Will and Kate might just save the monarchy.
As they tour my country with media obsequiously covering their every move, the following has occurred to me: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are the best thing the British monarchy, an institution I and many of my generation have no time or use for, has seen in over 50 years.
Why? It boils down to PR, the zeitgeist and, largely, Kate.
For years, the Monarchy’s main problem has been “connection.” It’s a somewhat nebulous term usually reserved for politicians.
Why have the Royals have had trouble with connection?
Queen Elizabeth and her son, Prince Charles, are of an era when formality ruled. This killed their ability to connect. While William has no doubt been sheltered his entire existence in a formal cocoon, he is from a time when formality has basically gone out the window. Couple this with the concomitant explosion of tabloid media and you have a recipe for humanization. Both macro factors have helped him engage in activities that appear normal; he took a gap year, he hit the London club scene, chased girls at university, and, as a boy, lost his mom.
But Will alone would not be enough. Especially because, as he ages, he might begin to look and behave like his father.
Enter Kate Middleton.
She is a “commoner” but far from common. From a wealthy family, the apotheosis of conservative English beauty and seemingly not prone to PR gaffes she is both interesting and bland enough to captivate but not screw up. She is, simply put, a PR dream – a computer generation of what the future Queen of England should look like in her twenties could not better the real thing.
Add to this another macro/zeitgeist factor: In an era where fashion is the new rock n roll she has become – by default – a fashion icon, further piquing media and public interest. She arrived the other day dutifully wearing an outfit by a Canadian designer.
All of this to say, she is human ENOUGH, hot ENOUGH, and seems nice ENOUGH to capture our attention and humanize a stodgy institution. Said differently, girlie connects.
Will and Kate’s tour of Canada will come and go. The Royal PR team will ensure that the young adults look nice, say pleasant words, visit the right places, etc. Mostly, though, they’ll win because they connect and appear more normal they any of their predecessors. This is NOT a small feat because you can’t teach connection. It is elusive, organic and depends on both macro environmental and personal traits. But it is the best PR they could ever hope for and it will do more for the British Monarchy’s relationship with my country than anything else has in years.
Could things go wrong? Absolutely. Divorce is the most obvious (and the stats say, likely) pitfall. Kate might also lose her common touch as she spends more time cocooned in luxury. Perhaps Will and Kate will abandon their current policy of relative fiscal restraint and start spending like drunken sailors? Who knows what else could torpedo this amazing PR effort.
For now, however, this is one hell of a PR job that leverages talented players who understand the current mood and can connect. Your clients or organization might learn a bunch studying what is going down here.
I have been really interested in the PR of Will and Kate as well… honestly, they are, IMHO, the monarchy’s last chance at maintaining some type of relevancy.
I blogged about this back during the time of the wedding but I think the problem with the monarchy is that they have a lot working against them, namely the trend to direct communications and a more “human” way of connecting. Luckily, Will and Kate seem to understand this but I wonder how much of it is their PR team.
They need to get out from behind the protocol and connect directly and I think they have made great strides to this effect while here in Canada. However, I suspect it’s only a matter of time before there is a screw-up and that my friend is where we are going to see their team’s real PR chops.