On Wednesday, January 8, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (aka the Duke and Duchess of Sussex) made a shocking announcement that they plan to step back as “senior” members of the Royal Family.
While I could opine forever on whether I think this was a good decision for Harry and Meghan (it’s not) and the implications for the institution of the monarchy (it’s bucking generations of precedent), let’s set that aside. Rather, in the spirit of the British Royal Family referring to themselves as “The Firm,” there are real lessons other brands can learn from how this announcement was made.
But first, let me disclose two things. One, I am unabashedly #TeamCambridge. Second, and more importantly, it is critical to recognize that Meghan Markle has faced unfair, unwarranted and unnecessary press coverage. For reference, check out this article from Buzzfeed comparing the difference in coverage when it comes to Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle.
Keeping the above in mind, here’s what other companies—regardless of industry—can learn from one of the world’s most storied brands.
1. Get your ducks in a row: According to press reports, Meghan and Harry issued their statement on Instagram (we’ll get to that in a minute) without giving a heads up to other members of their family. This, in turn, led to mass confusion—not just within their family, but also press coverage of the announcement. Had they abdicated their titles? Did North America mean Canada, the U.S. or both? What does “financially independent” really mean?
Brand Tip: When making a major announcement that has the potential to reshape an organization—perhaps a leadership change or new acquisition—it’s important everyone is on the same page. Otherwise, this can lead to false information being reported by the press, confusing stakeholders and potentially impacting stock prices, company valuation or customer purchasing decisions.
2. Ensure your roll-out strategy is ironclad: As mentioned, Harry and Meghan made their announcement via an Instagram post, pointing viewers to their new website. While this allowed Harry and Meghan the chance to speak directly to their audience, their website ultimately couldn’t handle the overload of visits—which led to more confusion about their intended plans. Further, since the website was made independently in Canada without the knowledge of their UK-based team, their Buckingham Palace press team was in the dark and unable to answer media questions.
Brand Tip: When making a major announcement, it’s important for brands to remember that buyers expect an omnichannel experience across platforms. This means, no matter where customers and prospects turn to—be it your website, social media, or online newsroom—they have consistent and accurate information about the news. Oh, and please work with IT to make sure your digital platforms can handle the influx of traffic.
3. Understand the long-term implications: Deep within the Sussex’s new website, they indicated that they would change the way they work with media—pulling out of the long-standing “Royal Rota” system (the Royal Rota is a pool reporting system, similar to how U.S. outlets share reporting responsibility when it comes to covering the president). This decision was made in an attempt to change how their charitable work is covered, while also ensuring greater privacy for the family. But, this shift begs the question: will eliminating direct access to Harry and Meghan really change how interested the press is in covering them? Or, will it have an unintended consequence of forcing more aggressive and “paparazzi” style reporting tactics, and lead to more inaccurate coverage?
Brand Tip: While the debate is still up for discussion, it is important for brands to think long-term when making an announcement. Even with the best of intentions, new processes, partnerships, or announcement might not impact market perception or customer attitude as intended. Before sharing, be sure to consider whether your news will truly make a difference and what might be the unintended consequences.
Want to learn more about what brands can learn (or just talk all things Royal)?