Prince Harry got a job!

Earlier this week, it was announced that Prince Harry has signed on to become Chief Impact Officer for mental health tech startup BetterUp. The startup is a mental health coaching service that provides groups and individuals with analytics, specialized plans, and one-on-one interaction with a mental health coach to achieve personal and professional goals.

Then, one day later, it was announced that Harry has joined on to the Aspen Institute’s Commission on Information Disorder. His title for that job is Commissioner of Information Disorder. The Aspen Institute is a think tank based in Washington, DC with the aim of “realizing a free, just, and equitable society.” I’ll write a separate post about this shortly, but right now, let’s start with the BetterUp announcement. Here are some thoughts:

The rollout was messy

BetterUp is a tech startup, so you would probably guess that the media rollout of Prince Harry’s new job with them was precise and well-executed. It was not. At 8:00am, before officially announcing that Harry had joined the company, his headshot and biography were already on the BetterUp website. This was before the (Harry-approved) Wall Street Journal announcing his new job was posted at 9:15am, and hours before BetterUp had put out a press release or social media announcement on Twitter or Instagram (7:00pm).

That’s a whole working day between the news getting out and an official post from BetterUp! What else could they have been up to to shelve a welcome tweet and Instagram post until the evening? For reasons stated below (they don’t really have followers on social media yet), wouldn’t you want that to be the first thing you publish, so you could gain followers? I’m so confused. What a sloppy PR rollout.

The brand is up-and-coming

BetterUp is a San Fransisco-based tech company that is still in its early stages as a company and brand. It’s looking for two things: money and visibility. Prince Harry signing on to work with BetterUp gives the company both. What’s in it for Harry? Well, first is a paycheque. As BetterUp is a startup, he will likely be paid in both salary and equity, which is probably stock and free use of the company’s services for Harry (he said in his statement on joining the company that everyone working at Archewell has full access to BetterUp’s services).

Before the official Prince Harry announcement yesterday, BetterUp had fewer than 10,000 followers on Twitter (it now has just over 12,000 followers). On Instagram, yesterday it had fewer than 2,000 followers. It now has almost 5,000 followers. Neither of its Twitter and Instagram accounts are blue-checked, a feature that social media uses to denote which accounts are either “verified” (the person/group is who they say they are) or a certain level of prominence. Again, you’re hiring Prince Harry so you can get more followers and more engagement. Wouldn’t you want to post the welcome message to Prince Harry only on social for the first few hours, in order to get followers out of it? *confused shrug emoji*

It could be really great for Harry…

I don’t want to be a jerk about a company that could help people. Maybe it’s a really great company and maybe Harry will make it even better. This could be a great way for Harry to make some pocket money while building his brands as a name in Silicon Valley and a mental health advocate. Maybe it will absolutely explode and become as profitable as Instagram and Harry will never have to make a Netflix documentary to pay for his family’s security. Crazier things have happened!

…but it does cheapen his brand

As much as Harry and Meghan agreed not to use their titles or affiliation with the British Royal Family to influence or peddle favour with for-profit companies, that’s exactly what Harry is doing here. Of course BetterUp is going to give Harry money and whatever else he wants in exchange for his picture and name. It’s a no-brainer. If this deal is damaging anyone, it’s both Harry (he agreed to work for a company that’s not really been vetted and hasn’t even blue-checked on social media?) and the BRF. If Harry continues to use his title in such a way, it could be ammunition for the BRF deciding to remove Harry and Meghan’s Sussex titles at some point in the future.

It leads to questions about Harry’s literal and figurative employability

In terms of figurative employability, this position is like a child being given the title of “Junior Pilot” and a plastic set of wings by an actual pilot while on a plane. The title of Chief Impact Officer is silly. It’s a load of California tech nonsense that comes with a paycheque but doesn’t really mean anything. It immediately reminded me of the celebrity fad of becoming a “Creative Director” or “Chief Creative Partner” or whatever other title for an established brand, in order to get a paycheque and a business card that makes you look like an executive. This is a thing that celebrities do to gain prestige in the business world (more prestige than a regular partnership) with minimum effort or risk. See: Lady Gaga as Creative Director for Polaroid, Rita Ora as Chief Creative Partner for Prospero Tequila, will.i.am as Director of Creative Innovation at Intel.

There is an article about the fad of celebrity creative directors on Glossy, which you can read here. The Who Weekly podcast also discusses the idea of celebrities using glorified business titles to further their brand pretty regularly – if you’ve not already subscribed to their great podcast, you can right that injustice here.

In terms of literal employability, Harry has been living in America for a full year now. Although he and Meghan have done things that residents/citizens can do (bought a house, signed deals with Netflix and Spotify, etc.), this could all have theoretically been done in Meghan, a US citizen’s, name. The mortgage for Harry and Meghan’s house is 100% in Meghan’s name. This makes sense – they probably weren’t sure what the coming months would hold and wanted to give themselves some time to figure out Harry’s residency status.

But now that Harry has lived in California for a year, it’s time for a decision, and it seems like one was made. (It was also time to make a decision on the issue of residency given that Meghan will soon deliver a baby on American soil, therefore making Harry’s second child an American citizen. Complicated!)

Harry’s partnership with BetterUp is the first real job that Harry has had where we know he’s being paid by an American company while living in America. He’s going to have to pay taxes. He’s going to either have a work visa, apply for residency, or apply for citizenship. We don’t know which of these he has done (or had accepted), but that’s the only way you can legally work in America, and Harry is now legally working in America.

Some people (me, I am some people) have wondered if Harry would apply for a Genius visa, which if formally titled the O-1 Visa for Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement. It’s a visa that you can apply for that basically says, “I’m one of a kind. You don’t have anyone in America who can do what I can do. So you need to give me an exception to be able to work here.” You could reasonably call it the Beyoncé visa. There is only one of her, and she has Extraordinary Ability or Achievement. A case for Harry could probably be made on the grounds that he has years of diplomatic experience and, as the founder of the Invictus Games, he has extraordinary ability or achievement to be able to hold those types of events, to the benefit of American servicepeople and veterans, at some point in the future. I don’t know. If someone reading this has info on how Harry is working in the States, please email me!

What are your thoughts on Harry’s Chief Impact Officer role with BetterUp? I’d love to hear them. You can buy me a coffee via Square here and/or sign up to my weekly email newsletter below. Please stay safe, wear a mask, and get vaccinated when it’s your turn.

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4 thoughts on “Prince Harry got a job!

  1. Hi, I think you said everything that needed to be said about this story. British media reported that the Palace will monitor this deal very carefully, I guess some Palace sources leaked this. From something that I read today it seems this is more a mental coaching app than a mental health app, still some have questioned how a guy who went to therapy yet didn’t know what to do when his pregnant wife told him about her suicidal thoughts (even though he was also one of the founders of a mental health initiative), well how is this guy qualified to help anyone in mental health matters? Yet a journalist who didn’t look like she was trying to defend him just only wanted to tell her experience interacting with him, said that when she met him he was the most informed person about mental health matters she had ever met. Idk, I guess he could be informed about the subject, and is not like he’s going to have a team of employees under him, but I think the point made over his own public admision of not knowing what to do with M is also a valid one, how can he be considered qualified for this job after that public admision alone, plus the fact he wasn’t a stellar student, didn’t go to college and this is his first business job at all? Some think he’s barely qualified for an entry level job at any company. There is even some reporting that he was already working for this company months ago, but they waited to make the announcement after the Oprah interview, like really? What are we hiding? Was that delay necessary?
    Speaking of hiding and speculation, some reports are betting heavily that he applied for the special skills visa, because a green card would force him to pay taxes.
    Personally I still think he needs to go to therapy, with a real professional, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, whatever, but an actual specialist and remain in therapy for years, he clearly needs it. I just say that in general terms and because of the nature of this job, as for the job itself maybe his payment / compensation package or whatever turn out to be a clever investment but only time will tell, right now nobody can know that for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks as always for your thoughtful comments, Carolina! I agree – I don’t think he’s in any way qualified to be on the leadership team of a mental coaching company, when he seemingly didn’t know how to reach out to the right people for help for his wife. And I question a company that would hire someone who’s unqualified in mental health issues (he could have at least taken some courses or gotten a college degree in something related to mental health before signing up for the job, but hasn’t). It sounds like the whole company is flying by the seat of its pants. I also heard that the cost for the app is something like $450 per month, which is WAY out of reach for most people. They would be better served by having four therapist appointments per month for that amount.

      I agree that Harry (and Meghan and every member of the BRF) needs to go to therapy. If they had someone to talk to and work things through with, they would be much better at their jobs and much happier in their personal lives.

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  2. Mental health encompasses our emotional, psychological and social well being, but, unfortunately, everyone is conflating BetterUp with psychology. It is not. It’s about the emotional and social parts of mental health. The coaches this company employs are Life Coaches (not psychologists), and they are there to identify your unique skills and help you progress in your career. It’s like paying that one friend of yours who always has the best advice. I work in Finance, and my company would send me to a conference that always had a life coach/guru of some sort. It’s their job to get you excited about working at the company and bring out your best to be a better employee. I would be separated into a small group where we would do team building exercises meant to inspire you. Sure, it was fun and engaging, but that never translated to real life when you have a client screaming at you to get an order in. 

    Think of BetterUp as copying Tony Robbins. It’s exactly the kind of stuff he has built a very lucrative business out of that has lasted decades. Only, Betterup has turned it into an App that makes it more accessible. (Interesting side note, Tony Robbins worked with Princess Diana).

    As you explained, Harry is not involved with clients/customers, or probably even much of the staff. His job is a glorified celebrity endorsement. He will appear at annual conferences, pressing the flesh in the hopes that his shine will bring in clients. He will probably (if he hasn’t already) be cozying up to his many celebrity contacts to get them to buy this App. Remember when he ambushed Bob Iger of Disney at the Lion King Premiere? That’s exactly what he’ll be doing. He’ll be at celebrity networking events, trying to sell this App. So, if Bob Iger looked uneasy, just think how actors and Hollywood executives will feel with Harry pushing this. 

    I do think that Harry’s payment is a stake in the company because a recent Blind Item indicated BetterUp was his second choice as he was, essentially, laughed out of the first company he met with. He had asked for 10% of that company (valued at $2B). He thought he could get $200M just for being Prince Harry! Very bold and immature move. So, along with stock options (not publicly traded, so not worth anything at the moment), he probably gets paid a percentage of what business he brings in. For example, if he goes to Serena’s husband, Alexis Ohanian, and gets his company to sign up for the App, Harry would get a percentage of that money (anywhere from 1%-20%). I don’t know how much this App costs a company, but if it’s $2000/month, Harry would get between $20-$400/month. So, really, he’s not getting a huge slice, but, again, I don’t have the company’s financials in front of me to evaluate it. So, bottom line, I doubt he’s making billions. He might have the potential to make 7 figures, but it all hinges on how well investors view him as the face of the company once this company goes public.

    Liked by 1 person

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