It’s unlikely that anyone this side of the continent would have missed images of Prince Harry’s recent faux paux, which saw him flashing his crown jewels in a luxury Las Vegas hotel room. Perfect evidence that what goes on in Vegas, doesn’t always stay in Vegas. But, was it a right royal muck-up? Or, did it actually end up being a bit of a PR winner?
As PR professionals we work hard to raise the profile of our key clients, but publicity is tricky to handle because as familiarity with a brand or personality increases, so does the potential damages an incident like this can cause.
Even before these revelations, Harry has hardly been the ‘squeaky-clean’ prince and his wild partying habits have often been splashed across the front pages of the British tabloids. Harry’s down-to-earth approach to life is well-liked and respected by much of general public - particularly by the young - and it’s this public attitude that has helped to soften the blow of this indiscretion with relatively little difficulty. For instance, Harry may well be reprimanded by the Army, for bringing the service into disrepute but, this has hardly been reported the press.
In his first public appearance following the incident, Harry attended the WellChild Awards. His attendance was without doubt a strategic one, but it provided a brilliant opportunity to remind the public of the prince we adore, without him having to actually apologise for his recent activities. Also, the royals seemingly offered little comment on Harry’s escapades – which is actually a testament to the hard work that went on behind the scenes by the palace press office to keep publicity to a minimum.
Harry’s response provides a good example that a well-written statement is not always the best, or only option, when dealing with crisis management. In this instance, Harry’s tongue-in-cheek comments at the Wellchild event proved to be the best response to his actions.
For all media professionals, effective communications is about reading the situation and thinking creatively about how you can effectively deliver the ‘right’ PR message to the correct audience. In Harry’s case, it was about reminding the public that he is an avid charity worker and not about apologising for being 27 and doing what twenty-somethings do on holiday. After all, we all make mistakes but it is important that we are seen to be learning from them.
Some may argue that any publicity is good publicity and that Harry’s antics have actually enhanced his international media profile; for example, many have said that Harry is a prince that people can relate to because he so obviously acts like a ‘normal’ 27-year-old. Many comments from my colleagues and peers would certainly support this theory, nevertheless, who is to say that Harry’s reputation hasn’t been permanently tarnished because of these photos? The key now will be how Harry moves on from this incident and whether the British public will be as understanding if there is a next time.
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