Royal Baby Gives Royal Boost to UK

royal baby 150x150 Royal Baby Gives Royal Boost to UK

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) for the new prince’s effect on UK economy.

Economy ailing? Country need a financial boost? Just get your beloved monarchs to give birth to a future king. That’s exactly what Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge did for the United Kingdom when a new prince was born.

Though at press time the baby was still unnamed, the financial figures from the birth of His Royal Highness were already in. The Center for Retail Research estimated that Royal Baby Watchers would spend upward of $420 million in celebration over the birth of the third in line for the throne. There was a boost in visitors to London, not least of which from the media, camped out for weeks to get shots of the royal trip to the hospital and the first photos of the future queen or, as it turned out, king. Commemorative merchandise was for sale, along with donuts iced with baby footprints, and, of course, a lot of alcohol for toasting.

This boost in economy is yet another part of the re-branding, if you will, of the monarchy. In the past, Britain’s royals have struggled with scandal, but recently that has changed. William bucked Buckingham to marry his choice and when Kate was caught topless by paparazzi, the verdict was shame on the magazines that ran the snaps. Now, a baby brings glad tidings during an ongoing worldwide recession. The royals are on a roll.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for William, Kate, and the UK’s warm, PR-savvy welcome to the royal baby.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Accentuate the positive. In a time of a struggling economy, good news – from any source – is always welcome. The British Royals have always grabbed the headlines, occasionally like some sort of reality show meets romance novel. William and Kate are playing their PR cards well. It’s called making hay while the son – sorry! – shines.

Candy’s Bad PR Aftertaste

Nick Candy 150x150 Candys Bad PR Aftertaste

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Nick Candy and his PR image.

Nick Candy, described by the Financial Times as London’s “property tycoon,” agreed to be the subject for this weekend’s column Lunch with the FT. The article is ideally an opportunity for the subject to show a less rehearsed, more informal side. So what did Candy talk about? “Fast cars, famous friends, and the super-wealthy,” said the article’s intro. Too bad Candy forgot that no one likes a side of showoff with lunch.

As one half of the property developing team of Candy and Candy, Nick, with brother Christian, is changing the face of London real estate. Their latest project, One Hyde Park, is host to Russian oligarchs and the most expensive real estate in the world. Critics abound when it comes to the brothers. The chief accusation? Parvenu namedroppers who have struck lucky and whose love of publicity borders on the maniacal.

Candy responds in the interview that while he and his brother care about the brand of Candy and Candy, they surprisingly pay little attention to the PR strategy. The brand, he claims, is about luxury, and as if to prove it, Candy relentlessly drops names during the interview. Among them is FT’s own editor Lionel Barber, who he describes as a “friend.” He mentions attendance at Davos and outlines his coming week of global travel. The article ends with an embarrassing aftertaste: after the lunch, Barber informs the journalist that he barely knows Nick Candy.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Nick Candy and his firm’s PR image. A tough PR lesson learned the hard way.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Gravitas beats brashness. For a major international property developer, this was an embarrassing article, and being caught out by the editor of the Financial Times was the final coup de grace. In tone and content, this entire interview misfired. For two brothers who started as brash developers, they now need to craft a PR image that is more trustworthy. The absence of any clear messaging in the interview was clear. Candy’s admission that they pay no attention to press and PR strategy might just be the unexaggerated admission in an interview sure to prompt more criticism – and indigestion.

To read the interview, click here.

Margaret Thatcher’s PR Legacy

 Margaret Thatchers PR Legacy

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Lord Bell and Margaret Thatcher for consistent PR packaging that made a political icon.

The passing of Margaret Thatcher was announced yesterday by none other than her trusty PR adviser Lord Timothy Bell, the man who packaged Thatcher for an electoral win. It was a fitting end to an astonishing PR trajectory – the PR man who transformed the grocer’s daughter into a global figurehead ended up publicly drawing the curtain on the former Prime Minister’s final act, and possibly his greatest PR achievement.

To realize quite how successful Lord Bell has been in creating a myth and icon, one only need look at the media coverage announcing Thatcher’s death. Blanketing most news outlets on both sides of the Atlantic, the consensus on both political sides was that Thatcher had genuinely transformed economic policy and foreign policy with her relentless prescription for free markets and hostility to the Soviet Union.

Bell’s PR packaging served Thatcher’s messages well. Yesterday’s coverage made endless references to the deepened voice loaded with gravitas, as prescribed by her PR team, while her signature handbag portrayed an impatient common sense. Though her politics are what made her famous, her clever photo ops and bon mots made sure that even those who weren’t fans felt compelled to listen, watch, and acknowledge her achievements.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Lord Bell and Margaret Thatcher for consistent PR packaging that made a political icon.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Consistency trumps inventiveness. Thatcher’s genius was to begin working with a PR team at the outset of her political launch (as portrayed in the film The Iron Lady) that took every opportunity to demonstrate qualities that she later traded on. From her famous “This lady is not for turning” speech to her impeccably groomed persona, her packaging over the years rarely strayed or experimented with doubt or ideological uncertainty. Bell found for Thatcher a PR formula that, once firmly established, simply improved with age.

Team Romney’s Big Kiss-Off

 Team Romneys Big Kiss Off

The PR Verdict: C (Distinctly OK) for Romney spokesperson Rick Gorka.

Rick Gorka, mind your manners. Gorka, Mitt Romney’s press spokesperson, is in the news for losing his temper on Romney’s already rather problematic foreign tour. Having generated negative headlines in the UK and in the Middle East, the Romney campaign now finds itself in the media spotlight again because Gorka, its spokesperson, told journalists to “kiss [his] a**” and “shove it.” Now, is that any way to behave–especially for a spokesperson?

On the other hand, who can blame him? This tour has not been the most wildly successful of trips. Gorka’s not-so-friendly advice to the press corps came after journalists fired questions from behind a rope. Reporters from the New York Times, CNN, and Politico.com yelled questions about Romney’s European gaffes, wanting Mitt to respond. Gorka, on his last nerve, told them exactly how he felt.

The media went wild, Mitt looked embarrassed, and Gorka made personal apologies to the journalists concerned the next day. Any harm done? Hard to say. Everyone has an off day, and if Gorka has media relationships worth anything, one might hope this will be forgiven. What seems the bigger issue is the media’s complaint about access to Mitt himself, and that might be worth a rethink.

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Rick Gorka. At least he said “sorry” quickly and turned the page, but is there a wider issue at play?

The PR Takeaway: Apologizing is the easy part. The persistent complaint from the media is that Romney has simply been unavailable for much of his grand tour. In this latest blowup, the journalist yelled at Gorka, “We haven’t had another chance to ask a question!” Since Romney’s tax issues put his PR team on alert, the media have been complaining about restricted access. Romney did not address members of the press flying with him on any of the three charter flights–two that lasted more than four hours. One sure way to annoy the media? Ignore them. And for that, Gorka may be apologizing for some time to come.

What Did the Princess Ask For? Is That All?

PRINCESS What Did the Princess Ask For? Is That All?

The PR Verdict: “C” for the Princess and her call for reform.

Princess Basma Bint Saud Bin Abdulaziz (is there a shortened form?) gave the BBC a surprising interview yesterday, calling for change in her native Saudi Arabia.

From her London base, the daughter of King Saud, former ruler of Saudi Arabia, identified five needed reforms for the kingdom.  Radical in scope they included the constitution, divorce, education and social services.  She also criticised the current chaperone system for women as “infantilizing”, turning Saudi women into “a burden on their men and on society.”

The urgency of her calls came undone when she added in the interview that she is opposed to women driving, urging a delay  “until we are educated enough and until we have the necessary laws to protect us.”

The PR Verdict: “C” for the Princess and her call for reform.  She let the air out of the balloon by urging caution.  By saying that allowing women to drive is not for now, she pushed her five lofty reforms into the distant future and delayed  a simple reform from happening anytime soon.

Key PR lesson: Always start with a call to action that immediately mobilizes.  Give people something to do.  Arguing for constitutional and legal reform has its role but the Princess’s foray into free speech left her energized sympathizers limp.  While her five suggestions can be the subject of endless academic debate,  the question of women driving is a straight forward yes or no.  More importantly, it is the gateway for broader change.  Sadly a missed opportunity.

To read the interview click here

What’s your PR Verdict?

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