COMMENT: EDITORIAL; Heir apparently in need of PR aid

There is little to surprise in Prince Charles’ choice as his new press secretary. No big name from the PR consultancy world - no Max Clifford or Sir Tim Bell, nor even a Jane Atkinson. A career civil servant, Sandy Henney is a safe pair of hands and someone who knows the ropes - after all she has been working there for three years.

There is little to surprise in Prince Charles’ choice as his new press

secretary. No big name from the PR consultancy world - no Max Clifford

or Sir Tim Bell, nor even a Jane Atkinson. A career civil servant, Sandy

Henney is a safe pair of hands and someone who knows the ropes - after

all she has been working there for three years.



Arguably, however, the challenge which faces her is greater than that

faced by any of her predecessors. The Wales’ marriage may be over but

for Charles it is just the beginning. And let no one at the Palace

imagine they are now shot of Diana - they have made that mistake before.



As soon as the Palace made Diana and Fergie outsiders it lost control.

They became, in PR terms, loose cannons. The thought of Diana hawking

herself around American chat shows - gagging clause notwithstanding - is

likely to haunt the dreams of Palace officials for many years to come.



Throughout this most public of marriage breakdowns, Diana has grasped

the importance of good PR in a way the Palace in only now catching on

to. Where the Royal PR machine has appeared arrogant, ponderous and, at

times, downright dishonest, Diana has been bold and fast on her feet.



Her judicious use of the press leak has consistently caught Charles and

his advisers off guard, most recently during negotiations over the

marriage settlement. Her decision earlier this week to dump around 100

charities and focus her energies on just six on the principle ‘less is

more’, was hailed by the London Evening Standard as proof of her mastery

of spin doctoring



How long this has been planned and what part, if any, her media adviser

Jane Atkinson played in this, if any, we can only guess at but at the

very least it demonstrates that Diana is very much in control.



For too long, both sides have engaged in knee jerk PR - a public

slanging match, no less public for the fact that it has been filtered

through those mysterious friends. It has done both sides much harm.



The challenge for Henney is to look beyond that. As a brand, Prince

Charles is in dire need of some fresh thinking - the danger now is that

he and his advisers might think they can simply return to the old status

quo.



The truth is that the game has changed. In these days of stakeholders

and general scepticism towards institutions, a constant diet of Royal

occasions and official functions is simply not enough. At its crudest,

Charles has to decide exactly what it is he represents - and PR can help

in that process. He then needs to communicate that with a clear and

coherent PR strategy.



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