In the week of the Princess of Wales’s funeral, it was widely
assumed that the Queen’s remark that ’lessons must be learned’ referred
to the Palace’s PR policy, which Diana’s death had exposed as painfully
outdated and irrelevant .
Already there are signs that the message has sunk in. Although the
Palace vigorously denied reports this week that weekly Number 10-style
lobby briefings are to be introduced, there is a perceptible thawing in
its icy media relations protocol. Spokesmen will be allowed to be quoted
on the record more often, and aides will adopt a more proactive role in
dealing with the media.
Meanwhile in South Africa, we have seen evidence of a more open style
from the Prince of Wales (or Royal Spice as we should perhaps now call
him). Some of the stunts may have seemed a little cheesy and some of the
spin doctoring a little unsubtle, but the aim was spot on. It will take
some time to achieve the right balance of familiarity and distance but
reputations, as any PR person knows, cannot be mended overnight.
For too long there has been an assumption that any attempt to modernise
the Royal family in this regard will damage the ’mystique of majesty’
which is their most precious asset as an institution. But re-inventing
its PR strategy does not mean swapping Daimlers for bicycles or
indulging in undignified ’It’s a knockout’ style foolishness. The Royal
family’s PR mission should simply be to engage with the public with
whom, before Diana’s death, it had almost completely lost touch.