The suggestion that the Royal family should hire a director of
communications to mastermind its PR strategy has been greeted with the
usual horrified gasps from Royal experts and media know-it-alls.
The idea is even said to have caused some dissent within Royal
One aide was quoted this week as saying that the Queen abhors the idea
of having someone leak upbeat Royal stories in ’a rather underhand
She has a valid point. The Royal family does not need to strive for more
publicity; nor does it need to express views on national issues, become
embroiled in public debate, or rubbish rivals - all of which are the
stock in trade of the political spin doctor.
It is a different role which would be required of a Royal director of
communications. Public relations has two distinct functions: to advise
and to present. Only the latter role is widely understood, as the
reaction to this story demonstrates, but it is the former which is more
The Royal family does not need a souped-up press spokesman - the Palace
press office is perfectly capable of fulfilling that presentational
role, although it needs to be let off the leash more often. What it
really needs is some strategic communications advice.
Most of those who dismiss the idea that the Royal family needs PR help
concede that its image is stuffy and out of touch, but stress that this
is at odds with the hardworking, dignified reality. Their clever
Some fear that the ’mystique of majesty’ would be threatened by
tinkering with its image. And it is true to say that, unlike a political
party with its eye on the next election, the Royal family does not need
to alter its behaviour and traditions with every new focus group
finding. But it does need advice on the communications implications of
its decisions if it is to avoid damaging its image even further in the
eyes of the public.
As part of this, it needs to be told some harsh truths: for example,
that shutting out the late Princess of Wales during the breakdown of her
marriage led directly to the most damaging episode in recent Royal
history - open warfare between her and Prince Charles conducted through
With proper advice at the time, this could have been avoided.
The Royal family has already taken the most important first step by
recognising that there is a problem, and now it needs to act to address
the issues that the MORI study has uncovered. Hiring a professional
adviser would be a very good start.