The Defuse Podcast - Taking the guesswork out of protecting your privacy, reputation and status.

The Online Bodyguard - High Profile Communication with Ailsa Anderson

January 10, 2023 Philip Grindell MSc - The Online Bodyguard®
The Defuse Podcast - Taking the guesswork out of protecting your privacy, reputation and status.
The Online Bodyguard - High Profile Communication with Ailsa Anderson
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Show Notes Transcript

Ailsa Anderson is the person the most high profile in the world go to when they require the composite professional manage their communications.

In this podcast Ailsa shared anecdotes from her time working the UK Government and Alistair Campbell, the Late Her Majesty the Queen and more recently the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Anglican Church.

Ailsa talks about how decisions about when to respond or not were made and why, the changing landscape of communications and the importance of it being a team event involving security professionals, event hosts and others.

Whilst Ailsa is far to diplomatic and discrete to discuss the current saga involving the current Duke and Duchess of Sussex, she does touch on issues such as briefing against members of The Royal family and gives a moving tribute to the late Her Majesty the Queen.

Ailsa Anderson was Communications and Press Secretary to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II from 2001 to 2013.

A former newspaper Journalist, Ailsa moved into public relations and worked as a press officer for the British Government.

During her time in the Royal Household she worked on two Jubilees, the wedding of the current Prince and Princess of Wales, and the birth of Prince George.

She was awarded the Royal Victorian Order in 2011 for her services to the Royal Household.

She now is a Royal commentator for the US broadcaster ABC News and reported extensively during the death and funeral of The Queen.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/ailsa-anderson-cole-8ab6a48/

 

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Philip Grindell:

Hello and welcome to the online bodyguard podcast from diffuse. Welcome back to our regular listeners and a very Happy New Year to everyone. For our first podcast issue in 2023. I'm delighted to introduce my friend and today's guest, Arthur Andersen also was the communication and press secretary. So her late Majesty the Queen Elizabeth the Second from 2001 to 2013. A former newspaper journalist, also moved into the public relations and worked as a press officer for the British government. During her time in the royal household, she worked on two jubilees the wedding of the current Prince and Princess of Wales, and the birth of Prince George. She was awarded the royal Victorian order in 2011. For her services to the royal household excuse me, I have a cold. She is now a role commentator for the US broadcaster ABC News and reports extensively during the death and the funeral of Her Majesty the Queen. Welcome.

Ailsa Anderson:

Very good to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me. It's a real honour and privilege to be talking to you today.

Philip Grindell:

Now, if I cough I must apologise I've had a dreadful cold all over Christmas. So I'm hopefully you'll do most of talking. So that's fine. So I mean, welcome. I mean, I've I've known for a while your, your bio kind of under sales you which is which is what was a good thing. Excuse me. But let's start off with I mean, what is it? What what are you? What do you do? What is a communications director?

Unknown:

That's a really, really good question. So when I was a journalist, everybody hated comms directors because they always thought you were being sold something. Yeah, sold a bit of fluff. So journalists and comms directors always had an almost an uneasy truce when sort of planting a story. But I suppose a comms director is someone who is an adviser on all communications, whether its internal or external. Maybe a bit of a mother's superior, you may be a bit of a shrink, you hear people's problems, someone who will be absolutely totally honest with their principal, because what I found, in my own experience, what a principals need is someone who is a yes person, you know, and it takes it does take courage and backbone to stand up to someone, especially if they're strong willed, and they've got very strong opinions about certain issues, but you wouldn't be doing your job properly. If you didn't offer the advice that you thought it was best for them. And you know, and the consequences if they went through a different route to the one you advise. So comms person has got many, many facets. As I said, probably wife, mother, Mother Superior, and professional, professional spokesperson.

Philip Grindell:

Now mindful of your previous time in government, I have to ask a question about In other terms, spin doctor seem to evolve out of that period of time. That can't be something that was it's something that sits comfortably because spinning implies, I suppose myths truths, or, or changing the story?

Unknown:

Well, I would actually I would challenge that narrative, I would say a spin doctor is someone who puts the best light on to a policy or a new set of regulations. So spin Yeah, spins maybe got awkward connotations. But I would say much more you're presenting a new policy in the best possible light, which makes it palatable for the public and easily understandable. So I maybe I, yeah, I would challenge that.

Philip Grindell:

So is, is spin if you like it, you know, in the positive way. Is that part of being a comms director then?

Unknown:

Yeah, I mean, if you've got if you've got a policy which you're presented with, of course, you're going to try and sell it you know, you're everyone in comms tries to sell something whether you're working for a national airline to a big supermarket you know, you've got a you've got a brand you like to sell that's true of government. That's true. The Royal Household that's true Church of England, you know, as much as they probably hate the word brand. It is a brand and you've got to present that brand in the best possible light. And when things go tits up as I sorry colloquially use, then you've got it trying to dig yourself out of that hole and try and spin it in a in a more palatable way.

Philip Grindell:

So is there a difference between a comms director and a PR person?

Unknown:

Yeah, that's a good really good question. I suppose there there is a PR person is someone who is selling something all the time, a comms director sometimes has to know when not to sell something, or when not to rebut, or when you're facing a reputational or crisis is you what you're doing. So you're not always selling? Sometimes it's when you're not selling, where you really, really have to bring all your professional skills to the fore.

Philip Grindell:

And is it? I mean, you are an ex journalist? Is that a traditional routine? Or can you come in from other worlds?

Unknown:

That's a really good question. When I joined the royal household. People in the press office came from basically a very traditional background, so no one works, PR, no one works journalists. But they wanted to start professionalising the whole royal household, so they started bringing in people with different qualities and different strengths and different backgrounds. So I was brought in with a fellow colleague who used to work for seven tread water company, I would come as chief press officer from the Cabinet Office. So we came in and brought different more maybe more current skills to that organisation.

Philip Grindell:

And when you go from government to the royal household, in a different subjects, but is it the same role? Is it the same kind of issues you're dealing with? Or the same?

Unknown:

sourly? No, again, a very good question. So obviously, when you're working in government, you're dealing with policy, so you're promoting a policy. The Royal Household, the more like doesn't steps policies. So a lot more of what you're concentrating on is a family and an institution, which needs to be relevant, which needs to be valued for money, which needs to support the causes that it represents. And to show its own self worth, I suppose. So no, very, very different. I the first year I was there, the amount of faux pas I must have made through addressing people with the wrong titles, or standing in the wrong place. Yeah, but was second to none. I'm surprised I survived 13 years, to be honest.

Philip Grindell:

And so who I mean, do you? Do you work? Or did you work then kind of directly to the Queen? Were you kind of briefed by her work?

Unknown:

Yeah, you're part of the private secretary's office. So yes, absolutely. You work directly with the queen and other members of the royal family as well. But the majority have worked with a queen, you work through the private, the private office, private secretary. But of course, the Queen undertook many engagements every year. So you go out and do either the domestic engagements or the overseas engagements as well. And she hosted lunches, many, many receptions. So you will see the queen on a pretty frequent basis. And I still feel it, I still always, even after 13 years used to walk across the forecourt of Buckingham Palace, and there would still be above Yeah, every time. I would just think what an incredible honour and privilege it is, you know, to probably walk into one of the most iconic buildings in the land. Yeah, every day. It really was a privilege. Yeah,

Philip Grindell:

I mean, I can, I can understand that. I stood outside it a few times on guard. So it was always I always felt a sense of history, even just by doing that. Yeah, I mean, I have to ask you, obviously, the Queen died very recently. What's your abiding memory? I know you work for the US press around this. But what's your memory of her? How would you remember her?

Unknown:

I obviously it was it before, but it's her incredible sense of duty. Why not about the queen is even after 70 years on the throne, she would go on an engagement and she would come back and she would find something new or interesting to talk about following that engagement. So she goodness knows how many trips or schools or museums or libraries or ships, but she would always come back and she'd say you did you hear that? That young lad talk about something or wasn't that an interesting comment about the economy that the professor made from the LSE. So there was Yeah, her her sense of, of still finding pleasure in those engagements. Her sense of ridiculous, so the Queen loves nothing more than going on an engagement, and there'd be some sort of cockup. So she would do a plaque unveiling and and the curtain would fall down or someone would forget their words or just something ridiculous that would make her smile because everyone as you know rehearses these visits so many times to get completely correct so if something went wrong you know how hysterical was that? Yeah. I also think the Queen's incredible sense of of generosity, surprising generosity. And I again, I remember working on President Obama, Mrs. Obama's state visit to the UK. And they had their official ceremony and Horseguards, probably something you've seen many times before. And then there's always an official lunch at Buckingham Palace has their entourage and the Queen's senior advisor. So it probably had lunch with about 30 people. And there's a pre lunch reception. And then you go into lunch. So I was standing there chatting to a another member of the household and as a corner of my eye, I could see the Queen walking over with President Obama, I thought she must be on her way to talk to someone important. And she came right up to me as a press secretary. This is President Obama, Mr. President, her husband's in the Royal Navy. And all I got like a think bubble coming out of my head thinking, Oh, my God, the queen is introducing me to President Obama is President Obama. And I thought that mediocracy rang my husband and told him, I said, Oh, my God, President Obama just said how wonderful the Royal Navy is, because the Queen's introduced me to him. You know, he didn't have to. And I thought that was a huge act of kindness and a story that will stay with me here until my dying days.

Philip Grindell:

Yes, Fascinating, isn't it, everyone who's ever met, the Queen and other members of senior members of the royal family always has a little story to take away because they were so mad that they were, although they've been in all of our lives in the UK for all of our, since we've all been born, but you know, they still carry such significance to many people, not everyone. And that's that's obviously, something they recognised. But when you did meet them, whoever you were, and whatever your views were, there was something very personal about them.

Unknown:

Very magnetic, yeah, when this queen talk to you, you would think you were the most important person in the room, if you like, I know a lighthouse beacon was shining on you. And you're right, and people will get away all with with some sort of special memory and a special experience.

Philip Grindell:

So let's move back to kind of your role then because I think as a lovely tribute to the Queen. We always, you know, watch the news. And we hear about these, these royal sources all the time that way. And I always sit here and say to my wife, That's utter rubbish. They're just making that up, you know, no one. No one's ever said that. They're just they're just making stuff up and using the word sources or a caveat for, you know, journalistic nonsense wherever you. But you know, how did that relationship work there between the comms team and the media in terms of making sure that the right bits got out and countering? Maybe stories that didn't want to hear or untruths and what have you? How does that work?

Unknown:

Again, we're all sorts, of course, can be anyone, it could be a member of the royal family themselves, it could be a member of staff, it could be the police, footman, someone who'd been to reception, a friend of a member of the royal family, I mean, it's so it's such a broad term, it could be, it could be anyone. Obviously, anything a spokesperson for the queen, or the royal family, you've got to be really careful about what you're saying, You've got to be absolutely honest, I'm in my X number of years of working in PR, I've never lied to a journalist once hand on heart. If you can't say something or you can't guide, then I'm afraid you just got to say that you've got to be absolutely upfront and honest. I've never breathed against another member of the royal family to promote my own member of the royal family. Again, that'd be something that the Queen would have never sanctioned. So you know, quite a lot of stories. If that. If you can't say something on the record, then you can guide and say, actually, if you wrote that in the paper tomorrow, you're going to look ridiculous, because it's absolutely not true. And again, also, there, there are stories, official stories, there's also stories that the media love, which also the personal about boyfriends and girlfriends, which obviously memes are all family don't want to talk about. And if you set a precedent about either knocking a story down or confirming a story was actually personal, though there's very little sort of getting, you know, getting that back again. So what you don't want to do is set a difficult and awkward precedent going forward.

Philip Grindell:

You meant you mentioned the call, you would never sanction briefing against other people. And I think, you know, that's the kind of elephant in the room out out of the room because we know that's been a topic of conversation recently with with Harry and Megan. So if another member of the royal family had done that, would the queen have dealt with that as an internal issue in terms of you know, channelling them around that or or spoken to them.

Unknown:

I said, I you know, it's it's never it never happened on my watch. And I've never seen anyone else do it. Whether that happened in the past before I joined the household. I don't know. Also, yeah, but maybe the Queen didn't know about it. If it did happen, you know, I can't say hand on heart, that Duke of Sussex is wrong, because I don't know what happened prior to my time, or whether the Queen knew about it at all. But all I can say is it never happened when I was now.

Philip Grindell:

So the royal family is going through a huge, I suppose challenge in the last 20 years, and it really mean that we've had lots of different stories, that they're a family like any other family, and people sometimes forget that. And therefore, you know, people, relationships break up. There's problem children, there's all sorts of stuff. How do you keep that balance, though around all the good work they do as well.

Unknown:

By promoting that good work, by drawing a light on to a charitable cause, that wouldn't necessarily get any any publicity, if it wasn't because of their royal patron or a royal visit. You know, I keep hearing the phrase, keep calm and carry on. And that's very much the mantra of the royal family. But it's difficult, you know, I've had members of royal family come into my office in tears, because there's been something awful in the newspaper about them, which is blatantly untrue. But there is one factor in it, which is correct. So if you go back and challenge, you're going to have to challenge or rebuttal all of it, which sometimes is, you just can't do it. Because again, it sets a precedent. But it's awful seeing a member of the royal family in tears. And then the next day they're out doing engagement with probably the same journalists, it's just written this story reporting on it. And you can see that probably, you know, really upsets them rightly so it upset me.

Philip Grindell:

So when you hear that when you hear the story that the royal families policy is, you know, never complain, never explain that that that can't be 100%, you know, of a policy because clearly they had people like you to sort of

Unknown:

had some very, very good lawyers who were employed to give us proper legal advice. But you look at the phone hacking, Philip, whenever that was 2003 2004. There were very many members of the royal family and members of royal household who actually got compensation for getting hacked. I was one of them, I was hacked, that I got some compensation. And that because we challenged this, so I would absolutely when something needs to be challenged, the Royal House are not scared to stand up and be counted.

Philip Grindell:

So let's kind of move away from just talking about the royal family and talk about the role and the kind of skill set that you need there. Because I think we could get consumed if we're not careful with the mistake of the royal family. I think somewhat sometimes, you know, it's important to keep that mistake. Yeah. So you know, you started some years ago, you've worked within government, you've worked obviously, for many years ago. But I'm we're talking, we're talking decades, but not, you know, not many decades. But but you know, we're talking a number of years. And certainly, probably what the big, you know, sort of beginning when you started with the mobile phones weren't necessarily a big thing.

Unknown:

That's correct. Yeah. And so, like a brick in my handbag.

Philip Grindell:

Yeah. And so we've moved from that era to this era, throughout all those different key roles you've worked in? How has the role changed? How is your job changed?

Unknown:

I think you have to be far more fleet of foot now. I mean, in my day, yeah. People used to send out press notices. I mean, that's absolutely archaic now. So more feet of foot. I think also, trying to think I hate the phrase. But yeah, thinking outside the box, far more now. Because you've got everyone that can be a journalist, everyone can work in PR, you know, you've got bloggers, you've got influencers, you've got tick tock, the Twitter, Instagram, you know, I'm sure like I'm on all of them. I'm completely obsessed. I don't know how I feed my children, but I'm too busy looking at my phone. So you've got much more coming at you as a PR person. I also think you've got to be more robust in whether you respond and whether you don't. And I'll give you an example of that. My last job is working for the Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the Church of England. Here, he is very much a social media buff. He saw something on Twitter, which he hated. It was absolutely it was incorrect. If right, Ailsa, we need to rebut this put something out in my nature about it. And I said to him, absolutely, we can. But this person's got three followers, you've got 1000s If we go and put something out in your name, and above it, we're drawing attention to a story which is getting no traction at all, and then wasn't nothing seen it. So I think you've got to be confident in your judgement and your ability to actually sometimes do nothing rather than do something.

Philip Grindell:

And that's one of the beauties is no social media sometimes actually, as you can, you can instantaneously see the circulation of that individual or that whatever. And make that judgement. Which you can't always with a blog or something else.

Unknown:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. But are you so social media can be so toxic? And we've all seen it. And I, you know, I worry about kids now what they see on social media and what they do and, yeah. And how they're being groomed. Yeah, especially, you know, my daughter's 13. And I worry horribly about what she sees on, you know, on social media.

Philip Grindell:

But it's, but it's that double edged sword, isn't it because we kind of can't live without it anymore, and so much comms person, you know, it's probably an invaluable tool, because you can get an instant message out there about something. And robotics and robotics.

Unknown:

You get, of course, instantaneously the third party endorsements. So you're putting something out there, and then you're getting big names, either liking your or you're adding their own positive comment, and it's win win win.

Philip Grindell:

So what are the skills are tell me what the skills are? If someone was listening and thinking, Do you know what I, you know, being a communications in that world? I'd love to do that. What sort of skill set do you need?

Unknown:

You need Zilean resilience, I would say absolutely. enjoying working with people, I'm a huge people person, it's all about relationships. There is so many times Phillip in the past, where a journalist why knows companies every book was great story. And I've said to them, Look, don't run it now. But if you can leave for two weeks, I will give you something better. As a story, and they've done that, and it's worked in both both our feet favours so resilient, I think you need a good, excellent judgement always. I think you also you need to be not afraid to make a mistake. And that often is, you know, you've got someone who's got washed your back. And I know as a as a, as a manager, as a leader. I've always said to my team, I'm happy for you to make mistakes. And I will always have your back because basically, the buck stops with you. So you've got to let people make mistakes. Small ones, I hope we I think you've done. They've got they've got to try. Never take credit for something that you haven't done. I've worked I'm sure you have. I've worked with many people who do that. And it's just not you can't be a leader. If you do something like that. Yeah. And you need a thick skin. Yeah, yeah, there'll be many times I remember back in the News of the World days, where you'd have journalists screaming at you at midnight, on a Friday night or a Saturday before that the other Sunday newspapers come out with something awful. So you've got to have a thick skin, don't take it personally.

Philip Grindell:

And so when we look at when we look at the world of a congressperson, I'll give you some example what I'm where I'm going with this, I've looked at a few press releases recently of some some globally renowned people. And what struck me about them was a degree of naivety around the security issues that actually they were compromising, but what they were doing. So in order to get publicity, we're going to expose X, Y, and Zed in terms of, you know, we're revealing where someone lives, we're going to be revealing, you know, personal possessions of value. We're gonna be doing all those sorts of things where, from a security perspective, I look at it and I think that piece of PR, you've just done has actually created a vulnerability within your client. Is that something that would normally be something you would be thinking about always that, is that a new thing?

Unknown:

No, no, absolutely what we'd be thinking about. So I worked on number of documentaries, when I worked in the royal household. Often, a team would follow the royal family around for years, we would always view the footage before it was broadcast to see whether there were any security implications if they filmed one of the private apartments at Buckingham Palace, which would lead to a vulnerability. So yes, absolutely the forefront of anything like that, you know, often there'll be things that are is out of your control. But while you've got you've got a filter or photographer inside your parameters, you can call the shots far more easily. So yes, absolutely. Yeah.

Philip Grindell:

Because I mean, I, it seems to me, that in the modern world, when we see commerce, people working with high profile individuals, and increasingly, you know, let's call it what it is celebrities, whatever commerce person or a PR agent or something. Yeah. And the way I look at it, is that they're not looking at it from a security perspective. They're looking at purely from a publicity perspective.

Unknown:

But I can't I don't think when you're a comms person that you know, it's just so insularis that you've got to think about the policy implications or security implications, so much more than just what the message is. And certainly, when we used to do records for overseas tours, a member or family would would come on, you'd have the private secretary on the record, who obviously is the lead policy person, you'd have the comms director, and you'd have the lead protection officer. So and we would all talk about other people's remotes and what so I would might have a question about security. The police officer might have a question about PR, you know, we working as a team, because nothing is in isolation.

Philip Grindell:

But did you do that before you went to palm Roadhouse? Or did you do that when you're in government, for instance?

Unknown:

It was very well, the minister, Secretary of State that I worked for didn't have police protection. So it would be a private secretary and a press officer.

Philip Grindell:

Yeah. But would you still be thinking about security issues around that?

Unknown:

That's good. That's a really good question. Probably not? Probably not. Because I don't think, yeah, a minister of state or Secretary of State would probably have those sorts of security high profile security issues than you would have. Yeah. Remember, there are Fabian? Canterbury? Yeah, yeah, I don't know how many government ministers I can name. Now.

Philip Grindell:

Whenever interesting. When I used to work when I worked in Parliament, I used to say to politicians, the next time you're doing a piece of the TV, can you are can you a not do it outside your home? And be when they put where you live? Can you just put the county rather than the actual village you're living in? Because you're you're actually leaking information that people don't need to know about? And so I guess, you know, you became very, very conscious of those security issues when you moved into the royal household, because because of the very nature of the role you do, yeah. But it's understandable that other columns, people that work in the corporate sector or working private family offices, potentially or other places, you know, may not necessarily understand that or factor it in, because that's not the experience they've had.

Unknown:

Yeah, I remember, I is an unnamed member of the royal family going overseas, going on private holiday overseas, and posting a photograph on some media channel and I rang him, I said, up to everyone knows a lot of your home. So that is vulnerable. And also they know where you are, and you've got your kids there as well. So don't think you know, this stuff can't be sure. And also, once you're on social media footprint, it never evaporates. It's there for life.

Philip Grindell:

Yeah. And we've seen that they did it out of

Unknown:

innocence. It was not you know, nothing. Deliberate or sinister. It was out of innocence.

Philip Grindell:

Yeah. We've seen that with football or something. And the house get burgled, by the way. So, you know, that's the kind of basic piece of advice nowadays. And that's with PR teams and what have you. So what's what's the kind of commonalities then in terms of working for these three separate high profile roles? I'm sure you've I know you've worked in other ones, but particularly those high? What were the what were the common denominator, I think,

Unknown:

whatever use the joy of being a comms director, is that you're always behind the scenes, you can't be the story. But of course, Anything you say or do or act on, you're doing on behalf of your principal, so you don't want to let yourself down. But most importantly, don't let them down. So you've just got to be really, really careful about what you say. And I say to you know, journalists that I deal with, you know, I will give you, I'll help you off the record. But if you if you cross me, that's it. That's the end of the trust relationship. I'm very happy to start with trust. But if it goes, if it goes south, that's it. That's funny, too.

Philip Grindell:

And do you find that you, you in the roles you have that you end up kind of caring? For the person you're representing?

Unknown:

Totally, absolutely. Because you're spending a lot of time with them. You're spending downtime with them. So you want your like you like a wife, or a mother or a social worker. Absolutely. And they will remember that I'm sure the Countess of Wessex won't mind me saying, but when I went on maternity leave with my son, she was sending me emails, they sent gifts, and he just say, what a lovely thing. That is, because she was, you know, she was a mother of the year before. So she was actually offering advice. I mean, how kind is that? I remember, again, with the RPG category, a ghastly story, while setting story about him and his father, which transferred the father he thought he had wasn't he was the bastard child of Winston Churchill's private secretary, Antony Montague Brown, and that played out on the Daily Telegraph front page. It lasted for a week actually, the art project came up really, really well. But it was upsetting for him because it obviously proved that his mother had had an affair while she was also working to Churchill, that he was a bastard so you're having In your own personal life played out in the national media. So you do you act as a, as a as a shoulder? Yeah, you take their pain into yourself as well.

Philip Grindell:

I think that's something that people don't realise. And it is, is when you when you're involved in those environments, and you're working closely with those individuals, you know, you get to know them behind the scenes get burned the real person, not the kind of public profile,

Unknown:

and your personal bias, you have personal bias, which makes you want to go the extra mile. And you understand if they're human, if they're a bit grumpy one day, or don't want to listen to advice, or just want to read their papers. That's absolutely fine. They may be in the public high, and celebrities, but they're also human beings, you know, and every human being has their flaws.

Philip Grindell:

And so what are the lessons? What are the lessons if you if you were going to write a book about, about being a congressperson, based on all the all the experience you have in terms of the various places you've worked, and the different environment, you know, government, to the royal family to the head of the Anglican Church? What's What were the lessons that you draw out of that.

Unknown:

Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Don't be afraid to stand up for what you believe in. Don't be afraid to push the boundaries. Don't be afraid to offer advice. Don't take it personally. Certainly don't take it personally. And every chapter of your life is a new beginning. But don't forget where you came from

Philip Grindell:

the point you made there about about, you know, giving advice, because it always it always is one of these issues where they've employed you, because you're an expert at what you do. Yeah. So they actually are seeking your advice, they may go about it a different way. But that's what you're there for to give them the benefit of your experience and your advice. And so what they want is they want that they want tell me what your views are on this.

Unknown:

Yeah, absolutely. But of course, everyone's a cold expert. I don't know whether you found that in the army. And everyone, certainly communications, everyone's an expert. So everyone's got an opinion about how communications work. And sometimes that can be quite exhausting. When you've got someone who's never spoken to a journalist, never fronted a press conference never been on the end of it, just telling you how to do your job. Or someone who has developed a policy, they've been working on something for a year, and then the day before they want to announce it, they come and ask you what your view is, Could you do a comp plan? So you know, you haven't been brought in right at the beginning, you're brought brought in right at the end to basically mop up any any crap that's spilled out over him. So I forgot. So I'm prepping, I forgot what the beginning of the question was.

Philip Grindell:

So that's the other. The other thing it makes me think about the complexities of some of the roles you've done is the issue around culture. And, you know, going into different environments in different countries, and having to manage the different cultural nuances around what you're doing what you're saying, you know, how the royal family has seen in some places more and more recently, with the, you know, the kind of, you know, reparation, around slavery, and all these other issues.

Unknown:

I think you've got to be very attune to the environment you're going in. And actually, more recently, I found that travelling with the Archbishop of Canterbury, so he, there's a president as an Anglican Christian presence in 42 countries worldwide. So the policies, for example, in North America, where it which is quite liberal, are going to be incredibly different to that in Uganda or Nigeria, whether you're ultra conservative. So you've really got to, you've got to read the lay of the land, and you've got to nuancing your message to fit where you are.

Philip Grindell:

And does that mean that you have to do that research as well? Do you have to understand that yourself? Yeah. But also

Unknown:

you will have people on the government's that royal family or whether it is the church, you have people on the ground, who are the real experts, so you draw on your resources. In every royal visit, it's not the royal household that takes the lead. It's the either the High Commissioner or the attorney general or whoever is on the ground. They're the ones that are living and breathing this every day. So they are much more attuned to what is going on, than we would be in our you know, in our Palace in London. So you draw on the resources available.

Philip Grindell:

So I mean, when I look at the Royal Family more recently, though, we keep drifting back to that subject, I look at some of the things that have gone on and I think, and I'm not going to ask you, I'm not going to put you on the spot, because I think that would be unfair and indiscreet, but, you know, I, since you've moved on, they're clearly I think, being a few bloopers in terms of, say, putting certain people forward for interviews that they probably shouldn't have done. Or, you know, I think of William and Kate more recently, when they were in the Caribbean, and they were seen to be shaking hands. Well, you know, the appearance was it was through this fence and almost, you know, and again excuse me, I don't Not much control the head on that. But these are all factors that get played out. And so sometimes it must be a little bit about crisis management as well around, some things happened. You can't control what the narrative now. So what do you do, then?

Unknown:

What you do is look at the next step, something you can't control the moment. So what are we going to do next to actually mitigate what has happened previously. And whether that is ensuring a photocall like, that doesn't happen anymore, putting out a statement immediately sitting down and doing an interview, doing, arranging a picture caption, which actually sort of knocks the other one out of the water. I remember Alastair Campbell saying to me, if a story lasts longer than 10 days, then you basically better resign. Right? So what you don't want is a story that continues and gathers momentum after 10 days.

Philip Grindell:

So you've got to be thinking on your feet, and I guess have some degree of creativity around that as well. Yeah, absolutely.

Unknown:

And also, it goes back again to to relationships. Yeah, sometimes it's going to be out of your control. I know exactly. The story you talked about it was Johnny diamond from the BBC brokered and then it just gathered momentum and gathered momentum. And apparently, there was quite an inexperienced group of people on the home team working for that, which is no fault of their own. And, of course, that that whole trip was arranged by you that the host country, so the host country wanted them to do all of this. And of course, again, going back to the drawing on your resources, presumably the royal household said, thank you very much for using this is a good idea. And and of course, you know, to placate them and promote what they wanted to promote. They agreed. There's never as you know, there is never one side to any story.

Philip Grindell:

No, I mean, it's a complicated Jigsaw isn't it of, of different pieces in terms of, you know, as we've talked about the comms role, and then factoring in the security issues around, you know, the exposure and, and we, you know, it's really interesting how the king has, right from the word go has made a real point of being somebody who wants to engage with the crowd and walk up and have those walk and talks. But we've also seen

Unknown:

that of course, you know, the Queen was the one who introduced the walkabout so before the Queen Elizabeth, the walkabout did not exist. But

Philip Grindell:

my point, I guess, is, is when he's been doing it recently, there's been security issues regularly. I mean, it's talking about eggs being thrown. But that's, that demonstrates a vulnerability in those which maybe because of the Queen's reputation, and the way she was seen, that didn't happen. Or maybe it's because we've had a change of Monica, and therefore people really, you know, really assess their own views on the monarchy. But yeah, but having to balance that, that again, that that issue with the comms team, wanting to say, get out there and talk and do that. And the security saying, Yeah, hang on a minute, we've got these issues. Got it. But ultimately, the decision maker is the key.

Unknown:

Absolutely, I couldn't, I couldn't agree more. And I've had, I've had those conversations with security people, where I want the principals to, to go out and shake the hands and speak to the kid and speak to the disabled and speak to everybody. And we don't actually, you can't do that. So I'm only interested in the photo op, and yeah, and something that appears relevant, and then very warm. So there's, there can be friction. Yeah, sometimes there's no easy path to get what I want, which the security people will be happy with. You know, it's sometimes you have to compromise or sometimes you lose, but you might lose that day when when the next

Philip Grindell:

but I know from my own experience, when I was a Seco in the place of security coordinator and doing all events and what have you in and you know, the bottom line was, whatever the security risks, you're gonna have to manage it because they are not going to cancel. Yeah. And so, between you and the comms team, you're gonna have to come up with a plan that facilitates them doing what they want to do in a safe environment. And so I've know I've worked with a comms team in the, in the, in the royal household where, you know, we've had to come up with last minute arrangements and, you know, briefing and brief out around why we're going to be doing certain things because there is a security risk.

Unknown:

Yeah, no, absolutely. Yeah. And I know half the security people I work for would rather it will never any media or any public sort of rather defeats the optics and you wouldn't have a monarchy. But it's interesting, reminds me of doing a trip to northern Ireland with the Queen and Prince Philip is when she met Martin McGuinness. So it was all very, very last minute. It was in a library, I think, in Belfast, and we record it, just three of us sort of in the dead of night to have a look and it was sort of a gallery there were people were exhibiting paintings and Martin McGuinness is going to be there and there's going to be a lineup At the end, because we couldn't tell anybody, and I had to do in the morning just tell a cameraman and a photographer to come with me and do worth their while and yeah, whatever. And this of course, extraordinary, extraordinary historic event happened. And the Queen and Prince Philip shook Martin McGuinness his hand at the end. And that's where you security and cons you have to work together. You really, really closely and trust each other to ensure that actually that historic event was going to come off.

Philip Grindell:

And it was an incredible,

Unknown:

I didn't sleep that much. No, I

Philip Grindell:

don't I can imagine. But it was an incredible event. And I think, you know, equally I remember going back a bit in time when the queen I think first went to the south of Ireland. Yeah. And I think she went to a sporting event as well, there.

Unknown:

You didn't I was on that visit was absolutely amazing. It was one of those visits, where it could go either way. And I just felt from the moment she got off the aircraft, you know, wearing green, it just very, very, very gathered, incredibly gathered momentum, you know, people protesting on the streets before she arrived. And there was obviously people incredibly anxious, including the Queen and Prince Philip, do to make it go right. Because everything they did everything they want, I think they said every expression they made, was being scrutinised. So it had to be faultless. And in my opinion, that visit was absolutely faultless. And the last day when when they did a walk about in County, County Cork around a farmers market, and it was like seeing the queen as Beyonce, it was like they were like rockstars if people could not get enough was it was finding if one of those visit where you think you are part of history. Yeah.

Philip Grindell:

So So during your closing, what's next for you? What's happening with you now?

Unknown:

I gotta walk the dog in a minute? That's a good question. So I've had, so I'm working for ABC as one of their role commentators at the moment. But I really enjoy working for an individual or an organisation that I have that I have buy in with that I can really, I feel I can make a difference. And that I can give, I can give so that God willing will be my next step. So if any of your listeners are out there, and think I'm the person for you get in touch with Phillip

Philip Grindell:

Yeah, well, I'll definitely your details will all be attached. So yeah, in terms of your professional contact detail. So if anyone's out there looking for a comms director, then you're definitely the person to speak with. Just get back to the ABC role. How interested? Are the Americans still in what happens over here?

Unknown:

That's, again, a very good question. I think incredibly, you know, I talked about Harry and Megan, on ABC, just before Christmas. I think there's still a fascination with with the monarchy, because it's something they don't have everyone's interested in something that you don't have. Yeah, I think we are. The queen was the most famous woman in the world. And we do things differently, we speak differently. And of course, there's that special relationship with the states still. So I do think I do think there's still a fascination whether that will continue, you know, who knows. But I feel very confident in the future of the monarchy, and how King Charles will progress it. And I think there are good things to come. And I think we need them in time. You know, we've got we've got war, we've got famine, you were worried about feeding and educating our children. You know, we need we need some help. And I think the Mauna Kea can do that. And will

Philip Grindell:

presumably you're gonna be working for ABC them during the coronation. Yes, I am. So have you already started those sort of plans around that? They have,

Unknown:

we will obviously be brought in on the day. But yeah, but yeah, plans, as you know, have been going on for years and years and years. And I, you know, I know, the Prince of Wales, as was when the Queen was still alive, was was looking at, you know, sort of coronation plans, but it's gonna be very different, as you know, in 1953, there were no women bishops, of course, there are now you know, the Commonwealth was the realm of much bigger, you know, we're a part of multicultural, multi ethnic society now. So we're going to have reflected in made coronation, a much different society and culture that was 71 years ago.

Philip Grindell:

Interesting. Well, listen, it's been fascinating and I know that our listeners will be fascinated to listen to not just about the royal family and all your anecdotes there and that kind of, I suppose slightly secret world that we will read about and watching some of us have been privileged to have a snapshot into but you know, on the wide The subject of PR and communications and crisis management. So you're also thank you so much. It's been an absolute pleasure. Enjoy your walk your dog. Don't get too wet, hopefully because it's pouring rain here. And I look forward to seeing you at lunch very soon.

Unknown:

Me too. Thank you very much. It's been a real joy. You've been brilliant

Philip Grindell:

pleasure. Thank you.