I Doff My Cap to... Prince Harry

Matthew Hayes
Managing Director
Topic
Prince-Harry

As February ended, social media was flooded with footage from an interview from James Corden’s The Late Late Show.

Whilst we may see the odd interview clip shared here and there from Corden’s famous show and his comedic interviewing techniques, this particular episode was spread far and wide almost instantly.

Of course, this episode didn’t feature a regular celebrity, or even an A-lister for that matter. This particular episode starred Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, as well as a cameo from his wife, Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex.

This comes prior to the eagerly anticipated sit-down interview with Oprah Winfrey. I believe this interview coming first was a deliberate ploy to allow Harry to define his brand positioning and outlook.

As a show recognised for its humorous sketches and one-of-a-kind interviews with the world’s biggest stars, it came as quite a surprise that Prince Harry chose this platform to be the first to address life in the states.

Ever since deciding to leave the UK and embark upon a new life in Los Angeles, both Harry and Meghan have left people wondering whether this was the right and appropriate action for the couple and people in their position – myself included. They have caused the biggest crisis to hit the monarchy since the abdication of Harry’s great uncle, Edward VIII, in 1936.

And with a combination of die-hard loyal fans, critics and people who can’t quite make up their mind, this seemingly off-the-cuff interview was the perfect way for Harry to tell his story and set the tone for his future.

For such a positive interview that was remarkably funny and brilliantly put together, I doff my cap. It was the best judged and delivered piece on brand positioning and celebrity publicity that I have seen. I can only describe the entire thing as incredible.

I’d also like to congratulate and doff my cap to James Corden and The Late Late Show for landing such a monumental interview - a career defining moment, for sure.

Changing the narrative

From the very beginning of the interview, a story was being told - both a personal one, and a professional one.

First and foremost, Harry was utilising James and his platform to tell his side of the story, whilst divulging information with someone he felt comfortable and at home with – his friend.

Harry gave millions of people around the world an insight into his true character away from royal life, displaying his down-to-earth persona and sense of humour. Throughout, Harry displayed his personality and owned it. And in terms of timing and positioning, Harry knocked it out of the park.

Not only that, but Harry also touched on his rather normal relationship between his grandparents, providing a glimpse into their family chats on Zoom and Christmas wish-lists, demonstrating that not only is he a Prince and a Duke, but a father, husband, son, and grandson, too - continuing to change the narrative.

Whilst many may have assumed Harry would appear as ‘woe is me’, it was quite the opposite. Having faced many challenges, Harry proves that he has come out the other side, demonstrating a sense of positivity and hope.

I loved the fact that Harry appeared self-deprecating, playing down all his achievements in the military, the Royal Family, and humanitarian efforts. He completely softened the position of somebody with such power and influence.

Having lived under such scrutiny for the last few years, it was clear that Harry had a few key messages to get across during his chat with James. However, he portrayed everything with such a positive, friendly, and humorous approach.

The interview, which was uploaded to YouTube on February 26, garnered an impressive 15 million views in under a week and is proof in the pudding that everybody is listening, and wants to hear what Harry and Meghan have to say.

Taking the interview a step further, Harry touches on the toxicity of the British press, mental health struggles and looking after his family – a brave, and somewhat risky move with many eyes eagerly watching on, but one that he felt needed to be done.

Branding

For many, Harry isn’t a brand, but he is in fact exactly that. All we have to do is look at the early actions taken to establish the ‘Sussex Royal’ trademark – the very first sign that they fully understand the brand power they possess and how to capitalise on it.

Before stepping back as a working royal, Harry’s entire brand was based upon his career in the military and as a member of the Royal Family. But now, Harry is about to be recognised as something, and someone, entirely different.

From the interview, it is clear that Harry understands the premise of brand and the importance of it. And now, Harry and Meghan have their very own brand and needed to engage in the court of public opinion in order to tell their story and be heard on their own terms.

The interview marked the start of a new journey for the couple, and one that was explained for the first time to have been made out of necessity.

Proving to be more than just a Prince and the Queen’s grandson, Harry continues to be a man of the people, pledging to serve the public and continuing with his charity and humanitarian work, regardless of his postcode and where he resides. Though, does this not strike you as a son that proudly and passionately wishes to carry on the family brand and legacy, although possibly that of Spencer, rather than Windsor.

Not only was this a way to establish his own brand, but also as a skilled piece of crisis management, too, using this as his first opportunity to quash any inaccurate opinions that the public may have.

And it is no coincidence that Harry made more than one nod to Netflix, with whom he has signed a multiyear deal with, highlighting the commercial business acumen that he appears to possess.

Knowing the industry

As somebody who has spent many years working with celebrities as a publicist, I appreciate the skill required to deliver the level of ‘authenticity’ that this interview portrayed.

What appeared as two friends meeting up for a chat in a relaxed, natural and spontaneous way, was actually far from it. It would have taken weeks, if not months of planning, scripting, legal contracts, site visits and security measures.

To make something that would have been scripted, well-prepared and even rehearsed, seem so off-the-cuff and fly on the wall is quite simply incredible.

Whilst Harry placed himself in a position of vulnerability, he appeared comfortable, relaxed and relatively at home, which is a huge credit to him.

From police escorts, to a FaceTime calls with Meghan and visits to the house of the Fresh Prince, much more went into the planning of this than meets the eye.

Speaking of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, did he really know all the words to the popular theme tune? Or, did he learn them to fit the script? Either way, I doff my cap (again!).

Changing public opinion

I am one of those people who perhaps frowned upon Harry’s decision to officially leave the Royal Family. However, after watching his interview with James Corden, my perception of the whole matter has completely changed, which I guess was the aim of the game, right? Well, it worked – for me, anyway.

I’m someone who is somewhat cynical, so I suppose I over analysed the entire video, but I came to the conclusion that it was a genius piece of work – from both Harry and his pal, James Corden.

I am doffing my cap to Prince Harry, a father, son, husband, and server of the public, for both finding his brand identity, owning it and delivering it in such a genius way.

It was a truly powerful and impactful piece of publicity for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and Harry’s leap of faith has seemingly paid off.

With the Royal Family beginning their press offensive in retort, via The Times newspaper on March 3, this clearly has a long time to play out. But so far, it is Prince Harry Spencer that has come out on top, and I Doff My Cap to him and his Prince Harry brand – the newly crowned Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

#IDoffMyCap...

Matthew Hayes
Managing Director