PROFILE: Sandy Henney, press to the prince of Wales; Henney flies up PR pecking order

Prince Charles’ new media-friendly press secretary has a deft touch

Prince Charles’ new media-friendly press secretary has a deft touch



With last week’s headlines dominated by Princess Diana’s decision to

dump 100 charities and tabloid rumours that she was planning to do the

same with her media adviser, Jane Atkinson, Sandy Henney’s appointment

as Prince Charles’ new press secretary rated barely a mention.



The contrast with the media circus that surrounded Atkinson when her own

appointment was announced could not have been greater. Apart from their

feuding Royal bosses, the two women appear to have little in common -

Atkinson is a product of the commercial PR scene, while Henney is a

career civil servant.



Her career has been marked by adroit handling of difficult situations.

While with the Metropolitan Police, she was given the unenviable job of

handling the media in the aftermath of the 1981 Brixton riots and worked

closely with her future husband, head of the Royal Diplomatic Protection

Squad Bob Marsh, then chief superintendent of Brixton police.



She had a stint running PR for the four Britons selected to be

astronauts, a programme that came to an end following the Challenger

space shuttle disaster. Her crisis management skills were required again

in 1991 as head of information at the Crown Prosecution Service when the

then director of public prosecutions, Sir Allan Green, resigned after

allegations of kerb crawling.



She left the CPS for Buckingham Palace in 1993 and was soon showing her

mettle again on the royal visit to Australia where Charles was

threatened by a gunman. Her slick performance amid the pandemonium

impressed many, including Daily Express royal correspondent Robert

Jobson.



‘She has been first class, a breath of fresh air,’ he says. ‘She’s down

to earth, plain-speaking and tells the truth.’



Jobson would like to see Henney persuade Charles to make himself

available to the royal correspondents again, something he has not done

for five years. ‘He’s got to go out there and get his hands dirty and

meet the people who write about him.’ Few doubt Henney would have the

courage to put it to the Prince, who regards the tabloids with

understandable distaste.



‘She’s very professional and very frank,’ says Martin Helm, chief press

officer at the MoD when Henney was on the RAF desk. ‘She won’t hesitate

to give the sort of advice that whoever she’s working for, whatever

their exalted position, should hear.’



‘She’s very practical,’ says Business in the Community chief executive

Julia Cleverdon, who is also secretary of the Prince of Wales Co-

ordinating Committee.



‘She sees the point as far as the press is concerned and she’s clear

about the contributions the Prince of Wales is making to the UK and how

to communicate that.’



The fact that Henney herself is much liked may also have a positive

effect on the Prince’s image. ‘You couldn’t meet a nicer person,’ says

Majesty editor-in-chief Ingrid Seward. ‘She’s very efficient, very adept

at dealing with the media, friendly and very astute.’



Others describe Henney as vivacious, enthusiastic and fun to be

around. Jane Barnes, who worked with Henney on a number of events during

two years as communications manager for the Prince’s Trust, found her to

be ‘encouraging, professional, calm and inspiring.’



Her predecessor as press secretary, Allan Percival, also earned his

spurs in the Government Information Service and some may feel Henney’s

appointment shows a lack of imagination. But Henney has plainly won the

trust of the Prince, and it should be remembered that Charles also takes

soundings from a coterie of unofficial communications advisers.



The test will be whether her counsel is given greater weight than that

of the eminences grises to whom the Prince also lends an ear. That or

another media bombshell from Diana.



HIGHLIGHTS



1970 Press officer, later senior press officer, Metropolitan Police

1985 Senior press officer, Ministry of Defence

1987 Senior press officer, Department of Education and Science

1988 Head of information, Crown Prosecution Service

1993 Assistant press secretary to Prince Charles

1996 Prince Charles’ press secretary



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