Profile: Simon Lewis, Buckingham Palace - A crowning PR moment/Simon Lewis is the man chosen to advise Buckingham Palace on PR strategy

This September, Simon Lewis will take a two-year break from his post at Centrica - the supply arm of that former great state flagship, British Gas - to take up the new post of communications secretary for the ultimate in British state flagships: the Royal family.

This September, Simon Lewis will take a two-year break from his

post at Centrica - the supply arm of that former great state flagship,

British Gas - to take up the new post of communications secretary for

the ultimate in British state flagships: the Royal family.



His brief is to devise a PR strategy for the Queen and the other

Royals.



Some observers suggest little needs to be done to improve the Windsors’

image on the back of the fact that, by opening new public buildings and

attending charity galas on an almost daily basis, they largely do the

job alone. Others see scope for sweeping reforms, in particular in the

domain of media relations - traditionally the hardest area for the

Royals to police effectively.



Lord Chadlington, chairman of Shandwick, for whom Lewis worked in the

1980s, admits: ’It’s an extremely difficult job. The pressure for

short-term politically correct changes will be enormous and will be

applied subtly from all sides. It will be a test of Simon’s

strength.’



The bulk of Lewis’ experience is in City PR. So will he manage to

convince the sometimes sceptical British public about the Queen’s

overwhelmingly positive contribution to national life in the same way

that he succeeded in winning over investors during British Gas’ demerger

in the first few months of his job there?



Chadlington remains realistic: ’In all the jobs Simon has been in until

now, the news has been manageable because he was initiating it. This one

is different because the news is happening and he’s not initiating it.

He has never had to face that.’



Another challenge of the job will be the web of internal Palace politics

which Lewis will inevitably have to negotiate. Newspapers have already

reported some unease among press officers at both Buckingham Palace, who

will report directly to him, and St James’ Palace - the headquarters of

the Prince of Wales - who will work in close cooperation with him, about

Lewis’ appointment. There have also been reports that the two press

operations will merge when Lewis takes on the new job, a fact which

Buckingham Palace sources refuse to confirm.



Several of Lewis’ former colleagues and friends suggest he has the

skills necessary to deal with this kind of internal tension: the words

’discreet, but tough’ recur among their accounts. One source who has

known him for over 10 years says: ’He has a manner which means he can

get what he wants done. He is definitely not stuffy or old school, but

he is a very controlled and polite person. He can bite his tongue and be

very persuasive.’



This cocktail of courtesy and discretion no doubt appealed to the Queen

and her private secretary. Perhaps more questionable is whether they

were aware of the determination and persuasiveness which lie beneath the

polite veneer.



Much has been made in the national press of Lewis’ Labour party

membership and connections. These do not actually boil down to very

much: granted, he lives in Islington and his wife, a former Shandwick

consultant, provides PR advice to charity Breast Cancer Care, whose

patron is Cherie Blair, but he only joined Labour nine months ago,

having not belonged to any party since the Social Democrat Party merged

into the Liberal Democrats in 1988. Even his support for Arsenal

Football Club, that haven for new Labour lads, is relatively new - he

switched allegiances from West Ham once his eight-year-old son Thomas

started supporting the family’s local team.



Lewis is adamant: ’I am not a political appointment. I don’t consider

myself as a party activist. I will be resigning my membership before I

take my position.’ The past few days have given the Lewises and their

children a foretaste of the degree of media intrusion they will face

once he joins the Palace. ’I am very conscious of what it may be like,’

he says with striking confidence.



HIGHLIGHTS

1983

Consultant, Shandwick

1986

Head of communications, Social Democrat Party

1987

Head of PR, SG Warburg Group

1992

Corporate affairs director, NatWest Group

1996

Corporate affairs director, Centrica

1998

Communications secretary, Buckingham Palace



Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in