Skip links


Royal Mistakes: A PR Practitioner’s Worst Nightmare

Published on April 13, 2020, at 4:53 p.m.
by Katie Poedtke.

History is happening right before our eyes. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle decided to step back from the royal family, effectively leaving behind their titles, financial support and closest relatives. The monarchy has never seen a proposal like this before, which means navigating the public relations behind it all is just as unprecedented.

On the Duke and Duchess’s official Instagram page, Prince Harry announced his and Markle’s decision to resign from the royal spotlight on Jan. 8, 2020.

Photo courtesy of ENews!

For such a high-profile family, the standards for communication are elevated as well. The public relations team can only do so much if it is not put to use, which may have led to these controversial effects.

The Queen asked the Duke and Duchess of Sussex not to make an announcement

A divide has manifested between the couple and the Queen, and she specifically asked them to not make an announcement about leaving the royal family. Prince Harry and Markle defied her wishes and decided to go public anyway. Although the royal family may not have approved, this would have been an integral point in time to consult a public relations specialist who knows the couple and the family well.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle did not consult the royal family first

Although Prince Harry and Markle stated in their announcement that they intended to support the Queen throughout the process, they didn’t consult her about their decision beforehand. The royal family felt hurt from the decision and lack of conversation. Even though they tried to be transparent with the public, the Duke and Duchess should not have let their family and their PR specialists find out through social media. Since the family has such a powerful impact on the people they lead, a conversation should have happened with key PR people in the room.

Dismissing the media could backfire

The Duke and Duchess have decided to cut off the tabloid press and have very tight restrictions on other media access. In one of his statements, Prince Harry described the media as “a powerful force,” in relation to the passing of his late mother, Princess Diana. Even though the distance might bring some immediate relief, it could also bring some adverse effects as well. Prince Harry and Markle will not collaborate with the royal rota, which includes the news outlets that the royal family traditionally works with, such as The Daily Mail and The Times. Dismissing the press could damage their public relations efforts in the future, but it is a risk they are willing to take.

PR News believes the royal communications crisis has a two-fold solution: Develop a strategy and create messaging for the future. This is the foundation of the PR industry; it is public relations at its core. Moving forward, there has to be a structure for the royal PR team to work from.

We are witnesses to history today, and we know history can repeat itself tomorrow. Hopefully, the royal PR team will be able to learn from this situation and prepare for the next.

Return to top of page