Media reaction to Simon Lewis’ appointment as communications
secretary to the Queen has been sceptical. What can someone from the
corporate world offer the Royal family?
A leader in Monday’s Daily Telegraph pointed out how different working
for the Queen will be to his current job as corporate affairs director
at Centrica, the supply arm of British Gas.
The Telegraph believes that ’where corporations are often concerned with
immediate headlines, the monarchy must look to the permanent sympathies
of the nation’.
This only betrays a lack of understanding of the PR profession and
therefore what Lewis will bring to the job. He works in the
controversial privatised utility sector, and for one of its highest
profile businesses. He has had to defend fat cat salaries and ensure
good relations with the Government while lobbying against the windfall
tax. He is not a man prepared to sacrifice his company’s reputation and
share price for a headline.
The Mail on Sunday described Buckingham Palace’s decision to appoint a
PR adviser as an overreaction to the popular backlash against the Queen
after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. The Queen may have
re-established herself in her people’s affections since last summer, but
the ghost of Diana has not been laid to rest. And if other,
unforeseeable issues rear up to confront the Royal family, they will
need expert guidance.
But if the Palace is to make good use of Lewis, he must be allowed to
continue giving the kind of strategic advice he provides at
He must not suffer the fate of Diana’s former PR adviser Jane
Atkinson went to work for Diana in the belief that she would be
consulted on public relations strategy and help to mould public
perception of the princess. Instead, she was used as a buffer for the
media, fielding up to 30 calls a day.
If Lewis is to be paid a salary of up to pounds 230,000 a year, as some
reports have suggested, he will need to do more than answer calls from
Unlike the late princess, the Queen already has a team of press officers
to do the day-to-day work. But Lewis will need direct access to the
Queen if his advice is to be taken seriously.
Contrary to what was previously believed, he is to hold the rank of
secretary rather than director, which does not guarantee direct access.
And he will have little say in Prince Charles’ public relations
But, by including the word communications in his job title, it seems
that the Palace has finally recognised the difference between strategic
PR advice and media relations.