Last week, Fast Company published a Q&A with Prince Harry about social media, extremism, and his strategy to make the world a better place. Harry made some good points about social media and the harm it can bring to people on micro and macro levels. He also made some classic Sussex mistakes. Let’s talk about it.
It was a softball interview
This type of interview is what I like to call a Beyoncé interview. The questions and answers were controlled and the stakes were low. When Beyoncé wants to be on the cover of a magazine to promote something, she knows that the power imbalance between a magazine and her always lands in her favour. So she never has to sit down for a no-holds-barred interview. She never has to answer uncomfortable questions. She will give you some answers to questions that were vetted in advance, or she will have a friend or admirer write about how great she is. It’s extremely controlled and she will only tell you what she wants you to know. This is one of those kinds of interviews.
Harry and Meghan have a friendly relationship with Fast Company going back to last year. Harry wrote about the harms of social media for the website last summer. Because it’s in a Q&A format, you’d better believe that Fast Company gave these questions to Harry ahead of time and then asked for email responses back. This means that Harry (more likely Harry and his team of advisors and publicists) was able to craft thoughtful answers and clean up any possible messes before they were published. This is the safest possible way forward for Harry in terms of soundbites. The format of the interview, however, shows more about him and his thinking than the answers to the questions do. So do the fawning tweets from Katharine Schwab, the author of the published interview:
Harry talks about how awful social media is and follows it up with how amazing social media can be
Harry speaks about how social media can negatively impact people’s lives on a small and large scale:
But that’s followed up with:
I understand what he’s trying to say, but PR isn’t the place for nuance. You can’t say “This is awful and Meghan and I are taking a stand against it” and follow it with “But it’s okay if you use social media, and I will definitely use social media publicly in the future to further my personal and professional ambitions.” They look like flip-floppers. Just like when Harry announced sustainable tourism endeavour Travalyst and then took a bunch of private jets around the world. Consistency is key and the Sussexes are bad at it.
Welcome to the pity party
Harry spoke again about the hatred that he and Meghan felt through their romance:
Listen. I know that Harry and Meghan have had a rough time with the press. They were unfairly targeted for a bunch of BS reasons, including Meghan’s skin colour. None of that is okay. But I don’t understand why, both separately and together, they keep bringing up the fact that people and tabloids are critical of them. People and tabloids are critical of everyone in the British royal family, warranted or not. The other thing that’s odd about this is: What false narrative is Harry talking about? If it’s the mothership of all harassment against Meghan and Harry, shouldn’t I, a royal obsessive, know to what he’s referring? But I don’t. This quote confuses me and, like the format of the interview, this quote speaks way more loudly about Harry’s anxieties than I think he would want it to.
I also don’t understand who it helps to tell people that if the press had only told their love story “truthfully”, none of this harassment would have begun. First of all, that’s not true! They would have been harassed either way! Second, why does it even matter? Why are you letting it get to you? Who cares what people or the press think? You’re worth tens of millions of dollars, live in a mansion, and have a grandmother who is LITERALLY THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND. Kate’s been called a gold digger, commoner trash, and 100 other awful names by members of the public and the press. But do you think she’s reading comments on the Daily Mail about it? No! She’s living her life in Anmer Hall. She does her work and lets that speak for itself. But Harry and Meghan just can’t leave it alone.
It feels like Harry and Meghan are blinded by any negative story about themselves. They can’t help but bring up how maligned they’ve been. Some of that frustration is totally warranted. But this just feels…unnecessary. And, if we’re being honest, pretty yikes.
Even the most controlled PR from the Sussexes is messy
For the reasons noted above, this interview should have been a slam dunk for Harry. There were definitely some eloquent moments in it. However, when I went to the interview author, Katharine Schwab’s, Twitter page to look around, I saw this tweet was pinned to the top of her Twitter account:
This tweet was posted on July 2, 2020, which is before both of Harry’s sanctioned articles on Fast Company. It’s about the rampant discrimination against Black women in tech, and particularly at Pinterest. Remember that Christine Schirmer, Harry and Meghan’s newly hired Head of Communications for both the Office of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the Archewell Foundation, was most recently Head of Global Communications for…Pinterest. Y’all, I’m so tired.
So Harry and Meghan decided to hire a (white-presenting?) Head of Communications for themselves and their charitable foundation who, for the past 6 years, was Global Head of Communications at a company known for discriminating against Black women? Mess. Moving on.
- Harry continues to write his name incorrectly. It should either be Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex or The Duke of Sussex. He writes it as Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex.
- If Harry and Meghan are obsessed with taking down traditional social media like Facebook, why did Meghan accept a paid gig speaking to the Girl Up Summit last year, which also paid Facebook Chief Operating Officer and certified terrible person Sheryl Sandberg to speak?
You can read that article here.
Thanks for reading! Support me here. Stay safe and wear a mask.