It’s been a rough ride for the Duchess of Sussex as she transitioned from her Hollywood lifestyle to being a rather ‘controversial’ member of the Royal family. Meghan Markle has faced outrageous scrutiny resulting in a string of negative press over the past few months.
Crisis is certainly nothing new for the Royal Family. They’ve been through the wringer countless number of times over the years. BBC’s “Reinventing the Royals” which aired in 2015, shed light on how the British monarchy’s PR team are the real defenders of the realm, revealing how Britain’s most famous family has dealt and overcome PR crises.
However, things have taken a turn since Meghan Markle joined the Royal Family. The Duchess and Prince Harry have been labelled “Public Relations Disasters” by Fox News Network because they can’t seem to catch a break. As such, their approach to manage the out-of-control spiral of crisis had to change drastically. And it did.
Taking matters into her own hands, Meghan Markle hired a crisis management company, Sunshine Sachs, to help alleviate the bad rap she’d been getting by the press. Since then, the Sussexes have embarked on a “three-pronged media strategy” of legal action, statement and an emotionally charged documentary – a bold and unorthodox approach to managing crisis as members of the monarchy.
They decided to face and address the crisis head on by appealing to public opinion and showing vulnerability and authenticity – two vital ingredients to tap into the public’s emotions and show that, although they’re in the public eye, they are humans too with feelings and emotions.
A recent interview with ITV coinciding with the network’s new documentary, Harry & Meghan: An African Journey is making headlines for all the right reasons. Meghan Markle gave a candid interview where she openly talked about her mental health dealing with the press and the transition into the Royal Family, and, in a rare moment of candour, admitted she wasn’t doing great.
The interview/documentary came shortly after the publication of Prince Harry’s open letter stating they will be suing The Daily Mail for “the misuse of private information” and “infringement of copyright.” Talk about strategic timing.
The outpouring of support from the public and the media following their interview is a clear indication that their approach to crisis management has proven highly effective. Some have argued that taking legal actions will not change British press culture, and they are probably right. However pairing legal action with an emotionally charged appeal to public opinion, is a step in the right direction, surely. Publishing house Associated Newspapers still need to sell newspapers and getting the public on the right side is key.
Something to keep in mind for us communications professionals who are often tasked with putting out fires – taking concrete and pragmatic actions in times of crisis might not be enough. However when actions are substantiated with the power of the emotional, authentic and human side, the effect is far more wide reaching.
The only thing that seems to be safe to say is that everyone from the Queen to royal flunkeys and mandarins to Harry and Meghan are now in uncharted territory. This is nearly an impossible situation and the solution most likely lies in some new, entirely novel royal modus operandi.