The Princess of Wales has hired broadcast sponsorship and PR consultancy
Atkinson Courage to plug the gap left by the departure of former press
secretary Geoff Crawford.
Co-founder and director Jane Atkinson began work earlier this week as
personal media adviser to the Princess, who this week faced the loss of
private secretary Patrick Jephson and two other staff.
Twice-married Atkinson, 48, will work closely with the Buckingham Palace
press office and staff at St James’s Palace, while continuing to work
with existing Atkinson Courage clients. These include United Distillers,
IBM and the Equal Opportunities Commission
‘The consultancy continues with the Princess of Wales as one of our
clients, but I will be acting as her personal adviser,’ Atkinson told PR
The search for a new press secretary began before Christmas, and St
James’s Palace is understood to have talked to a number of consultancies
and PR professionals before drawing up a short list. The Princess was
apparently keen to use a consultancy rather than appoint an in-house
replacement for Crawford, who resigned following her controversial
Panorama interview. Atkinson says that her new role will involve
working ‘with the princess to deliver a long term strategy as well as
dealing with the day-to-day media handling of her engagements’.
A corporate PR veteran of 20-years, Atkinson is a former deputy chairman
of the Rowland Company and founder of Countrywide-owned Affinity
Consulting. She teamed up with Rowland’s director of broadcasting, Robin
Courage to launch Atkinson Courage in February 1995.
She has three children and is said to share Diana’s interest in fitness
and alternative therapies. Former colleague Bill Jones of Lexis PR said:
‘Jane is professional and a good listener. She has seen a bit of life
and will be able to empathise with the Princess.’
PR consultant Max Clifford said the challenge for Diana’s new media
adviser would be ‘whether she is strong enough to control her’. The
Princess, he said, had been ‘more inclined to listen to advice from
various people outside’ rather than her own staff. Other observers
doubted whether Atkinson could do the job on a part-time basis.