OPINION: Why the Prince Harry PR strategy could yet backfire on him

The MoD and the royal family have taken a major gamble with Prince Harry and the media blackout, argues Colleen Harris.

Scuffle: Harry outside Pangaea night club in the bad old days
Scuffle: Harry outside Pangaea night club in the bad old days

So, the royals have ridden and tamed the media tiger. Until now Prince Harry was the butt of jokes, his public persona that of a spoilt brat who saw life through the bottom of a glass at Boujis nightclub in Knightsbridge.

Not any more though. The royal reality TV show from Afghanistan has in one episode presented what seems like a PR coup for Harry. The royal household and the Ministry of Defence have rea­lly benefited.

All previous attempts to give the public a taste of Harry have failed. I can say that - I was there. While everyone has sympathy for a young man who lost his mother, his high jinks on the party circuit have led many to question where the royal family is heading.

But now he is seen as a much more rounded and int­eresting young man. So is this a victory for the PR industry? Have we bec­ome so skilful that we can control the dissemination of a story that has dominated world headlines?

Well done to the MoD, the Palace and Harry for pulling off such a brilliantly execu­ted piece of PR. But it looks to me to be a high-risk strategy.

This negotiation with the media was brave and bold. This was high-stakes poker that I have rarely seen in my many years of dealing with newspapers and television. But I am by no means certain the consequences have been fully thought through.

It is a hard line to take but Harry is not the normal, everyday young man he wishes he was and as such he cannot behave like one. The costs of setting up this PR ‘stunt' - however it is dressed up, that is what it is - are enormously high.

There will be increased sec­urity for him and girlfriend Chelsy, not to forget Kate Middleton. Ironically, the freedom from the country ‘I don't much like' that he so craved, may now be lost forever as the ring of hei­ghtened security tightens around them all.

For today, Harry is a hero. But frustrated by not being allowed to resume duties, he may revert to the party animal of old. And then, you can be assured, the ‘hero' headlines will soon be forgotten.

PR is an amazing tool: witness how a sceptical public and cynical media are caught in this tide of hero worship and adulation for Harry and ‘our boys'.

But is this sustainable and is the royal family wise to trust itself to the fickle media?

Any good PR professional will tell you that if the narrative is not clear then the messages will be hit or miss. For today it's a hit. But beware: a bad night at Boujis and a
hero can become zero very quickly indeed.

Colleen Harris is former press secretary to the Prince of Wales and founder of Dignity Consultancy

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