Jane Atkinson resigned as the Princess of Wales’ PR adviser this week,
ending weeks of speculation.
Her departure follows clashes between the two women over the handling of
the Princess’ media relations.
There have been some major successes during Atkinson’s tenure - such as
Diana’s Chicago trip. But the Princess is renowned for her belief in her
own ability to handle the press and, although she has often outfoxed the
staid Palace press machine, not all her initiatives have succeeded.
Earlier this year she was heavily criticised for appearing in a hospital
operating theatre. And last week’s decision to end her links with around
100 charities also met with disapproval.
Although Atkinson says she was consulted on these issues, it is not
clear how far the Princess was prepared to act on her advice.
It is not the first time the Princess has fallen out with her press
advisers. While last year’s Panorama interview finally goaded the
Palace into talks, it also prompted the resignation of press secretary
PR industry colleagues were unsurprised by Atkinson’s resignation.
PRCA chairman Jackie Elliot said she was right to quit. ‘One of the
problems was that Jane is a professional and Diana clearly is not,’ she
said. ‘Diana realised she needed proper help in media management but, if
you commit yourself to such help, you have to take advice and realise
you do not play games with the press.’
Since January, Atkinson has also found herself in the media spotlight
uncomfortably often. And, despite the prestige, the demands of the job
far exceeded the pounds 35,000 in fees it brought to her firm, Atkinson
Former colleague Peter Cunard of Tolman Cunard said Royal PR advisers
need to provide tough advice but ‘keep well out of the line of fire’
themselves, If you get a client like that, you’re dealing with an
unguided missile.’ he said. ‘They are always going to make up their own
minds, and it’s always going to be a master/servant relationship.’
‘Jane dealt with the press in the way most good PR consultants do, which
is to be honest and up-front. But you can’t always do that in a job
where traditionally the only response is to be non-committal.’
Atkinson would not comment on her resignation.