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The interview that should have turned everything around

Ian Kirby, Keith Gladdis, Barney Fry

MHP’s Crisis & Risk and Strategic Media specialists share their perspectives on Prince Andrew’s Newsnight interview: what went wrong,  what should have been done, and the crisis response.

Notes on a Scandal: Crisis PR and the Crown

MHP’s Crisis & Risk and Strategic Media specialists, Barnaby Fry and Keith Gladdis, shared their perspectives on Prince Andrew interview, for this #ENGINEPresents podcast:

The interview that should have turned everything around

Ian Kirby – Head of Strategic Media

 

This was the interview that Buckingham Palace thought would turn everything around for Prince Andrew – the first senior Royal since Princess Diana to subject themselves to hostile questioning from one of the BBC’s most forensic interviewers.

In the end he said he had learned a lot from a sex trafficker. Not the result they wanted. Buckingham Palace had three aims from this encounter – express regret at the relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, empathy with his victims and to remind viewers the Prince is a worthy and hard-working member of the “team”.

However, the stubborn and rather odd code of honour Prince Andrew adopted about his former friend, which came out under close questioning, meant the first two aims failed and the third was shoehorned into the final clips.

Emily Maitlis’ technique was a masterclass in how to conduct a bombshell interview – adopt a neutral but sceptical tone, tease out a clip, move on, cover the ground and let the interviewee dig their own hole.

First published in PR Week

And the crisis communications response

Barnaby Fry – Head of Crisis & Risk

 

Whilst the idea of the interview to provide transparency was the right crisis strategy, clearly the lack of transparency and credibility in the content of the interview became a problem.

What’s interesting is that the subsequent written response clearly follows a tried and tested crisis methodology that we use to great effect with many of our clients. The three C’s. Control, Concern, Commitment.

In the statement you can see all three:

  • Control: “It has become clear to me” and “I have asked Her Majesty if I may step back from public duties for the foreseeable future”.
  • Concern: “I deeply sympathise with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure” and
  • Commitment: “I am willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations.

All of which shows that Andrew and the Palace have finally begun the right path to crisis management and proves that the right crisis advice at an early stage can often head off an issue long before it really becomes a crisis.