Royal PR, Papal PR

Jeff Morosoff, Special Asst. Professor, Hofstra University

In the practice of public relations we often turn to staged events to reinforce, improve or change attitudes about our organizations.  Two longstanding institutions–the British monarchy and the Catholic Church–did just that this week. The royal wedding and the beatification of Pope John Paul II were joyous, very public events, but did they serve to boost good feelings about their sponsoring institutions?

By nearly every measure, the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton did just that.  The monarchy has stumbled in recent years through scandalous divorces, mishandled reaction to Princess Diana’s death, and the rumblings of a citizenry that sometimes wonders if the $128 million annually (by recent estimates) it takes to maintain the monarchy is worth it, especially during tough economic times.  But the Brits do love their queen and recognize the role the royals play in the nation’s identity–and its tourism business.  An estimated two billion (!) people watched the spectacular nuptials filled with pomp and tradition for which they are so famous.  The wedding, overflowing with optimism for the charming William and Kate, showed the world that the British monarchy is worth keeping around.

On the other hand, Pope John Paul II’s fast march toward sainthood has not been without controversy.  The beloved pope, who served from 1978-2005, has been beatified faster than anyone before him, and some believe it’s because the Catholic Church is anxious to spread positive PR at a time when its image has been suffering from its appalling priest-child abuse scandals.  Critics have said that this pope ignored the scandal and may have been complicit in the non-punishment of priests who committed these horrible acts.  The lovely Rome ceremony shared by millions of the world’s faithful was indeed joyous, but the question remains whether this event can serve to improve attitudes toward an institution in which many have lost faith. 

Your thoughts?

12 thoughts on “Royal PR, Papal PR

  1. Alyssa

    Well I have to admit I only watched one of these two events! Seeing that both events were based around institutions that have had troubled images in the past it is no surprise that joyous occasions were so widely publicized.From a PR standpoint I see no wrong in publicizing joyous events as a sort of crisis communications move. Its like when any large corporation going through a period of bad press in which they apologize and then publicize their philantrophic efforts. I see no harm in the British Monarch and Catholic Church trying to garner positive press.

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  2. Dan Steele

    i dont totally agree with this assessment. I really only think that the wedding got as much play as it did due to the princess fantasy that is innate in women everywhere. And it is not to say that the “princess fantasy” is a bad thing, or even an odd thing. It is also not to say that i am looking down on it. Millions of men watch football games every Sunday because they once had a dream of being that star quarterback. We watch every week, because a part of us is still living that dream. I believe so many women got worked up from the wedding because they grew up with the dream of growing up in simple means,before a prince fell madly in love with her, and they lived happily ever after. Watching the wedding allowed them to live the fairy tale dream that they had when they were little girls once again.

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  3. Heather Glazewski

    I was definitely part of the 2 billion people who woke up to watch the wedding haha.=)
    The Royal Wedding only did well because, well it was royal. This story was pushed as a “Fairytale Wedding” with Kate Middleton being basically a normal English person, marrying a prince. So the PR for this event itself was perfect to send this story, which is why it did so well.
    Much like the rest of the posters I was unaware of the popes march towards Saint hood. I agree with the controversy behind all of this, and not sure if it would pull in the same positive viewership.

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  4. Kalli Dionysiou

    I think the Royal Wedding was a great PR event for not only the country of England but for the world. It created a renewed sense of pride for the royalist party and the country. The Catholic Church also experienced a PR event but it was much overshadowed and unfortunately didn’t create a renewed sense of pride for Catholics. It is sad because so many people are losing faith in religious institutions and something needs to be done but no one can figure out just what they need.

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  5. Paul Chauvin

    I think the Catholic Church bringing up Pope John Paul II has a lot to do with his image as someone who even people who weren’t Christians were drawn to, even though that image has faded in recent years. They need all the good press they can get, so trying to recapture their old glory with this ceremony makes sense. I don’t know if most people are ready to forgive the Church for their past misdeeds, though.

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  6. vfrary

    I think that whoever did PR for the royal wedding did a phenomenal job. Globally, people tuned in, some at 4am, to watch the marriage of Catherine and William. I think that for a lot of people it was a “fairytale” wedding…the average girl next door meets the prince in college and they fall in love and get married. Even though people love to see “celebrities” fall, I think we enjoy watching a happy couple get married just as much. I think that the wedding completely overshadowed the news of the Pope becoming a saint which definitely would have boosted the image of the Catholic Church.

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  7. Michael Tarantino

    I would agree that both these institution’s images have suffered in recent years. However, while the mega wedding served to reinforce the tradition, prestige, and glamor that still exist for the British monarchy, the beatifying of Pope John Paul II failed to do so. The reason for this is two fold. First, the most damaging pr that the Vatican has been dealing with in recent time as you stated is the plethora of child abuse cases that were often swept under the rug by many high ranking members of the Roman Catholic Church. These acts are deplorable and resonant in a negative way with people all over the world. The second issue facing the Vatican is the decreasing dependence of followers around the world. Simply speeding up the process of making the late Pope John Paul II a Saint is certainly not going to make people forget about the child abuse, nor will it turn around an already fading following.

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  8. Pete Guaraldi

    The reason why the royal wedding worked as well as it did is because the royal family has the full support and love from the British citizens. For the most part, the royal family are figure heads in the 21st century and have little political say. However, the presence of the royal family clearly boosts morale among the people and brought them together as a proud community.

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  9. Amanda

    The royal wedding did exactly what it needed to to stay in the public eye. There was a huge build up for it, and the day of the wedding it was absolutely everywhere. I heard the news about the Pope but only through my parents not actually having stumbled upon it myself. There were so many different factors that went into the wedding that made it more interesting to follow in the entertainment sense. The wedding itself, the dress, rumors about Kate being pregnant, and other things that for some reason catch people’s interest.

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  10. Amanda Nissenbaum

    I have to agree with Jackie and say that they definitely did what they set out to do for the Royal Wedding, but the idea that they publicized it to the whole world just rubs me the wrong way. Yes Kate Middleton is a nice new enjoyment to Prince William and his family, but what I still don’t understand is why it has to be announced to the whole world with every piece leading up to, and beyond. Call me selfish, or tell me I have no heart, but I feel that weddings should be involved with a close family, and if anything they should’ve just shared their nuptials.

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  11. Alexandra Backes

    I think the royal wedding did exactly what it was trying to do in capturing the hearts of millions and restoring the faith in the monarchy. Personally, I wasn’t one of the people who was counting down the days to the exchange of the prince and princess’ vows, but was ultimately sucked in at one point or another. It seems as though the image of the monarchy is being seen in a positive light again and people only have positive things to say about it. On the other hand, I had no idea about the news about the Pope. I don’t know if people were just too wrapped up in other things going on, like the royal wedding, or if it simply didn’t receive the publicity it should have, but I don’t think it achieved its goal of creating an improved image for the Catholic Church.

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  12. Jacqueline Chiapuzzi

    I personally would have to say for the royal wedding, they did what they set out to do, billions watched not only the nuptials but pay by plays of the whole day. Weeks up to the event the world started to fall in love with the couple, Kate Middleton herself brings a lot to the royal family. She’s that girl next store that everyone loves. For the Catholic Church I wouldn’t say the same, I’m a catholic and honestly i had no idea that this was even going on. Maybe that has some bad on my part, but i don’t think it would change that much view on the Catholic Church as a whole.

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