Harry the PR hero: the backlash

3 Mar

It’s not about a brave young man; nor is it about the restraint shown by the British media for ten weeks. Nor is it about the reappearance of the Drudge Report. It’s about Max Clifford, who entered the fray to say this was all a publicity stunt. Of course!

Peter Wilby writing in Media Guardian follows the Max Clifford line. ‘He [Harry] is a pawn in a PR game.’

Let’s see who’s involved in the ‘PR game’. Certainly the army, and who can blame them, given the problems, unpopularity and bad press they’ve encountered. Certainly the Royal Family, given the problems, unpopularity etc. Certainly the media (in particular the press), given the problems etc. Certainly the Drudge Report which shot to fame when citizen journalist Matt Drudge bypassed the caution of the US media and broke the Monica Lewinsky story. That was ten years ago, so the site was in need of some new notoriety on the global stage.

Some journalists will continue to lament the growing influence of PR (one of the themes of the Nick Davies book); but most of us can accept that everyone’s ‘on the game’. This is also a challenge to university courses teaching the subject, which may struggle to distinguish professional and ethical PR from Max Clifford-style publicity stunts or do-it-yourself ‘citizen PR’.

7 Responses to “Harry the PR hero: the backlash”

  1. Jack Adlam 03/03/2008 at 10:58 pm #

    I read the article in the Media Guardian article on Harry today and have to say i find it a little harsh. There was no doubt the decision to send Harry to the Middle East would be met with much media attention and pr spin, even more with the issue of the D-Notice.
    I would disagree with Peter when he says in his article “newspapers and broadcasters should stop patting themselves on the back”. I think the British media acted very responsible in not leaking the story.
    Shame on you Drudge!

  2. Lydia Cambata 03/03/2008 at 11:59 pm #

    It’s not the first time, and it probably won’t be the last time that I say this, but Max Clifford is an idiot. There’s no doubting that he is a very successful man who knows what he is doing, however he seems to have let it go to his head.
    With the whole ‘Harry situation’ I feel that they handled it very well. It would have been extremely irresponsible to send him out there with the world watching, and by allowing him to fight, it shows that the royals are trying to show that we are all equal. It seems that it was just a leak that ended his experience, leaving him with little other outlets for him to prove himself through, and keep himself busy with.

  3. Richard Bailey 04/03/2008 at 9:30 am #

    Thank you Jack and Lydia: don’t you enjoy the raised voices and slammed doors of fervent agreement?
    There are other opinions though: http://strivepr.com/wordpress/2008/03/02/keeping-mum-harry-the-media/

  4. Katy Marshall 04/03/2008 at 5:18 pm #

    I’m not convinced. I happen to think it’s more than likely this was a very clever PR tactic devised by the comms teams for both the Royal Family and the Armed Forces.
    Lets face it – everybody comes off smelling of roses. First, we have Harry, the playboy prince notorious for his binge-drinking, party-centred lifestyle – now, a young hero fighting for his country on the front-line. Next, the Royal Family; the ongoing Diana inquest is just one in a long line of scandals to see public confidence in the highly expensive, public-funded monarchy reduce drastically over time. This ‘situation’ sees them having waved one of their own off to war, seemingly with their blessing, he is after all, just one of us! The we have the Army – heaven knows they were in need of some good-news stories following reports of the Iraq war. And finally (drum roll please), even the good old British press are smelling sweet – they concealed Harry’s deployment in Afghanistan until it was reportedly leaked on a US website – protecting the third in line to the throne from the security risks inevitable with public knowledge of his whereabouts; how noble!
    But, it being a PR stunt doesn’t necessarily make it spin! I’m not going to debate Harry’s willingness and desire to fight on the front-line, nor am I taking any of the glory away from him – I have a great respect for all our service men and women across all of the Armed Forces. However, what I will say is that the comms teams have done their jobs well! Very well indeed!

  5. Eric Eggertson 05/03/2008 at 9:24 am #

    I gave a similar thumbs down on the Drudge “scoop”:
    It’s rare that a member of the royal family gets to do anything beyond shake hands, smile and wave to the crowd. Their day-to-day life is a PR stunt. The tour of duty may have had PR implications, but it at least went beyond nibbling cucumber sandwiches with the crusts removed.

  6. Sherrilynne Starkie 05/03/2008 at 7:48 pm #

    I’ve enjoyed reading all the debate on this subject. But still am unmoved from my position. Thanks for making the discussion so interesting. 🙂

  7. Karel - Caribbean Public Relations 05/03/2008 at 9:11 pm #

    Hi Richard
    I haven’t had a chance to read all the different vantage points on this, but it definitely has some pr issues.
    On an unrelated note, Prince Charles and the Duchess are currently in Trinidad and Tobago.

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