph pointed out how different working

for the Queen will be to his current job as corporate affairs director

at Centrica, the supply arm of British Gas.



The Telegraph believes that ’where corporations are often concerned with

immediate headlines, the monarchy must look to the permanent sympathies

of the nation’.



This only betrays a lack of understanding of the PR profession and

therefore what Lewis will bring to the job. He works in the

controversial privatised utility sector, and for one of its highest

profile businesses. He has had to defend fat cat salaries and ensure

good relations with the Government while lobbying against the windfall

tax. He is not a man prepared to sacrifice his company’s reputation and

share price for a headline.



The Mail on Sunday described Buckingham Palace’s decision to appoint a

PR adviser as an overreaction to the popular backlash against the Queen

after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. The Queen may have

re-established herself in her people’s affections since last summer, but

the ghost of Diana has not been laid to rest. And if other,

unforeseeable issues rear up to confront the Royal family, they will

need expert guidance.



But if the Palace is to make good use of Lewis, he must be allowed to

continue giving the kind of strategic advice he provides at

Centrica.



He must not suffer the fate of Diana’s former PR adviser Jane

Atkinson.



Atkinson went to work for Diana in the belief that she would be

consulted on public relations strategy and help to mould public

perception of the princess. Instead, she was used as a buffer for the

media, fielding up to 30 calls a day.



If Lewis is to be paid a salary of up to pounds 230,000 a year, as some

reports have suggested, he will need to do more than answer calls from

journalists.



Unlike the late princess, the Queen already has a team of press officers

to do the day-to-day work. But Lewis will need direct access to the

Queen if his advice is to be taken seriously.



Contrary to what was previously believed, he is to hold the rank of

secretary rather than director, which does not guarantee direct access.

And he will have little say in Prince Charles’ public relations

strategy.



But, by including the word communications in his job title, it seems

that the Palace has finally recognised the difference between strategic

PR advice and media relations.



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