PR lessons from the royal family

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This is an article by Miriam Pelusi.

The British monarchy remains a popular institution and of late the Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton’s) ability to communicate with people has made many look at the royal family with fresh eyes.

The nature of the monarchy is to serve people. But in an age of uncertainty – what the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman describes as ‘liquid’ – even the British monarchy has to change its approach.

It’s my view that Duchess Kate is building on Princess Diana and Queen Victoria’s legacy to get close to the British people. In doing this, she is emotionally engaging with the public.

From Diana to Kate: a direct succession

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s tragic death. Her legacy lives on. She is still alive in the public imagination because she touched the hearts of ordinary people.

The public reaction to her death showed that she had transformed people’s reverence for the royal family into a sense of belonging. Her sense of compassion challenged the monarchy’s mystique.

Kate Middleton is giving continuity to Diana’s charisma and opening up a new era for the British monarchy. For PR watchers, there are many symbols of this direct succession.

Public Relations for royals starts from what they wear, as this is a form of communication. Kate wears Diana’s sapphire and diamond engagement ring. She has also worn Diana’s favourite tiara for special occasions and her remodelled diamond and sapphire earrings.

Both are fashion icons: they are elegant and feminine. Kate’s outfits are often inspired by Diana’s style. The media costantly draws attention to Kate’s style, as they did with Diana.

Royal PR is also based on significant choices. Prince George attends a nursery, while members of the Royal family did not usually do this. Diana sent William to nursery.

Princess Charlotte was named after Queen Elizabeth and Diana. This has helped to soften the much-mentioned cool relationship between the Queen and the Princess of Wales.

Charity work is key in Royal PR. Kate, like Diana, is patron of many charities, both using celebrity PR for socio-cultural effect. Interestingly, Kate has discussed the emotional challenges of Diana’s loss with William and Harry.

Sport PR is also a key feature of Diana and Kate’s royal style. Their love of sports is often portrayed in public photos, as is their love for children.

Kate also supports William in keeping his mother’s memory alive. For example, in 2016 they had their photo taken on the bench in front of the Taj Mahal in Agra, as in that iconic photo of Diana. This is a tribute to love.

It’s love that makes Kate look so joyful. Unfortunately such happiness was a feeling denied to Diana. The people of Britain have wanted to celebrate this sentiment since 1981.

From Young Victoria to Kate: an unexplored bond

The romantic marriage of William and Kate symbolises values that seem to have been lost by the royal family. Their relationship naturally blossomed from friendship, as happens to many couples. They continue to grow and have fun together, as a recent photo shows.

Their public engagement in 2010 marked the beginning of a new era. The excitement was tangible from their first official interview together – the British monarchy had a real family.

Kate’s love for William recalls Queen Victoria’s passion for Prince Albert in the nineteenth century. The joy of these charming English women offers hope for the future of the monarchy.

In contrast with the tradition of pomp, Victoria and Kate’s wedding dresses struck a note of graceful simplicity. They were romantically pretty in the public eye.

In the Victorian period women used not much, if any, make-up. Kate’s look is natural. Her facial expressions are what captures the media. This is a lesson for women of our time.

Queen Victoria and Kate share a passion for photography. Victoria was a patron of the Royal Photographic Society, while Kate has shared her intimate family photos and is an honorary member.

Kate’s PR lessons

While Diana had a controversial relationship with the media, Kate has turned the paparazzi’s voyeurism into a channel to reach people. She shares her private photos as anybody else does in the social media era.

Kate launches messages through her dresses. On her visit to India in 2016 she wore a dress crafted by Babita Sabath, an ordinary Indian dressmaker. This became a big story. On royal tours to Canada in 2011 and 2016, Kate wore a maple leaf brooch. PR is a visual art.

The use of social media has made the Royal Family more popular. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry share news through ‪their Twitter and Instagram accounts @KensingtonRoyal. This social media narrative keeps the dialogue with the public alive.

Thanks to Kate the people of the UK can look at the future of the British monarchy with hope, while PR learns from Kate’s example that we have to prioritise emotional engagement to build relationships with the public.