‘Megxit’ – A Lesson in Corporate Crisis Management
Anyone who lived through the 1990s will remember just how deeply unpopular Britain’s Royal Family once were. But in 2011, when Kate and William got married, it marked a new beginning for The Royal Family. The young royals built up a fresh legion and their own personal brand.
But it wasn’t that long ago that the family’s reputation was tarnished by scandal after scandal. Now, the departure of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex has left a bitter taste in some people’s mouths — and this public relations disaster is threatening to tarnish the Royal image once again. So, what lessons can be learned from the mistakes made with ‘Megxit’ and applied to corporate crisis management?
1. Avoid Surprises
The majority of disapproval towards Harry and Meghan was rooted from the way they announced their exit, rather than the step down itself. It seems there were no consultations with other party members on the best way to tell the public, they simply posted on their Sussex Royal Instagram account and website. This then resulted in the first PR coverage being around the Queen’s anger of not being told beforehand.
To prevent this from happening in a corporate crisis situation, you need to gather all the facts to avoid any uncertainties. Hold regular meetings with your dedicated crisis team, with the first item on the agenda being what’s happened since we last met and what will happen today. This is vital a stage as it ensures all employees are up to speed and are properly equipped to deal with the various stakeholders.
2. Honesty is the best policy
Always be honest and open during a PR crisis, all stakeholders need to be informed at the right time. The crisis summit held on Monday was too late, this should have the first port of call when the news broke. But even then, it was possibly still too late, it could have been avoided with a pre-emptive plan.
In a corporate crisis back up plan, it’s important to map out and review your business communication channels. If you understand who your audience is, you’ll probably already know which comms channels to use. A holistic, multi-channel approach is more likely to get the message out when it matters, so consider everything from email and your intranet to SMS and social media.
3. Consistent Messaging
With the official statement from HM The Queen being published ten days after the initial announcement, it was not surprising to see the media jumping to numerous different conclusions regarding the next steps of The Royal Family and their public roles. Much of this uncertainty could have been down to inconsistent messaging both internally and externally. With the Royal Family being highly influential figures, it was surprising to see Harry and Megan’s wish for a more independent life be turned into a poorly executed communication crisis.
If this was a business communication disaster, the first step you must take to achieve consistent, clear messaging is to adopt a proactive strategy that identifies spokespeople in all departments, and then empower them with corporate key messages and processes to follow. This will not only avoid volatility and misperceptions but will also contribute to creating a more reliable and stronger message.
Halston Marketing and the IABC recently held a Crisis Comms event, where experts in communications spoke in-depth about their experiences dealing with a brand crisis.
Rachel Person, former Morrisons Internal Communications employee said, “once a company has established a defined message that they would like to relay, they must ensure to release it as soon as possible as silence can be deadly.”
4. Be Accountable
As we all know, there are critics everywhere, particularly on social media and it’s very easy to lose your reputation. The key to any crisis communication is to hold yourself accountable. Harry flying to Canada on the day of the announcement could be seen as a way of avoiding the situation and not accepting any responsibility.
In a corporate situation, always tell the truth, as honesty is essential to the credibility of your company. Be accountable for your actions. When actioned, it looks like this: acknowledge the incident, accept responsibility and apologise.
There are some clear corporate crisis management takeaways from The Royal Family crisis; always investigate what happened, decide on the corporate position and messaging and accept responsibility. The most important lesson is to learn from the processes and understand how to avoid a future crisis.
If you need further advice on how to develop a robust crisis plan that’s relevant across all platforms, get in touch.