There has been much commentary about THAT interview given by Prince Andrew and why it went so disastrously wrong – compounded by a Panorama follow up with Epstein victim Virginia Giuffre.
It’s interesting that just weeks before Prince Andrew’s now infamous interview, one of his PR managers decided to quit without being paid, having strongly advised against it. This alone demonstrates that organisations and individuals who employ public relations professionals should at the very least listen and take heed of the advice given.
The PR manager will have set out his rationale for why doing the interview was not a good idea but this appears to have fallen on deaf ears, so he made the brave decision to leave his post.
That TV interview centred around Prince Andrew’s friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, who was found hanged in a New York jail cell in August while awaiting a sex trafficking trial, having previously been convicted of sex offences.
The interview was seen by Prince Andrew’s advisers as a chance to put his side of the story across and quash some of the claims being made in the media.
But PR and crisis consultant Mark Borkowski, said it was a lesson on how not to do public relations, and he himself would also have advised the Prince not to do the interview. A large number of organisations have since distanced themselves from Prince Andrew.
The interviewer herself, Emily Maitlis, spoke to American TV after the Prince Andrew interview and revealed there had been no ‘red lines’ not to discuss. She said that often when TV opportunities are negotiated, interviewees outline questions or subject areas they simply won’t explore. She said that to the Prince’s credit, there were no such orders.
So, despite PR professionals advising against doing the interview, is there any advice that could have been given to the Prince in view of his decision to press ahead with the opportunity?
It comes down to traditional crisis communications, and the Regret, Reason, Remedy approach to interviews.
There was much criticism that the Prince lacked any empathy towards Epstein’s victims. As part of any interview, you have to show you are human and empathise with people affected. Showing that he understood the feelings of Epstein’s victims would have gone a long way to demonstrating Regret, and it is not the same as admitting liability.
There was critique around the Prince’s friendship with Epstein in light of the claims and charges against Epstein. This is where Reason comes in – the Prince should have made it absolutely clear why he had become friends with and remained friends with Epstein for so many years.
Finally, there was need to talk about a Remedy to the situation. Would the Prince be willing to be interviewed by law enforcement agencies? Would he put himself forward for this? This was not covered in-depth in the TV interview but would have sent a strong message about his intentions and willingness to co-operate if this had been discussed.
No business or individual has a crystal ball to anticipate when crisis communications might be needed but these events do demonstrate the value of PR support. If your company is in need of help from The Tonic Communications – whether to promote your organisation or protect its reputation – then please get in touch.