Megxit, The Crown, and The Power of Perception
Meghan and Harry’s decision to break away from the royal family has put the British monarchy back in the media spotlight over the last year. Coupled with the huge popularity—and increasing controversy—surrounding Netflix’s hit series, The Crown, there’s good reason to scrutinize these developments from a reputation management perspective.
In the majestic domain as in business and other areas of public life, fact and fiction often become entangled. Media speculation quickly heats up, and emotions run strong, regardless of reality. Perhaps the only timeless truth is that if we don’t shape perceptions of ourselves, someone else will do it for us. And not necessarily to our liking.
In this post we share with you our specific insights, based on public perceptions of Megxit and the royals. We hope you find the following takeaways useful when considering your own online image, PR, and communications strategies.
The term “Megxit” is a portmanteau of “Meghan” and “exit” as well as wordplay on “Brexit,” of course. Since its adoption by The Sun, the most widely circulated British tabloid, it has become the shorthand expression for this royal affair internationally. Sometimes, the context of a story can be more powerful than the story itself.
In difficult situations, the who, where, and how of your activities and responses are often more critical than the substance. In addition to shaping your narrative and messaging, it’s imperative to carefully consider the timing of your actions and reactions. They too will largely influence how your story will be perceived.
Coverage today frames perceptions tomorrow
In other words, past stories inform future impressions.
William (not the royal prince but the fictional character played by Hugh Grant in Notting Hill) is taught this lesson by superstar Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) after he pleads with her to retain a reasonable perspective: “Today’s newspapers will be lining tomorrow’s wastepaper bins,” he says. “You really don’t get it,” replies Scott. “This story gets filed. Every time anyone writes anything about me, they’ll dig up these photos. Newspapers last forever.”
That’s not to say that damaged reputations can’t be repaired, but nothing beats being proactive to build your online presence. That’s as true for the crème de la crème of A-list royals-cum-celebrities as it is for business executives and high-net-worth individuals.
Imagine there’s a court case in your personal history. Whenever something newsworthy occurs in your life, there’s every chance the legal wrangling will rear its ugly head again. But if you have proactively optimized your online presence, you can absorb discomfort because you have strategically controlled your image through robust content and mature digital assets built up over time. You will then be much better placed to push undesirable content out of sight on Google, or at least to put it in perspective. You can easily publish your take on the matter and ensure that balanced content from sources you trust stands out.
Seek out the win-win
Not all conflicts are zero sum, even when one’s dirty laundry is aired in public. Negotiations at the now-famous Sandringham Summit led to carefully worded statements in which the monarchy stressed its support for Harry and Meghan’s “wish for a more independent life.”
The young couple were freed up, albeit not unconditionally, to build their own personal brand and earn private income. The royal family used the opportunity, albeit unsought, to present itself as modern, progressive, and compassionate.
Sandringham could easily have ended differently. Both sides could have hit out at each other in public, followed by stories of a full-blown constitutional crisis. Instead, through well-planned PR, they each achieved a reputational accomplishment on which to build.
Get your ducks in a rowA huge component of reputation and crisis management is being prepared. That means maintaining your online infrastructure, anticipating your stakeholders and tailoring your message to different audiences as appropriate. By all accounts, it was the way in which Harry and Meghan caught Buckingham Palace off guard by announcing their big decision on Instagram, even more than their intent to break away, which most riled the rest of the Royal Family. But whatever one thinks of sharing news with the world via social media, the Sussex’s laid the groundwork to control their reputation before going public. Their website and Instagram account initially helped them to weather the storm. And by the time they were forced to stop using the official ‘Sussex Royal’ brand, they had already adjusted and repositioned themselves. Forward thinking, including sensitivity to your clients, partners and employees, can make all the difference when it comes to managing your reputation effectively.
Allocate your resources correctly
Members of the royal family are surrounded by aides, including PR and press officers. Harry and Meghan seem to be acutely aware of the importance of these roles as they begin to handle their own lives independently. In just the last few weeks, they’ve hired a new US-based communications team to complement their British one, bringing their PR machine to a total of 12 people.
Such a large operation isn’t always necessary, but this development serves as a timely reminder that perceptions aren’t managed on their own.
The most important factor in getting your reputation on track is not the size of the team, but the trust and rapport you build with your consultants.
Fortunately, that’s our strong suit.
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