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PR Observations: Palace PR and digital dilemmas

Credit: David Quainton

Everyone’s Columbo these days. You can’t just innocently doctor a picture of the wife of the heir to the throne without hordes of social super sleuths questioning her cuffs, her foliage, and whether her child crossing his fingers is some sort of establishment code. Really, if Dan Brown isn’t noting all of this down, then what’s the point of Dan Brown?

It used to be so much easier to lie. You could, for example, record music by an aesthetically average person, pop in a sexy miming duo claiming it’s theirs, get to number one, and make oodles of cash before anyone noticed. Don’t believe me? Girl, you know it’s true

Also easier, one presumes, was being a PR person for the Royal Family. Statements were easy to write on the basis they didn’t exist. Or if they did, they were followed with the kind of fawning sycophantic coverage that might cause Vladimir Putin to say nyet, that’s a bit much guys, tone it down a little.

The young prince has a D in art and a B in general studies you say? Hoist the union flag! Clear the Daily Mail double-page spread! Give me the front page! We have a royal genius on our hands!

Now we’re in the post-truth era, but it’s also the absolute truth era, and that’s a comms conundrum for the old boys and girls in the (weirdly underwhelming, when you think about it) building in Hyde Park.

I don’t envy the task of the palace PR. How do you position the absolute bastion of tradition and conservatism (small ‘c’), in a world that ebbs and flows and occasionally rushes like the Severn Bore?

Whereas before you could ignore rumour perhaps now it has to be addressed (note, Kate’s Tweet, which is a traditionally un-royal response).

I’m willing to bet that this will all eventually pave the way for a very much managed, incredibly popular, fly-on-the-wall documentary about the lives of Wills and Kate. Perhaps when it airs, we’ll get some insight into the latter’s woeful amateur photo editing.

This PR Observations column was written by David Quainton, head of communications at the digital consultancy Emergn. The opinions are his own.

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