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Communication Lessons Learned From Prince Philip

What would you do if you were one of the most powerful men in the world, without any actual power? This was the role of the recently departed Prince Philip, the trusted husband, confidant and advisor to Queen Elizabeth.

As I looked into this unique man’s history and role in shaping that history, it stood out to me that there were many lessons an organization or individual could pull from his life experiences. As a member of the royal family, Prince Philip was always expected to portray a bright, sophisticated, classy demeanor. He was always under very close watch and was not necessarily entitled to much privacy. Attempting to uphold such a pristine reputation was obviously an overwhelming task, but it had to be done in order to protect the family.

The pressure that members of the royal family face are very similar to the challenges many public figures and businesses face in the United States. There is a constant cloud of fear that one negative story or scandal could potentially smear a business’s name altogether, with no possibility to bounce back. Here are some lessons individuals and businesses can take away from Prince Philip’s life in Buckingham Palace:

Momentary Goofs We Can Learn From, As The Prince Certainly Did

  1. People are always watching.

In 1957, a U.S. paper posted a story about Prince Philip titled “Report Queen, Duke in Rift Over Party Girl” that led to the allegation that the prince was involved in a romantic affair. Although the prince denied the allegations, it revealed potential cracks within the royal family and certainly erased the once impeccable reputation of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philips’ marriage.

  1. Always speak with poise.

Prince Philip was an important face associated with the royal family, much like how business executives are the face of their brand. With that in mind, these individuals must always speak to others in a very respectful and professional manner.

The prince was known for making inappropriate comments. For example, in 2002, he visited the Aboriginal Cultural Park in Queensland and asked Aboriginal leader William Brin, “Do you still throw spears at each other?” This was remembered as a very insensitive comment and did not stay clear from the press, which painted an overall negative perception of the royal family.

  1. Choose your connections carefully.

Even if every public figure or business executive stayed on top of their public reputation 24/7, that does not help them escape from the possibility of being scrutinized by association.

In the 1960s, the Profumo affair was one of Britain’s biggest political scandals. Stephan Ward, who was involved in the scandal, was also a known associate to Prince Philip and the royal family and painted numerous portraits of them. Once the scandal was brought to trial and Ward committed suicide, the prince and the royal family were under a negative spotlight and their reputation was again questioned.

Prince Philip’s Masterclass Moments

  1. The media can jump to conclusions.

When Prince Philip decided to retire, the royal family took it upon themselves to create buzz about an “emergency meeting” at Buckingham Palace. Naturally, the media went crazy and within minutes, posts on social media were circulating around the idea that either the prince or the queen had passed away.

Newspapers, including The Sun, ran stories before anything was confirmed. Finally, the next morning, the Palace announced Prince Philip’s retirement. This plot proved to millions of people just how quickly a story can be fabricated by the media for dramatic effect and attention.

  1. Keep up with what’s current.

Like most celebrities and public figures, Prince Philip believed that the royal family had to take action when it came to staying relevant with new generations. Although there is no evidence that he created any social media accounts, he was a key factor and advocate for the reinvention of the royal family when social media accounts were created. He believed that the monarchy had to move along with the times instead of falling behind.

  1. Maintain relatability.

In 1969, a documentary was released called “Royal Family.” In the film, viewers got an inside look at life in Buckingham Palace. There is a scene where the family is having a barbeque, with the queen and the prince both preparing meals. It is said that Prince Philip was very much involved in the development of the documentary and helping to portray the “fly on the wall” style of filming and to really make the royals seem like people instead of God-like figures. It definitely received tons of public attention, with an estimated 75% of the British population having watched the film.

Although many businesses are not as closely monitored as the royal family in Great Britain, there is something to be said about these lessons learned. With social media becoming a main source for news and information these days, it is crucial that businesses and public figures remain aware of how important a clean reputation is in terms of success and business development. In order to conceal possible cracks in the foundation, people must always put their best foot forward and stay clear of committing acts that may jeopardize their name or brand for the world to see.

By Jared Shaner, CRO & Partner of forward-thinking e-commerce agency Trellis, overseeing the agency’s client success, marketing and growth. First published at https://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2021/05/05/communication-lessons-learned-from-prince-philip/?sh=49ccbee9a8bf May 5, 2021