Back in the day there used to be a framed quotation on the stairwell of CIPR HQ in Russell Square. It starts:
“Public Relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.”
When I was much younger I learned a useful phrase that I used to apply whenever a crisis threatened to break out: “When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you should do is stop digging.”
Sadly, it appears that no-one in Prince Andrew’s office is familiar with either phrase.
If this article by The Guardian is to be believed, Prince Andrew’s office also has no actual, current, professional PR support. The previous incumbent left after less than two months, his parting advice being “don’t do the Newsnight interview.”
The drive to do the interview seems to have come from… a former banker. Because, you know, everyone loves a banker.
Now: I will admit that I can see one of the arguments that went through the minds of the decision-makers here. “You need to tell your side of the story. Talk directly to the people. Remember, it worked for Diana.”
Forgetting, of course, that people still liked Diana at the time and were on her side, whereas I’ve yet to read or hear from any professional PR practitioner who thought this was ever going to be anything more than a disaster from a man generally assumed to be rather clueless about the real world and what people in it think of him.
The proper course of action would be to meet with the team prosecuting Epstein & co, give them your version of events first – then do the interview, if at all. But let’s assume we are going to do the interview. What’s the first thing you should do?
Apologise. You might not have done anything wrong (or thought you didn’t do anything wrong), but for heaven’s sake, show some compassion man!
Since the interview we’ve seen various people and organisations start to put some distance between themselves and Prince Andrew, which has a knock-on effect on charitable work such as Pitch@Palace or Outward Bound, and ceremonial roles such as Chancellor of the University of Huddersfield.
If public relations is about reputation, his reputation may have taken a blow it is impossible to recover from.