Lizzie has several years of experience working with content creation and management. She achieved a BA (Hons) in English Literature from the University of Birmingham, before developing a career in PR and comms.

Prince Harry’s ‘Spare’: Shock Tactics or Short-Sighted?

The world can’t seem to stop talking about Harry and Meghan. Their publicly scrutinised exit from the Royal Family has catapulted them into a different kind of spotlight. With their Netflix special premiering at #1, and Harry’s biography swiftly becoming the fastest-selling non-fiction book of all time, it’s safe to say that the divisive couple is not retiring into the shadows of obscurity any time soon. 

But, first things first, let’s focus on the main event. Harry’s ‘Spare’: the reveal-all memoir which shocked the world is still circulating everywhere on social media, from analytical articles to comedic TikToks. According to official figures from Nielson BookData, ‘Spare’ sold 467,183 copies in its first week. However, this book is so much more than final selling figures. We believe it brings bigger questions to light: do we measure success in the marketing world via profits alone? Or can negative impacts on a brand’s reputation overshadow commercial success? In Harry’s case, we especially need to ask: are the short-term gains worth the potential long-term losses?  

The No. 1 Trending Topic 

Social media is the modern hub of news and opinion, typically revolving around trending topics. It was unsurprising that the leak of Harry’s unprecedented tell-all took social media by storm; it certainly had the shock factor, and provided exclusive insights into an otherwise unknown, unattainable world. Therefore, it appealed to a widespread audience, consisting of people at all ends of the spectrum: from Harry and Meghan die-hard fans to haters with morbid curiosity. 

When asked about the explosive reaction on social media, expert Usman Chishti said: 

“I think that was because there was so much new information in (the book). This allowed people to spin a narrative in whichever way they wanted. If they wanted to criticise Harry for what they saw as turning his back on his family and revealing embarrassing situations like the fight with William then they could do that. Conversely, if they wanted to support him by arguing that the Royals didn’t do enough to support Meghan before they left, then they could. What is clear is that both camps have used social media extensively to spin their own narratives.” 

Many have the misconception that the sole purpose of social media marketing is to gain mass traction: a high number of views, likes, comments and reshares. However, the type of engagement is crucial; if the vast majority of these comments are negative, for example, this negates the ‘popularity’ of your post. Remember, quality always trumps quantity! In Harry’s case, the polarising effect of his bombshell memoir has led to a high ratio of negative feedback. 

A Divisive Figure 

Furthermore, everybody seems to have an opinion about Harry’s motives behind this book. Whether you think that he simply wanted to tell his side of the story, or you’re adamant that it was a malicious PR stunt, you’re in good company either way. Frankly, there is no way of ever knowing his true intentions; however, from a marketing perspective, we are far more interested in the impact on his brand image. Many say that “there is no such thing as bad PR” – but is this always true? 

This wouldn’t be the first time that a divisive topic has made waves in the social media sphere. There have been numerous controversial marketing campaigns which divided opinion – but ultimately got people talking. However, a ‘flash in the pan’ can lead to long-term losses, particularly regarding reputation management. It’s the same with any business; one successful albeit divisive campaign can attract short-lived attention, yet cause irreparable damage to your brand reputation in the long run. Remember: once you’ve clicked ‘post’, your words are immortal on the internet and forever associated with you. In the same way, when people think about Prince Harry, they will likely now remember that audiobook extract… which many initially mistook for parody. It takes a lot to undergo rebranding to the extent that Prince Harry has in the past, especially when under such intense public scrutiny, and many think that this book has irreversibly undone this.So, when launching that controversial campaign, stop to think: is this worth potentially having to undergo an entire overhaul of your brand? 

As Usman Chishti claims: “Whatever Harry’s end goal is, he is becoming an increasingly divisive figure online, and that image will be incredibly hard to shift.” Whether this will pay off or not? Only time will tell. 

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