When we heard the news about the Queen’s death, it was an incredibly emotional time for many people across the UK and the entire world. The devastating impact is most easily reflected in the masses of people who queued up to pay their respects to the Queen when her body lay in Westminster Hall. The queue stretched for miles around London and waiting times stretched to around 36 hours at its peak. Naturally, where the people went, the press wasn’t far behind. News vans and journalists from all over the country headed up to London to speak to people in the queue, report on the atmosphere, and see everything for themselves. Amongst those journalists were TV personalities and BAFTA winners, Philip Schofield, and Holly Willoughby. Little would they know that their reputation would come into question here.
What Was the Controversy?
There were a lot of controversies that surrounded the two presenters as they were accused of jumping the queue that so many other people had been waiting in for hours. The two have always been considered as some of the nation’s sweethearts but were turned into national villains in the blink of an eye.
The public fallout was massive. Not only did people take to social media to voice their anger, but a petition that ended up receiving 55,000 signatures was published which called for the two to be fired from their job on This Morning. Reputation management is incredibly important when it comes to building a brand, and this is reflected in how much Holly and Phil’s loveable brand was tarnished by this one act.
The incident became a bit of a joke amongst many internet users as memes were posted mocking the presenters. Not only that but businesses jumped on the trend too, with clubs offering queue jump to anyone named Phil or Holly and even Domino’s pizza tweeted, “apologies to anyone waiting on their pizza, we’ve just received an order from Holly and Phil”.
What Was Holly and Phil’s Response?
The response from Holly and Phil was brief. They simply stated that they were visiting Westminster Hall for work. As such, they respected the rules that were set for all members of the media rather than the public. Though this may seem like a rational response, that damage was already done to many people.
I commented on this for the Guardian and standby that the issue comes from the duo not making it clear before visiting the Queen that they were there for work reasons. They made it incredibly difficult to justify their queue jump, resulting in the subsequent fallout. The oversight may well have been a genuine mistake but when you consider the fact people all over the country were in an emotional state, not to mention members of the public had queued overnight to see the Queen, this mistake was also an incredibly insensitive oversight.
The Perfect Storm
Not only did the act itself contribute towards the backlash that Phil and Holly suffered, rather, but there were also several factors that all came into play to create the perfect public storm.
The first was the positioning of Phil and Holly. Hundreds of journalists skipped the queue to Westminster following the media’s rules to report on the event, but the This Morning duo ended up standing in a different position to other journalists. As a result, they could be seen by cameras that were filming the proceedings.
The second issue was how quickly footage spread on social media. I have previously commented on how damaging social media can be to careers and the speed at which the story of Holly and Phil jumping the queue spread clearly reflects this. It meant that people had seen the footage of the two before they had reported the story on This Morning and as such, people had already made their minds up on the situation.
Finally, a lot of This Morning viewers were upset with the disregard for royal etiquette, especially in the face of other well-known people queueing with the public. Again, thanks to social media, photos and videos soon emerged of the likes of Susanna Reid and David Beckham queueing to enter Westminster.
Can Their Reputation Be Saved?
With the power of negative press being clear, is there anything that Phil and Holly can do to save their reputation? I’ve worked with several people in the past including a Knight of the Realm, a former Bond girl, and a well-known film producer and there is always something that can be done to build your reputation back up once it has taken a hit.
It is clear in retrospect that one of the issues a lot of people had was the lack of empathy contained within the presenter’s response. The comments made after the backlash simply said, “we were working”, while there should have been more compassion and an acknowledgment that the public was upset. They could still have commented that they had just been doing their jobs but added that they appreciate how this may have been perceived by the public and apologise for any negative impact that it may have had. This conveys the same message their initial response does but is a lot less apathetic.
Moving forward, the two presenters may be in hot water at the minute, but they have also done a lot of good in the past. This is something that they’re going to need to focus on as they recover from the negative implications of this scandal. By drawing attention to the good work, they have done, they are going to be able to create more positive news stories about themselves, which in turn will counter the negative ones that have recently been published.
The Power of Reputation Management
There have been a few different news stories published in the past that can damage an individual’s or a business’s reputation. For instance, the recent Prince Andrew allegations have massively affected the royal family’s reputation and this is something they are still working to recover from.
One of the more recent examples of how negative press can destroy a brand that involves the royal family is clear in This Morning presenters, Holly and Phil, recent skipping of the queue to Westminster Hall. Their actions (though legitimate) led to public outcry, a plethora of jokes, and a petition asking for their removal from This Morning. The two were acting in a professional sense as journalists but their response to the backlash conveying this seemed to lack empathy and as such was poorly received.
Moving forward, the two are certainly going to be able to recover from this negative press, but it will take a lot of work. They are going to need to draw attention to the positive things that they have done in the past and as such, generate several positive news stories in the process. These stories will counteract the negative press that is currently circulating about them.
The recent scandal is a clear reflection of just how important a brand’s reputation is and why it’s important for individuals and businesses to engage wholeheartedly in reputation management.