'Harry and Meghan's Hollywood power couple move will only fuel negative news cycle'

Prince Harry's emotional attack and Meghan's decision to sue a newspaper may draw sympathy from some, but is not a well-thought-out strategy of dealing with the tabloid press, argues W Communications founder Warren Johnson.

Prince Harry is fed up of the tabloid's treatment of his wife, the Duchess of Sussex. (Photo by Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage))
Prince Harry is fed up of the tabloid's treatment of his wife, the Duchess of Sussex. (Photo by Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage))

The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan, has taken the unusual decision to sue Mail on Sunday for publishing a private letter she had written to her estranged father.

Her decision was backed by Prince Harry in an emotional and deeply personal attack on the tabloid press, which he accused of "waging campaigns against individuals with no thought to the consequences".

In a statement on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s official website, Harry described tabloids' treatment of his wife as "bullying" that "destroys people and destroys lives" and "scares and silences people".

I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person," he said. "I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces."

Harry’s attack on the tabloid press has some popular support, none less than English cricket hero Ben Stokes, who himself was the target of a personal and invasive article about his family.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex's media relations skills have been recently criticised by PR pros over the pair's handing of criticism about their environmental advocacy work.

This latest move could prove to be another harsh lesson for the young couple.

Although some may sympathise with Harry’s concerns about privacy, Warren Johnson, founder and managing director of W Communications, believes suing the Mail on Sunday will only escalate and sharpen the sort of negative media attention the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are desperate to avoid.

PRWeek asked Johnson to pen a comment piece on about how the Royals' decision to sue and attack the media will play out:

Harry and Megan's decision to take legal action feels like an emotional reaction, rather than a well-thought-out approach. Inevitably, it will invite even further media intrusion into matters that Harry and Megan wish to remain private. 

Even if they were to win on the narrow technicality they have pursued legally in the courts; it will not cease the intense appetite for details on their lives.

The public watched the romance unfold, they celebrated the wedding, and now want to see them live happily ever after. It's classic Royal fairytale stuff.

However, this legal move is more like that of a Hollywood power-couple - managing access and public profile on their terms, and leveraging their substantial social media footprint to negate traditional media engagement.

Whether this will negatively affect the public perception of them is up for debate.  Some will sympathise with Harry's very personal POV, and others will refute the comparisons to his late mother, Princess Diana. 

I suspect very few care if a Sunday newspaper is sued. It's happened many times and never affected circulation or the ability to do its job - reporting the news in a way that engages its readers.

The problem is that this legal action further extends the rampant speculation around them as being obsessed with control and losing touch with tradition.

This narrative overshadows the excellent work they do to raise awareness around the world on issues that matter to them. At some point, you have to ask yourself is feeding this negative cycle worth it to see one single publication slapped on the wrist?

Harry and Megan have such incredible power in this age of communications and everything at their disposal. It would be a better strategy to engage with a broad range of media that fits their brand, letting those that don't sit on the sidelines and idly speculate - but don't waste time trying to get them to change.

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