Kensington Palace's reputation is in tatters. This is what it should do to save it.

Kensington Palace's reputation is in tatters. This is what it should do to save it.
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  • Kensington Palace's reputation is in ruins after Kate Middleton released an edited photo.

  • The photo has fueled conspiracy theories regarding Kate's whereabouts.

  • Experts told BI that Kate should make a public appearance or release the original photo.

Kensington Palace is floundering — but there are two key ways its reputation can be mended, according to royal commentators and PR experts.

Kate Middleton has been absent from the public eye since January, when the palace said she underwent abdominal surgery.

After mounting speculation and conspiracy theories, Kate released an official photo with her children on Sunday, which was recalled by major photo agencies after speculation that it had been manipulated.

In a rare personal message posted to Kensington Palace's X account on Monday, Kate said: "Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing."

She went on to apologize "for any confusion" the photo caused. Kensington Palace did not respond to further requests for comment.

Kate's statement did little to quell speculation

The statement issued by Kate did little to quell the public's speculation — if anything, it heightened it.

Some commentators questioned why Kate was the one to make a statement when the photo was taken by Prince William and distributed by the couple's Kensington Palace press team. Others pointed out that it damaged trust between the royal family and the public.

prince william and kate middleton in october 2021
Prince William and Kate Middleton in October 2021.Karwai Tang/WireImage/Getty Images

"As the Princess of Wales, she will always be held to a different standard, and I do not think that the public statement had the desired effect of downplaying the matter," Evan Nierman, Founder and CEO of crisis communications firm Red Banyan, told Business Insider.

"All it did was raise more questions than it answered, which means future photos will be carefully examined for years to come," he added.

Kensington Palace's reputation matters more than ever, especially as the monarchy's value has come into question after Queen Elizabeth II's death. The annual Sovereign Grant report showed that the royal family cost British taxpayers £86.3 million, or about $110.5 million, during the 2022-23 financial year.

Though the royals benefit the UK economy — one recent estimate by Brand Finance suggested they could make £958 million during the 2023-24 financial year — public criticism of the monarchy remains high. Kate and William's floundering PR strategy has fueled existing campaigns to abolish the monarchy.

Republic, the UK's anti-monarchy group, held a protest outside a Commonwealth Day service attended by William and Queen Camilla on Monday. In a video posted to X, protesters can be heard chanting: "Down with the crown."

Republic has also started a campaign to end royal secrecy. The organization wrote on its website that the royal family is exempt from freedom of information laws.

"No other public body has this level of secrecy, other than the security services," the website reads.

The palace can do 2 things to reassure the public, experts say

Experts say there are two things the palace can do to mend its relationship with the public: Release the original, unedited photo, or have Kate make a public appearance, either in-person or via a video message.

"The only way out now is to either publish the original image or release a video of Kate talking to the camera; otherwise, the palace's reputation as a trustworthy source of information will lie in ruins," Jack Royston, a royal commentator and podcast host, previously told BI.

Kate Middleton in a green hat and green dress at Trooping the Colour 2023.
Kate Middleton at the Trooping of the Colour 2023.Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images

Chris Ship, a royal editor at ITV, agrees with this sentiment. Writing on X, Ship said the palace should release the original image, but added that it would be "very unlikely" of them to do so.

Tenile Clarke, a managing director, and principal publicist at Chambers Media Solutions, told BI it would be helpful if Kate made a public appearance.

Clarke said this would be useful, not only from a PR standpoint but as a means of reassuring Kate's supporters that she is okay.

"In a world where the health of a hyper-visible public official like the Princess of Wales is being called into question, this misstep only serves to feed speculation," Clarke said.

"And beyond the royal traditionalists and monarchists — on a humanity level, people are clearly concerned about the human — not just the image."

Read the original article on Business Insider