The fear of public speaking. The queasy feeling some of us get when we walk into a room full of people and are expected to perform. To be “someone”. I get it. I do. I have a full blown, diagnosed anxiety disorder. And it was, at one time, debilitating. So much so that I was hopping myself up on prescribed drugs every day. At the time, I was working full time in Strategic Business Planning and Public Relations. I was expected to speak to rooms full of people, and if it wasn’t me speaking, I was writing the words others would say, and that’s a whole other kind of pressure.
Nervousness and anxiety is no joke, and if HRH had legitimized his “fear” with a bit of meat, I’d likely applaud. But, how does nervousness and a fear of public speaking make you vulnerable and open to ridicule like those living with AIDS or HIV? Harry, how can you compare your shame to theirs? You can’t.
Here’s the thing, if Prince Harry had come forward with “I’ve had to speak to a therapist / need the support of medication / learn to use meditation and breath work to cope with it…” I’d probably give him a Hi5. There is a certain taboo related to those coping mechanisms. But is a fear of public speaking really all that taboo? Aside from being mildly charming, his secret does not demonstrate the aim of the campaign. In fact, it dilutes it. The headline is now about Harry’s fear of public speaking. The argument could be made that the purpose of the campaign would be diluted simply by virtue of his participation, but, and this is a significant but, had his secret had some serious shame associated with it, the headline may swing more toward Harry’s shame. And shame, is what the campaign is trying to address. The shame related to living with AIDS and HIV. It’s entry to the cause through a back door, but it’s an entry nonetheless. Fear of public speaking? No entry. Doors are locked. Barricades are up. In fact, someone find the Emergency Exit so this poor bloke can try to slip out without being egged.
I realize that revealing a devastating, deep, dark secret is not something that would ever be approved by The Firm and their PR team. However, pushing past the superficial would have gone a long way in demonstrating and cementing his passion for the purpose of the campaign and for the campaign, itself. The idea was, and IS, a great one. It’s unfortunate that the execution lacked foresight and appropriate message planning.