Prince Harry, Meghan Markle Remind Marketers: Take Control of Your Brand Image and Story


Prince Harry and Meghan Merkle unexpectedly – and controversially – announced this weekOpens a new window their intention to step back as senior royals — and marketers should pay close attention to their reasons.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex plan to withdraw cooperation from the specific group of journalists who report on the monarchy for British newspapers and, according to Jim Waterson in The GuardianOpens a new window , as “part of a shake-up which will see the couple attempt to take a step back from public life and control their image.”

The decision makes especially clear that the couple has been driven to move away (figuratively, as well as literally to Canada for part of the year) in large part by their disdain for the traveling band of journalists known as the “royal rota.”

In written statements released by Harry and Meghan, they’ve been open and direct about their perception of a lack of credibility and reliability of those royal reporters. Rather, the young couple claims, the correspondents and their editors often misreport stories or publish articles that create and present false impressions.

“Instead, the couple intend to take an approach more in common with the image management techniques practiced by modern celebrities,” Waterson explains, “communicating directly with the public through social media and carefully choosing which parts of the media they deal with.”

Now, if you’re skeptical over the link between the duke and duchess’s decision and a wider marketing lesson, believe me, there is one.

But first, we need to talk about social media.

Social media is work

Feeling there are too many media and platforms that brands are being told they should be on?

In my view, that’s especially true with the explosion of social media networks we must navigate and leverageOpens a new window in order to engage consumers constantly and regularly. Yet, there’s no escaping that social media is now integral across industries and businesses and, as such, essential to marketing, lead generation and sales.

While the theory and reasoning behind this makes sense on paper — the more touchpoints for reaching people, the more prospects you can convert into leads — social media marketingOpens a new window can be a lot of work. Indeed, effectively employing best practices across four or more social media platforms is no small task.

From making regular posts (and ensuring that each post is optimized for each specific audience segment on each network), to responding to user engagements to designing social media-specific campaigns or campaign elements can consume much of your day and require heavy management.

Worse still, many people now use social media especially as public forums to raise issues, complaints and problems with brands and companies. For marketers, that means many of us are also thrust into customer service roles on these social networking sites, responding to those complaints and having to put out fires.

And what about the scrutiny companies are now under over their representation on these channels? One badly worded sentence, one misguided tweet or retweet, one marketing campaign that gets the tone wrong and the damage can be crippling.

Then there’s the minefield that is PR crisis management on social media (see my article in JulyOpens a new window ).

Marketers’ roles on social media now bleed into the work of other business units, including business development, sales and customer relationship management.

Taking control

Now let’s bring it back to the royal couple.

The parallel I’m drawing between their decision and the marketing sector is this: Marketers need to copy a page from their book and seize and maintain control of their brand’s story and, thus, its image.

Harry and Meghan clearly plan to deny open access to the tabloids, instead picking and choosing the outlets they will deal with. As part of their surprise announcement, they unveiled a slick new website called Sussex RoyalOpens a new window and they’re very clear about their intention to mold their own image — “a revised media approach” — arguing “it is appropriate to amend their media relations policy to reflect their new roles. Their sincere hope is that this change in media policy will enhance access and give The Duke and Duchess the ability to share information more freely with members of the public.”

As part of the new approach, in addition to rejecting the rota system, they’ll “provide access to credible media outlets focused on objective news reporting to cover key moments and events.”

In other words, they’re exerting full control over their brand.

Companies should follow this tactic.

Yes, it’s a different context — most companies hardly deal with the press and don’t have to think about this type of problem — but nevertheless it’s a markedly similar circumstance for brands on social media. Rather than feel that you have to represent your company on every available medium, identify which platforms are best for your business objectives, your digital audience and your prospects and clients.

Don’t spread yourself too thin. Your media-focused efforts should be on the best social media network for your type of business — for example, B2B businesses generally do best on LinkedIn while Twitter, Instagram and Facebook can be B2C gamechangers.

Spend time figuring out how to maintain brand safetyOpens a new window , brand image and brand reputationOpens a new window  on the select few platforms. Identify the right tone for these platforms and the various consumer segments you target.

And follow the prince and his wife with professional interest as they try to take control of their own content. It will be a fascinating experiment.