The Royal Revelation

 The Royal Revelation

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) for Buckingham Palace.

KATE EXPECTATIONS trumpeted one headline, announcing the news fans of Britain’s royal family have been waiting to hear: Princess Kate is pregnant. Press officials for Buckingham Palace made the announcement yesterday afternoon but the royal family barely beat the media. Had they not rushed the news, the headlines might have been altogether different.

The princess’s last experience with the media came a few short months ago, when she learned that for her, there is no longer any such thing as privacy. Even sunbathing on a secluded estate is meaningless when you’re royalty, and among the most popular members of the royal family at that.

Typically, pregnancy announcements are made well after the risky first trimester; Kate is a mere 10 weeks along. In her case, the revelation was forced when she was hospitalized due to hyperemesis gravidarium, a serious type of morning sickness that can require IV fluids as no food or liquid can be kept down.

Had the media got wind of Kate’s unexplained hospitalization, or heard that she was pregnant through the inevitable loose lips, the headlines would have focused on the worst: the princess and royal heir in danger! However, the royals seized control of the situation quickly. The announcement? We’re pregnant! (And oh, by the way, Kate’s in hospital, but just as a precaution.)

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) for the royal family for scooping the media and accentuating the positive aspect of the news.

The PR Takeaway: When revelations are inevitable, make them quickly – and to your own advantage. By making the announcement themselves, the royal family were able to focus on the aspect they wanted – the pregnancy – and not Kate’s illness. Imagine for a moment if the media had made the announcement; the sensation would have topped those topless photos. Secrets cannot be kept, but they can be controlled. How it comes out depends on the one doing the telling.

Guest Column: The Trouble With Prince Harry? None At All

 Guest Column: The Trouble With Prince Harry? None At All

The PR Verdict: A (PR Perfect) for Prince Harry.

The headlines are too easy: “The Trouble With Harry.” “Dirty Harry.” Prince Harry’s escapade in Las Vegas—a strip poker game that ended with photos of a naked royal—was almost a gift to the tabloids. And yet the Crown may have a PR ace up its sleeve in Harry.

Harry has always been the heir apparent for royal scandal. As third in line for the throne, the pressure to conform to royal standards of propriety is relatively low. Need we go into his father’s anatomical declarations of love for Camilla Parker Bowles? Please, let’s not.

And yes, the young prince occasionally acts out. But this latest adventure had a curious side effect: Harry’s generation seems smitten with him. He is like his peers, caught in some NSFW (Not Suitable For Work) photos. Among Harry’s generation, fame—in any context—is gold. Sealing the turn from scandal to success was Harry’s appearance at a charity event, where he acknowledged his escapade with self-effacing humor (read about it here). Scandal averted, Harry is now the unlikely hero.

The PR Verdict: A (PR Perfect) for Prince Harry. If Buckingham Palace is smart, they’ll continue to rap Harry’s knuckles—and keep him in front of his adoring public, continuing his mother’s legacy: Could he become the People’s Prince?

The PR Takeaway: Mini-scandals can move the PR dial. After doing something naughty but harmless, a public appearance for charity and self-effacing humor are the golden tickets to winning the public’s, and the media’s, hearts. The ploy was used to excellent effect by Fred Willard in the US; days after the actor was caught with his pants down in an X-rated movie theater, he joked about the incident brilliantly on late night TV. Prince Harry should continue to do good works, which offset his occasional lad-like behavior; both bring a younger generation closer to the Crown.

Katie Holmes’s Stealth Divorce Bombshell

 Katie Holmess Stealth Divorce Bombshell

The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star!) for Katie Holmes and her stealth divorce bomb.

TomKat–Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes–are now officially over. Just like that. The surprising announcement that Holmes had started divorce proceedings seemed to catch her actor husband Cruise off guard. The filing was made on Thursday afternoon; the media went crazy on Friday. What happens now?

Speculation has already begun as to the cause of the marriage breakdown. Whispers of Holmes’s resistance to Cruise’s Scientology pals abound, as does the sneaking suspicion that the marriage was, from the start, a five-year contractual understanding. Other media speculate that Cruise’s alleged ambiguous sexuality is the genesis of the crisis, with one New York tabloid sarcastically commenting, “Holmes will keep the house while Cruise keeps the closet.”

Was the split expected? The gossip magazines had not speculated about Cruise’s third marriage in any meaningful way (despite ongoing low-level chatter). Cruise showed up alone at the recent premieres of his latest film Rock of Ages with no significant adverse comment. With the media off guard, the time for Holmes to file was now. At least on the PR front, this was minimally damaging, given the couple’s notoriety.

The PR Verdict: “A” (Gold Star!) for  Katie Holmes, whose divorce strategy is like a precision bomb. Taking the media by surprise means that phase one of the divorce agenda is owned by Homes, hands down.

The PR Takeaway:  Quick precision bombing has its advantages. Making a sudden filing before the weekend, while not making substantive comments keeps the scandal level relatively low. Holmes followed the template of her soon-to-be-ex-husband’s own divorce from second wife Nicole Kidman: no comment, no explanation–the PR exercise equivalent to ripping the band aid off quickly. No one ever really got to the bottom of the Kidman/Cruise divorce in part because it seemed so unexpected. The explanations this time around might be just as elusive.

Will Katie Holmes’s sudden, stealth divorce bomb shatter the media’s speculative attack? Give us your PR Verdict, below.

Hey ! Did you see that the Financial Times (Alphaville) republished our PRV on Barclays? Take a look: