The Megxit Crisis
January 23, 2020
It’s been fascinating to watch the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle drama unfold — Megxit as it was cleverly dubbed first by the internet, then by the British pub The Sun. The reason or blame for their shocking withdrawal from royal duties ranges from ghastly, unfair — even racist — tabloid coverage to their simple desire to lead independent lives free from the monarchy microscope. Whatever the cause, the rollout of their decision was a classic crisis communications case study as both sides scrambled to protect reputations and the monarchy.
Getting Out in Front of the Story
Even though the royal family reportedly knew Harry and Meghan wanted to change their roles, a leak in the moat may have prompted their hasty bombshell announcement. After their plans were reportedly slipped to a tabloid, it became crucial to get out in front of the story, take control of the narrative and prevent the tabs from relying solely on speculation and deep palace sources. Their stunning statement beat many on Fleet Street to the punch and gave the royal couple a chance to shape the narrative of their own story.
Controlling the Narrative
The royal couple didn’t just have a statement in their communications arsenal. A good tactic in any effective crisis plan includes a digital site where people can go to get the facts. Right after their announcement, Harry and Meghan launched an informative, well-designed website detailing their plans and how they would engage with media in the future. They even revealed how they would control their story in the future by nurturing “young journalists” and ignoring the “Royal Rota,” the palace press pool that gives access to specific British publications. Once the drama starts to wane, the couple will start to share the positive aspects of their new lives with reporters they trust. Of course, the scorned tabloids will still be out there digging for dirt.
Messaging to Stakeholders
One key and possibly valid area of criticism regarding the couple’s crisis communications plan may have been informing key stakeholders, namely the Queen! All good crisis plans include strategic timing and messaging for priority relationships, usually before the news goes public. The Queen reportedly knew about Harry and Meghan’s wish to pull away from the palace but was shaken by their sudden announcement. If true, it was a costly misstep that could’ve caused unnecessary and lasting damage. Of course, the Queen is savvy enough to know she has to put on a brave face in public, so she called a family summit and issued strong and surprisingly personal statements of support.
Third Party Validation
Key to building credibility and empathy during a crisis can be reputable, third party public support. In the case of Harry and Meghan, good friend and broadcaster Tom Bradby penned an op-ed in the Sunday Times providing more insights around the couple’s decision and shared that the couple may do an interview soon. Other friends posted their support on social media and America’s royalty, Oprah, is voicing her support for Megxit.
As with any crisis, once the dust settles it’s imperative to reflect and evaluate the communications response. It’s a little early to write a final report on Megxit, especially with a reported “no holds barred” interview possibly in the works. Here’s hoping it goes better than Prince Andrew’s.
January 23, 2020