11 Mar 2024

Royal Family faces PR backlash over photoshop debacle

Written by Joe Jordan, Junior Account Manager at Spreckley

Kate Middleton’s whereabouts has been the subject of a social media frenzy over the course of the past week, with the rumour mill churning out all manner of bizarre explanations for her absence, from marital issues to major cosmetic surgery.

The Princess of Wales underwent abdominal surgery almost two months ago and has made just one appearance since, with speculation about her return to public life mounting with each passing day.

To quell the relentless theorising from social media users up and down the country, Kensington Palace released a Mother’s Day snap of Kate and her three children. However, it was quickly revealed that the image had been doctored, with five major news agencies pulling it from circulation entirely.

What began as a running joke has evolved into a communications headache for the Royals, and it’s worth businesses and PR teams keeping up to date with how the situation evolves to avoid making the same mistakes.

Leave the doctoring to the professionals

The main lesson that can be taken away from this slightly surreal saga is that honesty is the best policy when it comes to all external communications, and a doctored image of any kind is likely to cause more trouble than it’s worth.

Social media photography experts were dissecting the picture in an instant and were quick to point out a number of tell-tale signs that it wasn’t exactly as it appeared.

To the naked eye there was little reason to doubt the photo’s credibility, but key giveaways included Princess Charlotte’s left-hand sleeve dissolving into nothing and a strange blur on Kate’s right hand.

The extent to which the image was photoshopped remains to be seen, but businesses should consider this as a warning to never try to convey anything but the whole truth in the images they put out. Despite photoshopping techniques growing increasingly advanced, the public’s appetite for a scandal will see the facts revealed more often than not.

Editing pictures to distort their meaning is also a guaranteed way to sully relationships with journalists, as you may be contravening their editorial policy if the images are published in print or on their site.

Some subtle fine tuning is no great issue, just be sure not to go overboard to avoid upsetting the press and anyone following the content you send out.

A casual mistake, not a calculated move

Once it was revealed that the image had been doctored and news agencies started putting out statements regarding its removal, the Princess of Wales released a statement of her own through Kensington Palace, saying: “Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing.”

She added: “I wanted to express my apologies for any confusion the family photograph we shared yesterday caused. I hope everyone celebrating had a very happy Mother’s Day.”

Now, many jumped to the conclusion that this was an ill-advised attempt to explain Kate’s absence and dupe the wider public into believing that she’s back in action, with the official response designed to put these notions to rest and reinforce that this was the work of an overzealous photography enthusiast and nothing more.

Whether this was the correct response depends on what really happened and whether the whole truth will ever really come to light. However, if this does turn out to be what really transpired, businesses and individuals in the public eye should take this as a reminder to check and double check every piece of content they release publicly, as it only takes one intervention to compromise an image’s integrity.

It’s also worth noting that this is all rooted in social media silliness and the chances are she’s fine and there’s no scandal occurring here. This only makes the image tampering more bizarre, as it adds weight to a story that has snowballed due to its sheer ridiculousness.

Ultimately, we still don’t know where Kate is, and you can bet the online community won’t stop trying to find out until things return to normal. One thing’s for certain – whoever’s photoshop prowess was responsible for the final image could do with a refresher class or two.