Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Real Business asks Sara Tye what PR mistake stands out in her mind

The PR gaff that stands out in my mind, which took years to rectify, was the lack of comment and action from HRH The Queen post the death of the late Princess Diana. Probably one of the most high-profile news items and deaths ever – it was handled poorly by the Royals and by Buckingham Palace.
There is a saying that ‘A gap left with no communications can be filled with misinterpretation, fear and dread’. We’ve all felt that at some stage in our lives and the country felt this when the Queen left it days to comment and return to London, and mourn the death of Princess Diana with the people.
The Queen made a decision to stay with the young boys in Scotland and unfortunately it was misinterpreted by the British people. This was the start of a profile/perception issue for The Queen.
It took years to turn it around. It took films, documentaries, softening up, Princes William, social media to make sure our Queen is much more accessible. An accessibility that Princess Diana started.
Could this have been mitigated. Of course.
Better decision making and discussion at Buckingham Palace on immediate and short-term PR actions, plans and outcomes would have helped. Maybe the Royal household went into melt down at such an awful accident. It was huge! But it looked like it took too long.
What would have been the outcome of The Queen saying something quickly. Nothing but positive reaction. Sometimes emotions and feelings stop us doing things. But this was, in the end a ‘Royal Business/Organisation’ decision not just a personal one.
There was probably little communication of the current reaction in London and at the gates of Kensington Palace until they saw this themselves on the news. Had someone been there and relayed the information correctly, then maybe a different decision would have been made. London activity becomes national/international activity.
Also, the softening of The Queen could have started earlier. The approach taken now by the Royals in terms of perception is just fantastic and maybe it took a crisis to turn it around. Or maybe it took the Duke of Cambridge and the effect on him and the way he carries himself.
The Queen was and is a professional and global ‘PR Maven’ and had an impeccable record before this incident and does now. It demonstrates how one decision can cancel out years of work.
Whenever a calamity hits and PR is at the forefront of the action, acting and making decisions are crucial. Sometimes they can be the wrong choices. But if you have great credibility in the first place, then turning this around into positive action and perception is not difficult. But saying and doing nothing is worse.

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