There are a few stories in any journalist’s lifetime that will stay with them forever and because of that when certain things happen you know instantly when it is one of those moments.

Such stories for me include the Bristol Royal Infirmary Heart Scandal, as I was closely involved with that; the night when Labour swept to victory with Tony Blair in 1997; the death of Princess Diana, and although I’m not a full-time journalist now – when the Queen died at the beginning of this month.

I knew she was very ill or dying when an MP cancelled a pre-arranged meeting with me which is not like him at all, and having watched the Liz Truss speech earlier and seen papers flying around the room – I knew something major was afoot. I was actually on a Zoom training course with other women when confirmation came through. My first thought was for the member the Royal family I’ve actually met – Prince Charles and I said in my head ‘Our King’ and it was that which set me off.

From the point of PR this has been a fascinating time, also, watching how different people have reacted to the news. I’ve also watched with interest at how those around me and how they are marking the passing of The Queen.

I have tried to avoid getting involved in any debates or negative comment during this time. However, I have given advice to others about the best way to handle the events, especially making disparaging comments about the media. A lot of that has been unfair as the major broadcasters will have been involved in planning around the event, planning which has gone on for many years.

As far as PR is concerned there was one stand out ‘bad’ and one stand out ‘good’ which filtered up to the surface for me.

The bad PR was Center Parcs – their inept policy of ‘shafting’ paying customers by closing for a day when people have paid for their holiday. It would have meant people packing up and finding somewhere for one night and then returning, or cutting their holiday short. In the end, Center Parcs backtracked and remained open. The company should have seen it as an opportunity to create a community moment within their particular community.Then came the David Beckham story, about how he joined the queue and, like everyone else, moved through it. There will be the cynical among us who think it was a PR stunt, as, of course, it’s inevitable anyone who spotted him would share photos widely on social media.

I’ve never met David Beckham so just like most of us, I have no idea what his personal motivation was. However, I never got any negative vibe from his being in the queue. My feeling was that he felt he wanted to be part of it like any other ordinary, extraordinary person who wanted to pay their respects. And that will elevate his profile even more and deepen it for many.

On the day of the funeral, I worked, but I observed silence on social media and treated the day as one of ‘stillness’.­

There is no doubt that this is a key moment in history, so it’s not surprising that so many people wanted to be involved – including the many 1000s who went to London and Edinburgh to lay flowers or stand in queues for hours to pay their respects to the Queen lying in state.

Then the thousands who lined the streets and the millions who watched TV to see the ceremony and traditions surrounding the Queen’s funeral and her journey to her place of rest in Windsor.  Pomp and pageantry is something that we do incredibly well, and I defy anyone watching not to be proud of how most of our media covered the entire event – with respect and dignity. At time of writing, it’s believed to have been the most watched event globally ever.

What many people don’t understand though is that this kind of coverage has been planned for years, between the Royal Family, Parliament, Broadcasters, Newspapers, Emergency Services, volunteer organisations and the Armed Forces. No one just sorts this kind of event overnight. There were over 3,000 forces personnel alone.

Imagine how long the eight young guardsmen had to practice to be able to do such an amazing job as they did, carrying the Queen’s coffin up and down steps, in and out of the Abbey and then into St George’s Chapel, Windsor.  Also, the precision of the 142, young navy ratings pulling the gun carriage carrying the coffin – which included 15 female navy officers – the first time female officers have been included.

None of this happened overnight, the planning was there, under the radar ready to be put into practice when that moment came – and that includes the media.

Personally it was moving to hear the King’s first speech which I thought drew a line in the sand about how he felt towards his mother and his closest family. I found the desire of the Queen’s grandchildren to stand vigil around her coffin moving too. The first time that’s ever been done (to our knowledge).

The other very emotional thing for me was the queue itself – the sheer number of people. Their many stories and reasons for being there, the fact that one person could have such an impact, even though her platform of life was centuries in the making. The need to be there was a gut reaction for many.

 

The stories which will flow from this event over the coming weeks, months and years will be countless…

Next week’s blog is about  – What makes a man these days?