Fire them! Absurd! Ridiculous! unstately! “good for them” the headlines have all but screamed since Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced their intention to step back from their roles as “senior royals”.
While the media and indeed the global public focuses on what could have finally pushed the hardly married couple and freshly minted parents towards this drastic move, some key communication lessons have emerged. From choices of announcement to, messages, medium and more, here are important internal and external communication lessons from the now labelled Meghan and Harry exit-Megxit.
*In a hurry? jump to video summary at end of post*
Internal Communication Tips
Without being equipped with the details on what constitutes the relationship between the Sussexes and the Monarch, some internal communication assumptions will be made. If one is to take the media reports at face value that the royal family only knew of the couple’s plans “to carve out a progressive new role in the institution 10 minutes prior to their announcement, there are huge red flags on the internal communication spectrum and some top internal communication tips would be as follows:
- Focus on relationships: At the crux of every act of communication is not just the transference of meanings but the relationship between sender and receiver. Within the royal household, there seems to have been some disintegration of this and yet, one of the main C’s of communication is consideration. It would have served all parties well to remember to be considerate and the relationship that either needs to be maintained or renewed when selecting means of communication.
- Medium is important: Following the announcement, I searched extensively to determine what other channels the royals had utilised to communicate their departure. Surely not just Instagram and a link to their web page I questioned. Yet at the time of writing, I was sure shocked to discover that such a major announcement was made via social platforms. Universally, it rings true that medium matters and a message such as this may have been best received via a more official platform externally and a more direct platform internally.
- Face to Face Interactions are invaluable: As a direct follow on from the previous point, face to face interactions still prove valuable in a digitised world. Inconclusively, it has been said that the correspondence was emailed to the queen and other members of the monarch 10 minutes prior to being released to the public. For the nature of the announcement, face to face would have been especially meaningful with this particular announcement as it allows for emotive expressions, a more multifaceted communication experience and indeed the presence of verbal and non verbal cues to enhance the intended message.
- Understand your audience: Research is super important in this respect. Admittedly, by virtue of interactions with the royal family for over 2 and 35 years respectively, one would automatically assume some familiarity with the ways of doing and being. Though the communication frames utilised may have been deliberate, an ideal scenario would see the Sussex Royals following established communication protocols and systems and directing communication flows accordingly.
Externally too, there are several communication lessons and tips that could have been applied.
External Communication tips
- Be responsive: Beyond the informal medium, what stood out from the point of the announcement was just how the communication process could have better been managed with an ability to respond promptly and effectively. Crisis communications 101 notes the need to be responsive and take control of the communication process. In taking control, I almost made a solid bet that an official announcement would be forthcoming. Sadly this was not to be.
- Know your audience: Who was the instagram post directed at? Was it too far fetched to have issued an official media statement? a media briefing? A part of me felt social media was utilised in line with Harry’s often more relaxed nature and perhaps to appeal to a more Gen Y/Millienial fan base. Yet, within a princely position, one would have attracted several key audiences of the diplomatic and non diplomatic ilk. Even within the public domain, the audience would have varied greatly. After all, I’ve long maintained, the general public isn’t so general after all
- Choose Best Medium: Could a Press Forum have been a better medium to deliver the message? An exclusive interview? A snazzy live feed from the “Sussex Royals” instagram feed? Much like the previous points, medium matters and more importantly, it matters in relation to the respective audiences. In an ideal world, I was rooting for a closed door meeting to first arrive at a feasible solution going forward and then a joint, clean and tidy press announcement.
- Create avenues for feedback: In line with the press announcement as well, it would have been desirable for there to be avenues for feedback. I’d therefore foresee room for a few questions and answers or even a detailed Frequently asked questions sheet that would be made available thereafter.
- Be open and honest: At the time of writing, I watched prince Harry (via Instagram) at a charity event as he announced how difficult the decision had been and how he, and by extension Meghan intended to still continue along a path of service. Convincing? debatable, but his hints of humour throughout lightened the mood a bit and gave the appearance of an open and honest conversation which is always key for effective communication processes. My only thought was “I wish they had done this earlier”
At best, as humans we are prone to emotional moments where we digress from what we know to be the desired communication norms, but in a best case situation it pays to be prepared. Were these tips useful? What other effective communication tips would you recommend for the royals?
Watch summary video below:
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Shanoy Coombs is a Development Communication Consultant in the Latin America and Caribbean region. Are you Social? Connect with Shanoy on twitter via @InspiraShan and learn more about her work via the projects page.