Royal Recriminations Yield Crisis Communications Lessons

April 2021
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Public accusations that pit the Duke and Duchess of Sussex against Buckingham Palace provide crisis communication lessons for business leaders. 

During Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, broadcast on March 7 on CBS, the couple alleged they had faced bullying and racism from unnamed members of the royal family. Meghan had previously been accused of bullying her own staff at Kensington Palace before she and Harry exiled themselves to California last year.

As author Edward Segal wrote for Forbes, both sides in the royal conflict have followed a crisis communications rule: Tell your side of the story and make sure as many people hear it as possible. 

In a statement, Buckingham Palace said, “The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning” and would be addressed privately. Regarding a March 2 Times of London report alleging Meghan had bullied her own staff, the palace said its “HR team will look into the circumstances outlined in the article.”

Crisis situations can distract CEOs from running their companies. The royal family, which brings hundreds of millions of pounds into the British economy every year through tourism, is akin to a corporation, Segal wrote.

Noting parallels between the House of Windsor scandal and crises faced by business leaders, Donna Burke, co-founder of Spark PR in San Francisco, said “corporations and the royal family can and should control their own news.” 

Crisis communications, she said, require PR teams to “pause, gather facts and take a measured approach.”

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