How do you get your message through?
When the British, with disbelief and sadness, learn of the death of Princess Diane, the then most famous woman in the world, Queen Elizabeth II, retires behind the walls of Bamoral castle with her family. Unable to understand the reaction of her people to this tragedy, the Queen, a masterful Helen Mirren, is shown occupying her days while waiting for it to blow over.
Tony Blair is a young and fresh Prime Minister at the time. Portrayed by Michael Sheen as a popular and overconfident leader, Blair gives himself the difficult task of getting the British people message across: they need reassurance from the crown. Blair's mission is made all the more delicate as the emotional impact of Diane's death escalates with every moment it is met by silence by their sovereign.
Who would have know that the daughter of a Russian aristocrat could play such a credible Queen of England? Mirren is superb in never overdoing her part, yet conveying all the subtle emotions of a Queen who was taught emotion was not to be on display.
Both Blair and the Queen are shown to play a part in their initial introductions to each other; a part expected of them, which they sincerely do not seem to embrace at all. As the events surrounding first Diane's death and then her very public mourning unravel, so do the characters develop. Nothing like a crisis to test their mettle. While the Queen withdraws, Blair is shown to be almost basking in the glory of the void she has left.
Each individually, they will be transformed by the events. A solitary and devoted Queen is shown as lonely at some point. That loneliness is but an understated strength of character and undisputed loyalty to her people. A loyalty she demonstrates eventually by visiting the enormous shrine assembled in memory of the People's Princess. A self-assured and team-playing Prime Minister is shown doubtful at some point. That shroud of a doubt is cast upon him by the Queen's adviser who reaches out for help by sharing insightful details on the sovereign's upbringing.
How does the fictional Blair get through to his Queen? By listening and understanding her context, not judging or taking positions. It is not until he puts himself in the royal shoes that he can offer real assistance.
This was a complex transaction, communicating directly to the public while at the same time building bridges with colleagues and staff as well as your real or dotted line boss. Alienate any of these people and things can get pretty rough. And while you do that, keep your good name into the graces of the press. Have you ever been in this situation? I promise you that with the increased importance of informal and social networks, things will only get more interesting.
Now let's add a new level of complexity: your message. How do you stay true to your message while you negotiate all those relationships? Hint, it is more about heart than reason.