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The decision to allow an extended interview with Prince Harry at the end of his tour of duty as an Apache helicopter co- pilot/gunner was an exercise in pragmatic media management with unexpected consequences.

After his last tour, which was cut short when the media revealed he was with his Regiment on the ground in Afghanistan, the MOD decided to take a co-operative approach, offering the media an opportunity for an extended  pooled interview to be broadcast at the end of his deployment if they stayed off his back whilst he was on duty.

Whilst there was some limited PR value for the MOD,  there is no doubt in my mind that the real hit here was that the interview did much for “Brand Wales”.

Prince Harry is someone the media ( and hence the public) have enjoyed seeing make a gaff or two – from Nazi costume at a fancy dress party to candid shots snatched in a Vegas hotel room – he has been called the “Party Prince”. Yet here we saw a young man, clearly uncomfortable with the rigmarole of the media circus imposed upon him, showing how much it means to serve his country, and to “belong” to something where he is valued for who he is and what he can do, rather than what he represents.

To some who are less familiar with the culture and language of the Army (and Officer’s Mess in particular), he might have come across as diffident. But to me this was his clear reluctance to engage except on his terms. His interview showed he holds a genuine love for soldiering, which it is clear gives him an environment in which “he can just be one of the boys”, getting on with an important job without the superficial judgement of journalists. At one pont he even alluded to the fact that the interview was not what he wanted, but part of the deal to make it possible for him to serve on the front line again.

In the business of reputation management honesty and openness are priceless assets. Whilst the interview may have been seen as a PR opportunity for the MOD the real winner was Harry himself, with his reluctant yet revealing words he has shown that behind the picture painted remotely by the media stands someone keen to be his own man.

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