How to communicate a royal funeral

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How to communicate a royal funeral

Staff engagement and teamwork was never more important in April 2021 when the news was announced that His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh had passed away.

So says Louisa Dean, Head of Communications at the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead.

She’s kindly written for the All Things IC blog to share her experience. The borough is home to many royal events, both happy and sad.

Regular readers of my blog will know Louisa shared what it was like to be Head of Comms during the Royal Wedding back in 2018.

How to communicate a royal funeral

You can find her on Twitter @LouisaDean23 and I’m grateful to her for taking the time to write this for us.

I’ll hand you over…

How to communicate a royal funeral

For years I’d planned and practised what we would do when the news broke but until the announcement is made, you don’t really know what will happen.

As Communications professionals, you probably know we had an overall plan of action, so I’ve decided it would be more interesting to focus on some areas of work.

First few hours

The first few hours were a blur picking up the plan and following it; one lesson we learnt from the Royal Wedding was to make sure our staff immediately knew what was happening.

The Chief Executive sent out an email to all staff as well as our councillors to let them know that sadly The Duke had died and that we might see an increased media presence in Windsor.

We have to remember a lot of staff weren’t actually involved in the funeral, so their day job was unaffected by this news.

Keep them engaged and informed

It was really important we kept staff and councillors updated. Again, something we learnt from the wedding and something we have implemented for major events.

Each night, I would send an email to our senior management team and councillors to let them know what the council had delivered that day, what issues we had overcome, what comms we had done and any key messages we needed their help in sharing.

I received several messages thanking me for the work we had carried out that day – so for me, that was a useful email to send, and something we will carry on doing.

My team

For major events like this, we draw in extra staff from other departments. We hadn’t actually walked through the plan with them for a while. There had been some emails back and forth but nothing set in stone about what they needed to do when they moved to my team.

I can say they were absolutely fantastic, and they cascaded messages about the events in Windsor to their wider teams they normally sit in, so the internal comms process worked really well.

It is also worth saying that a large proportion of my team hadn’t worked at the previous two royal weddings, and one of them had only been in the team for a week!

But they all did their bit, they all made me laugh, and on Saturday they made me cry tears of pride.

They all sent me photos of where they were, some of them had never met each other in real life – it has just been via Microsoft Teams. And some don’t work in the corporate comms team but are there any time you need them. I was just so proud!

Pressure and delegation

It’s only since reflecting that I’ve realised how much pressure I put on myself.  But there was also a huge level of expectation on me, and I carried that weight on my shoulders.

The pressure did make me question a few things so I phoned one of my team to double check we were doing the right comms with the right message.

She said to me, ‘you know you’re doing a good job, we have loads of content, stop questioning yourself!’ She also said a similar thing to my new starter – ‘none of us have worked on a funeral like this before, we will just get through it.’ After that we were all fine – but you never escape the actual spotlight shining brightly on our team.

 

Reflecting

When you’re in the midst of a massive event, you sometimes forget to look back at what you did.

This time we sent email newsletters out to our residents about the work we did, and a message of thanks to our staff because it’s really important everyone is thanked regardless of whether they were working directly on the funeral or keeping the council going with business as usual.

Tweets by Louisa Dean

 

And we are now putting together our lessons learnt log, just in case we have another big event in Windsor.

Post author: Louisa Dean.

Thank you Louisa for sharing your experience with us.

Pic credit: @RoyalFamily on Twitter.

Image showing the course cover for the internal communicator's guide to hybrid working. Picture shows a woman sitting as a table.

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