Is Meghan’s New York Times op-ed brave or strategic? Trick question – it’s both

This morning, the New York Times published an opinion piece by Meghan, Duchess of Sussex about her secret pregnancy loss this past July. This is obviously a heartbreaking thing to have happened and I’m very sorry that it did. There are few details surrounding the pregnancy – how many weeks she was at when she miscarried, any medical details – and that’s fine. We aren’t owed that information from her. You can read the piece here:

First of all, some people online are wondering if Meghan was pregnant at all – if this is some publicity stunt to try to curry favour with the public that has lost interest in the Sussexes. I don’t subscribe to the theory that Harry and Meghan made up a pregnancy and subsequent pregnancy loss just to get back into the public’s good graces. People need to get a grip.

I do, however, think that as much as Harry and Meghan want to share their loss and lessen the stigma of pregnancy and child loss across the globe, there is an equal or greater part of them that wants to be praised for being brave and inspiring in a time of crisis. I think it’s felt pretty cold for Meghan and Harry in the shadow of Will and Kate these last 8 months, watching W&K be labeled as heroes striking the perfect balance of leadership and wartime spirit.

Are Harry and Meghan people who have experienced unimaginable grief and loss? Or are they using the press to craft a narrative of them as loving, caring people who are worthy of respect and admiration? A lot of the opinion pieces you’ll read about Meghan in the coming days will argue one side or the other. I’ll tell you the messier truth: it’s both. They are deserving of compassion over the loss of their pregnancy, and they are using a PR strategy to garner as much goodwill as they possibly can from this piece.

There are several things to think about regarding Meghan’s New York Times opinion piece:

The new PR hires

This piece comes less than two weeks after the couple hired two new members of a growing communications staff. It could be argued that with new PR strategists at the table, it was agreed that this piece (or something similar to it) would be the only thing to turn the tide of negative press against Harry and Meghan in recent months. Not sure, just wanted to note it.

The timing

The timing aspect encompasses a bunch of things, under three umbrellas:

The recent gaffes

Like I said before, Harry and Meghan have been seen as pretty tone deaf in recent weeks. The Remembrance Day cemetery photoshoot sticks out as particularly ill-thought out and they got a lot more flack for it than I’m sure they thought they would. Also, Meghan’s PR rep confirming that she voted in the American election led to some negative press. And in the last few days, it was revealed that moving trucks had gone to Frogmore Cottage, Meghan and Harry’s publicly-funded UK residence, and removed the couple’s remaining items and furniture from the house. Then it was announced that pregnant Princess Eugenie and her husband, Jack Brooksbank, had been invited by the Sussexes to take up residence there. This led to a ton of bad press because it was the clearest indicator yet that Meghan and Harry do not plan to come back to the UK permanently, ever. The Sussexes needed some good press for a change.

American Thanksgiving

It’s the day before American Thanksgiving. It’s a great time to drop a piece that makes you look great, give a day’s notice to news offices so they still have a regular staff member in the office to write a nice story about it, and then ride the wave of good press until the middle of next week.

Joe Biden’s presidential victory

Presumably, it’s easier for Meghan to put out pieces like this after Joe Biden’s presidential victory. If Donald Trump had won a second term, I’m not sure this piece would have been published, or published in the way that it was.

Where they chose to publish

It’s interesting that Meghan and Harry chose to write this piece for the New York Times. Their sussexroyal.com website indicated that one of the couple’s goals in semi-leaving the royal family was so they could “Engage with grassroots media organisations and young, up-and-coming journalists.” Why not give this op-ed to an up and coming media organization? Or be interviewed by a young, thoughtful journalist whose career could be made with this get? But their website also says that they would like to “provide access to credible media outlets focused on objective news reporting to cover key moments and events,” so fair play to them.

It just strikes me as a little odd that one of the reasons they left the royal family was to choose to work with up and coming news organizations that (my words) want to break with tradition and do things more ethically and thoughtfully, and then you pick the New York Times to publish an editorial? Why not Tommy’s, an organization that funds research to prevent child and pregnancy loss?

I get why they would choose the NYT (widest readership, brand recognition), but it seems inconsistent with some of their stated goals, that’s all.

Private vs. public

This piece is oddly written. It tries to do two things at once: show you that Meghan is a down-home mom, looking for stray socks and changing diapers while her hair is in a ponytail, while also using her status as a duchess and a member of the British royal family to advocate for something.

The thing is…Meghan has said that she wants to be private and that she doesn’t want to be a member of the royal family anymore. So giving us intimate details (even ones that I think will help people, like her pregnancy loss) is sort of a head scratcher when she’s currently paying a million pounds to continue an invasion of privacy lawsuit against a British tabloid. For the purposes of that lawsuit alone, wouldn’t you want to keep these details private? But I think that Meghan (or her PR staff) have made a decision that even if this loses her the battle (the privacy lawsuit), it may win the war (being generally praised by the public and the press for her courage). Either way, it shows how inconsistent the Sussexes’ PR strategy is. Do they want privacy? Do they want to hide away? Or do they only want the spotlight when it’s favourable to them? Do they want to be members of the BRF? Or do they only want the perks and not the compromises, the concessions, the rules?

The framing

This article is written in the way an opinion piece by a political hopeful or retired politician would be. It’s interesting that talk of Meghan’s political aspirations has been popping up since the move to the States. Remember, there has been talk of Meghan thinking about running for Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris’s empty Senate seat in the near future.

Thinking strategically, this is a pretty great political tool if Meghan wants to endear herself to voters. She has immediately shored up support from people who have experienced the grief of pregnancy or child loss if she ever wants to run for office. The wording of the article also has a pseudo-political tone of hope vs. defeat. She writes:

We are adjusting to a new normal where faces are concealed by masks, but it’s forcing us to look into one another’s eyes – sometimes filled with warmth, other times with tears. For the first time, in a long time, as human beings, we are really seeing one another.

Are we OK?

We will be.

That’s as close to a Barack Obama speech from a member of a royal family as I’ve ever seen.

Closing thoughts:

  • She’s still not writing her formal name out correctly. For the 700th time, it’s Meghan, Duchess of Sussex – not Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex.
  • Good on Meghan and Harry for opening up about the loss of their pregnancy. No matter what else is said, it’s good of them to make people who have experienced this to feel like they’re not alone.
  • Is one of the reasons they gave Frogmore Cottage to Eugenie and Jack that they brought Archie home from the hospital to Frogmore after he was born and having lost a pregnancy, they couldn’t bear to go back and live there? If so, that’s fair.
  • What I said about how the piece was written – as if it was written by a politician – leads me to believe that an intimate conversation with someone is coming. It could be Barack or Michelle Obama (Barack is in the middle of a book tour right now), or VP-Elect Kamala Harris. I don’t know. I just want to be able to have called it if it happens.

(Update) Here are some organizations to explore if you or someone you know has experienced child or pregnancy loss:

https://www.tommys.org/

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