At this time of year, it’s traditional for the PR industry to compile lists of hits and misses from the past twelve months. Those of us who’ve been involved in the campaigns that make it to the winners’ tallies can then pat ourselves on the back for the hype successfully created. We can smile with smug satisfaction at the failures of our colleagues on the losers’ lists, while breathing a silent thank you that this year, by the grace of God, none of the cock-ups were by our clients.
One of the campaigns that will be cited as a perfect example of “how not to do it” is the way the Duke of York has been handling his own personal difficulties. However, hearing this sorry tale being described as a “PR disaster” enrages me.
As I write, we can’t say for certain if Prince Andrew is guilty or innocent of the accusations made against him. But one thing that is clear is that the position he finds himself in is not about bad PR management. If a famous person mucks up, a bit of media training or well-crafted messaging script is not the solution to their problems. If the Duke had faultlessly delivered an apology and expressed regret to Oscar-winning standards during his BBC interview with Emily Maitlis, that does not make him any less (or more) culpable.
At Templemere, we help our clients communicate the truth so that they can ensure that their side of the story is well presented if they haven’t done anything wrong. We can also make a start on repairing their reputation if they have. But PR is not a smokescreen to hide a mistake, and you can’t talk yourself out of a situation you behaved yourself into.
However wince-inducing Prince Andrew’s performance, however stupid or smarmy he appeared, his responses should be listened to, and not sniggered at. Time will tell if he was indeed tucking into a Pollo Ad Astra in Woking at the time Virginia Roberts Giuffre says he was with her. But this is for the law, not a popularity contest, to decide.