BLOG: Netflix’s Scoop is a PR lesson that should send Prince Andrew back under cover


Like many, this weekend I tuned into the Netflix drama Scoop, based on Newsnight’s interview with Prince Andrew – possibly the most ill-advised piece of PR ever produced, writes Sarah Newton.

Five years after the notorious documentary, in which the Duke of York defended his ties to sex offender Jeffery Epstein, this is the first of two dramas based on the misjudged tell-all interview.

Of course, we all know some of the breathtakingly bad excuses the Duke rolled out to defend himself – from his visit to Pizza Express in Woking, a bizarre inability to sweat and the laughable fact that he is actually just “too honourable”.

Prince Andrew’s disastrous interview with Newsnight – possibly the most ill-advised piece of PR ever produced – has been recreated in Netflix’s new drama Scoop.

But who on earth advised him to conduct the interview in the first place? And why didn’t they tell him to apologise for his relationship with Epstein, to show remorse and, above all else, acknowledge the victims? This is not PR spin, just basic common sense.

Interview went against PR advice

Scoop makes it clear that the interview had not been ‘advised’ by anyone with any experience in PR – in fact the Duke’s public relations manager Jason Stein quit when he found out about the interview.

Stein joined the Palace in September 2019 to try to rebuild Prince Andrew’s reputation and left before the Newsnight interview was filmed in the November. His alternative PR strategy, as shown in the film, was to have intimate meetings with royal correspondents and newspaper editors, an approach deemed too slow by the impatient Prince. 

Stein has also said that the Duke should have given a 60th birthday interview in which he would apologise for his association with Epstein. This would have been more tightly controlled, with rules about what could not be asked.

But the problem here is that Prince Andrew’s arrogance knew no bounds. Going against the guidance of trusted professionals, he thought he knew better than a PR expert and, worse still, that he could fob off the British public.

Prince Andrew should now take cover

In recent weeks we have seen Prince Andrew slowly emerging from the shadows – usually flanked by ex-wife Fergie and both his daughters, designed to remind us he’s just a family man at heart. Post Scoop, I think it’s likely that the Royal Family’s PR machine will now encourage him back under cover.

The Royal Family’s future should hinge on making a clean break from figures like Prince Andrew, whose actions have embodied a lack of empathy, a sense of entitlement, and dubious judgment.

Of course, Prince Andrew isn’t the only member of the Royal Family to have caused controversy in recent weeks. By the time the Princess of Wales released a video announcing her cancer diagnosis there had been weeks of frenzied speculation and widespread conspiracy theories were getting out of hand.

To allay concerns, she released a previously unseen Mother’s Day photograph, but social media users soon spotted editing flaws and global news agencies announced “kill notices” saying the image had been manipulated, creating fodder for more conspiracy theories.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the palace should have taken action and released some information on the Princess before it reached the hysteria that forced Catherine to announce her diagnosis.

Obviously, William and Kate needed privacy to adjust to the diagnosis, and to protect their small children, but more timely and honest communication would have gone a long way to prevent the relentless gossip.

Once rumours and conspiracies gained momentum, Kate and William perhaps thought the less information provided, the better – the Queen’s maxim was ‘never complain, never explain’ after all .

But, silence during a crisis just fuels more speculation because the lack of information makes it look like there is something to hide.

Just the latest Royal PR crisis

Of course, these media catastrophes are just two in a long line of PR disasters for the Royal Family. Princess Margaret’s love life was making headlines long before Fergie was photographed having her toes sucked by someone who wasn’t her husband.

From Prince Harry wearing a Nazi uniform to the Queen’s lack of public response to Princess Diana’s death, the Royal PR machine has always had its work cut out.

But if ever there was an example of a firm needing to listen to the experts it was the Royal Family. If this particular Firm wants to survive to see another Coronation we just have to hope King Charles has the good sense to listen to his advisors.

More Blogs

Other Blogs We Think You'll Like

Get in Touch

Penguin PR is based in Derby, but our happy feet take us to wherever we’re needed – we’ve got clients in Derby and Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire and across the East Midlands.

If you would like to find out more about us or discuss a PR project that you have in mind, please feel free to ring us or drop us an email!

Our Media Centre

Our Latest Media News

Please feel free to browse our stories to see the range and depth of the news we produce. Every story on our Media Centre has been sent out to a journalist but we upload them to this site to give our clients an extra outlet for their stories and they even get a backlink for their SEO.