As I age, my Republican sentiments are growing.
But in the last four years, so has my respect for their Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
They have a distinct mastery of their family’s public image; including themselves, their son Prince George and daughter Princess Charlotte.
A “Firm” in their own right
The Duke of Edinburgh has long referred to the British Royal family as “The Firm”.
While the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are part of the Windsor family ‘Firm’, they are the right blend of measured and proactive when it comes to more intimate publicity regarding their family of four.
Publicity is a delicate balance for the British Royals; what they formally disclose via their approved ‘channels’ is in a strictly informative, polite and controlled manner (God bless the media release!). It is worth noting that they rarely undertake press conferences and interviews. The Queen’s Christmas message and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s engagement announcement/interview and Wedding Ceremony telecast are their only notable uses of TV in the last five years.
A picture from Duke and Duchess’ engagement shoot.
Moreover, their public appearances are smooth P.R. operations – the Royals appear on their terms – I.e. at Charity events or events selected by them, giving a speech written by them or shaking hands for an amount of time specified by them, and so on.
News stories soon appear the moment anything ‘ad-hoc’ happens – even if it is Duchess Catherine saying her name is Catherine !
Marrying into “The Firm”
The woman then-known-as ‘Kate’ Middleton was in a relationship with Prince William for up to 11 years before they became engaged. She willingly married into a family which generates and receives a significant public interest and media attention. This level of global attention cannot be regulated or reduced, but it can be managed (I wouldn’t want to globally televise my wedding, let me tell you!), and the Duke and Duchess are resounding proof of this.
Prince William was born into the public spotlight and was not given a choice about being born into one of the most recognisable families in the world. ‘Kate’ had a choice, and I am certain she would not have accepted the Prince’s proposal if she and the Prince didn’t have shared ideas about their privacy.
How They Encourage Respectful Interest
The Duke and Duchess release their own photos, but their own photos taken by them or their immediate family. The fact they choose to do it themselves /or keep it ‘in the family’ gives them a super authentic image.
The first ‘portrait’ of The Cambridges and Prince George, taken by the Duchess’ Father (2013)
Prince George and Princess Charlotte, taken by the Duchess (2015)
While it is all well and good to be authentic, the effect of their approach is that it develops a respectful (media) interest towards them. They don’t aim to blatantly ‘stonewall‘, but establish a respectful ‘buffer’ between their family and the media. They release their high-quality content on their terms, via their chosen channels.
But don’t be too eager; they do not take invasions of privacy lightly. In October 2014, they swiftly issued a formal warning towards a photographer who attempted to photograph Prince George in a public park. Citing safety concerns, they clearly will not tolerate overzealous media. They accept the presence of the media and media exposure as part of their adult Royal lives (as they conduct royal duties), but they will not allow any interference in the lives of their children.
The Cambridges are in full control of their public image, and have set clear boundaries to manage media interest and maintain their privacy. They de-value themselves in order maintain this.
By distributing the same content to all media outlets, via public mediums (their website, Facebook and Twitter). The effect of this is that no news outlet has a ‘scoop’ , therefore the photos they release are not profited from (read: become worthless, worth $0), no money changes hands, the pictures are published worldwide and they retain an iron grip on their privacy.The media get good quality content and they don’t get sued.
The Duke and Duchess are drip-feeding the world media in the cleverest way the world has seen for a long time.
Case and point — the two post-birth appearances of the Duchess, Baby and the Duke:
George’s first appearance, 2013
Charlotte’s first appearance, 2015 *
*Note George was not brought out as well. No doubt the photo-taking and noise of the world media would be overwhelming. But he did make a fleeting appearance whilst in transit to meet his sister, accompanied by his Father:
Both are classic Cambridge show (but no tell!) appearances.The Duke could have snuck the Prince in the back door, but he didn’t. These snaps of George were enough to sate the initial hunger for a Royal snap, to minimise any ‘mobbing’ of the Cambridges to get a photo of Charlotte.
Parenthood, Privacy and the Public Eye
The Duchess and Duke retire and reappear into the public eye as they please; but remember they are not ‘most people’ – not everyone has the same access to security details. While their experience of parenthood and personal circumstance is a fairly unique one, they do a really excellent job of retaining their privacy. This is a challenge not just for the Regal, but for everyone, in this age of social media.
The photos they release are always family photos – no selfies, no magazine spreads and no press conferences; just good old fashioned family photos.
Photo released to celebrate Prince George’s 1st Birthday (2014)
The media invited to events such as christenings would be on very tight conditions; no doubt the media would only be allowed to be in a certain place for a specified amount of time.
The photos taken by the media are always fairly neat shot of the family (like above), there are no in-transit photos of them exiting or entering a car for example. There is the odd photo of them driving/in cars – you can make a clear distinction which of the photos below were solicited and unsolicited:
There is a big difference between these photos. The one on the right is evidently more news-worthy than the left.
My Republican sentiments will continue to to grow as I age, but when it comes to clever P.R. , the Cambridges have it sorted. May it stay that way!
Hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing,