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When will they ever learn?!

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks” said a character in Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’. Spoken by Queen Gertrude, it is delivered in response to the insincere overacting of a character in the play within a play.  So, will Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah be characterised as too much of a protest? It could be – but there are certainly a couple of things they may have overlooked. The first is a misunderstanding of the superficiality of the audience – and the second, a recognition that trial by media only works if you have a reasonable bank of goodwill to start with.  

The fickle nature of public opinion – Harry seems to have gone from Invictus Games hero to over earning, high-rolling zero in a very short space of time – does not augur well. And, more presciently, the event may surely be uncomfortably mistimed given the Duke of Edinburgh’s illness.  On the day the conversation is broadcast might we be dealing with an even bigger story?  

Prince Andrew’s interview failed spectacularly.  Our opinion of the Queen’s second son was either neutral or hostile. To be frank, we didn’t care about him and his appearance on Newsnight did nothing to change our opinion.  He was an over privileged former playboy who’s lack of connection with the public rendered any attempt to change our minds fruitless.

In Harry and Meghan’s case the perceived whinging and whining that’s gone on since the couple decamped for California has seen them slide swiftly down the Royal league table. Running away is one thing but leaving behind public duty and allegations of bullying in their wake does not help their ‘brand’. 

Most critically, in communication, the art of using the sit-down TV interview is surely outdated and ultimately counter-productive.  History is not kind to anyone still wielding this tired format.  It leaves a residue that can drag on for years. Princess Diana did it in 1995, and the circumstances have come back to haunt those originally involved.  

As a spokesperson for any organisation, three things have to align to create impact and, critically, influence…

  • we’ve got to like you, (or at least not dislike you!) 
  • believe in the integrity of your performance and message
  • not pre-judge your appearance 

Get all three right and your recipient will buy into your position. If not, you run the risk of the whole plan blowing up in your face.