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Brand Strategy Crisis PR Marketing

To Meghan Markle’s new UK PR guru: think light touch, not charm offensive

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By Andy Barr, Head Yeti

March 11, 2024 | 5 min read

Andy Barr, PR leader and royal whisperer, didn’t get the job as Meghan Markle’s new advisor, but that doesn’t mean he can’t offer some pointers on how she can win over people in the UK.

Harry and Meghan

Courtesy of Netflix

What do you do if you are global icon, but you have divided a country’s public opinion and want to try and turn it around? Well, you turn to a reputation-turn-around specialist. So, who is the Mark Bolland for the Meghan Markle era? Who knows, but I can have more than an educated guess as to the tactics they will use.

The Sussexes are not fighting their way back from a crisis communications situation per se, they are more recovering from attacking the head of a sovereign state, i.e. Harry having a very public fracas with his dad, King Charles. Meghan is trying to win some of the UK public back, so what does she need to do?

In crisis comms terms, the experts would typically say that once the initial storm has passed, she should do a big-hitting, high-profile media interview to get her side across. They tried that with Oprah, though, and we all know how that went... So maybe skip past that bit. What Meghan really needs to do now, and given I know one of her former PRs, so I know this won’t be a well-liked idea, is just be very, over the top nice, in public situations.

That would imply that Meghan is not already nice in public situations. Of course she is, she just isn’t nice to the extreme level that GB News would be happy with. Are they ever? Of course not, it doesn’t fit with their demographic. PS, ask me about the time I appeared on GB News as a pundit. I have not been invited back... Anyway, I digress.

We can now expect to see the UK media being slowly saturated with “Look what amazingly nice thing Meghan Markle just did” headlines. Think back to the politician “baby kissing” positive media stories of elections gone by, that kind of thing.

I think this has already started in the last few days as an unusually candid (kind for, ‘shaky-phone-video-footage shot by a muggle’) video made its way to the global media that showed Meghan and Harry carrying out a “surprise visit” to a family affected by a tragedy.

It showed Meghan out of her normal comfort zone, presented in an unpolished and raw style and, you know what, it really worked and really landed. Why did it land so well? Dare I suggest it is because she is actually a nice person, doing great things, but she has had to historically hide that aspect because of the dreaded Royal Protocols (show zero emotion).

If you want more of a nuanced answer, I think we can expect Meghan to be seen to be carrying out “nice” gestures alongside charities that are more aligned with her personal beliefs.

Along with this, and in line with the Bolland-Queen-Camilla campaign, I think we will probably see an end to any mention of Royal family drama by Meghan.

Queen Camilla never made any public comment about her situation, history with the then-Prince Charles, or his ex-wife. She carried on about her business, getting occasionally mentioned in positive stories and slowly building up her charitable work portfolio.

I think we can expect to see Meghan slowly and quietly stepping up her involvement with UK charities that are aligned with her values. She won’t shout about it via press releases and formal statements but will instead rely on the charities making passing mention of her work and more muggle video footage of her doing nice things finding it way, quite organically and innocently you understand, to the global media.

What I really hope is that the reputation recovery campaign does not dampen her strong, powerful female role model position that she holds across the world, just to try and satisfy the UK media gammons. She is very much a positive role model for impressionable kids, and these kinds of figures are sadly lacking in the YouTube/TikTok era.

I think I can also predict that she won’t be getting photoshop lessons from some of the wider Royal Family any time soon either. They should also get someone to give them a hand.

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