Felipe VI and crisis communication

We lived a few days of emotions of all kinds and all very strong. At a time when the coronavirus has paralysed our lives in the dry we are faced with another scenario that deepens the crisis of the monarchical institution. Or perhaps it strengthens it? Let us analyse a case of crisis communication which, in my opinion, has been effectively resolved in five days and in which Felipe VI comes out stronger.

Day 1: An information blast and a forceful response: Felipe VI and his legal and communication advisors have followed the steps of a crisis communication protocol. On Saturday 14th, The Telegraph, a prestigious British newspaper, reveals in detail the commissions received by Juan Carlos I (the rumour becomes fact) and includes the current King of Spain as the beneficiary.

Day 2. It’s time to react: And how does Zarzuela react? We suppose that the information in The Telegraph falls like a cold water jug in the context of the greatest health and social crisis in Spain and Europe in recent years. They don’t stray from the path and continue to apply the crisis communication protocol: they spend time analysing all the data so as not to leave any loose ends. In twenty-four hours they process the facts and respond with forcefulness.

Day 3. A communique that freezes the blood: On Sunday afternoon, Zarzuela launches a forceful communiqué to manage to install a firewall to protect the Crown in the figure of Felipe VI and the Princess of Asturias. It also distances itself from the activities developed by the King Emeritus, disassociating itself from them but giving them veracity by withdrawing in 24 hours the official assignment to the former King; renouncing his inheritance and including a paragraph in the communique with information provided by Juan Carlos I in which he informs about who will be his defense lawyer and in which he disassociates and exculpates Felipe VI from his activities. A precise, detailed and forceful communique that does not allow the enemy to react. Checkmate. In only three pages on the 3rd, the crisis begins to be contained. As we preach in our manuals: an effective communication in which clarity and transparency are maintained.

Day 4. We need an ally: Crisis containment is a team effort; so after the first twenty-four hours and a Monday to digest the colas, we go in search of an ally. And what better ally than the President of the Government who, moreover, does not want half a problem anymore. At a press conference attended by all the Spanish and international media, another brief and understandable message is launched; Sánchez approves the King’s decision as “necessary” and “coherent”. This support from the Government to the King has made possible the King’s speech on Wednesday at 9 pm.

Day 5. Felipe VI’s reparation: the moment of legimacy arrives. A leader is legitimated by his works and by his behaviour. In a case of crisis communication, the most important thing is to show empathy. In the King’s speech, the Crown puts itself at the service of the people and recovers its reason for being. The speech has also been brief, emotional, forceful and, not to mention the corruption of Juan Carlos I… de facto a new era begins. In his speech, Felipe VI mentioned words such as “strength”; “dedication”, “courage”, “sacrifice”… and stressed the support for the most vulnerable in Spanish society. He also mentions the unity and strength of all the Spanish people united to win against the virus. The Head of State ends with a message of leadership: “Spain will regain its strength and pulse; Spain is a great country”.

In five days of crisis in the Monarchy and Spain in the ICU, the figure of Felipe VI has come out stronger and I believe that not only because he applied with surgical precision the crisis communication manual but, above all, because a deep moral foundation allows him to project authority when everything wavers.

Lucía Casanueva González 
Managing partner in Proa Comunicación