Businesses could learn from Diana: former aide


It is over a decade since Diana, Princess of Wales died in a car crash in a Paris tunnel, yet her legacy as a mother, charity worker and fashion icon lives on. In the week a London inquest ruled she was unlawfully killed due to the ‘gross negligence’ of her driver and the paparrazzi, Patrick Jephson (pictured above), her private secretary for eight years, who is visiting Dubai to speak at Marketing 08 (April 20 to 23), tells Emirates Business what businesses and individuals can learn from her.

Tell me about your trip to Dubai. What are you speaking about at the conference?

I will be talking about branding and how to make it work for business. My speciality is when the boss is the brand. Everyone is subject to human frailties and whether it’s a big company or an individual, constant vigilance and protection of the brand is needed. In today’s digital age it is even more important to protect an image – just look at what has happened to British Airways recently, it’s a Public Relations nightmare. 

There were a lot of expectations that came with Diana and as with any high-profile brand, reputation is everything. The Princess had certain values that many companies should adhere to today.


What are those values and how can they help in business?

Diana knew how to market herself; she knew what the public wanted and how to use herself to help others, as she did to highlight her charity work. When you are such a high-profile figure and under intense media scrutiny, the whole time people will obviously try and find faults with you. She put all her energy into the ‘Diana brand’; she was an incredibly hard worker, professional at all times and set very high standards for herself and those around her. Businesses could learn a lot from a boss like her. 

And what did she teach you personally?

She taught me some tough lessons on dealing with people from all walks of life and about protocol. She always saw setbacks as opportunities in whatever situation and taught me to recognise mistakes and learn from them. During my time with her I also became very good at managing my time, stress management and gained fantastic organisational skills.

How did you come to work for the Princess?

Well it’s not something you apply for. I first began working with her as a military aide, then there was a selection process where one of the jobs involved having lunch with her that wasn’t exactly a hardship. I was then chosen to set up her private office and became her chief of staff. Someone else once described me as the “producer of the Diana show.”

Do you think the inquiry into how she met her death was necessary?

The verdict is a defining moment in the way she’ll be recorded in history. The more closely her death is examined, the more people will see how much of a loss she is.

Tell us about your trip to the UAE with Diana, Princess of Wales?

I first visited the country 27 years ago when I was an archaeology student in the Middle East. It stuck in my mind and became one of my favourite destinations in the world. When I came with Diana in 1989, we went to a reception at the British Ambassador’s residence. It was raining, would you believe, and everyone was running around trying to put up makeshift shelters so Diana wouldn’t get wet. She was vastly amused by the whole situation.

What do you think of the way Dubai is developing?

The transformation of it from being a fishing port to the cultural and financial centre it is today is quite extraordinary and testament to the Ruling Family and their willingness to learn. Many business can learn a lot from what Dubai has achieved in such a short period. It is amazing the city continues to grow at the rate it does.

What projects do you have coming up next?

I am continuing my event speaking and broadcasting, but I am also keen to broaden my horizons through executive coaching and travel writing.


PROFILE: Patrick Jephson, Former aide to Diana, Princess of Wales

Between 1988 and 1996 Patrick Jephson, 51, worked for the late Diana, Princess of Wales, first as an equerry and then as her private secretary. 

His work for Diana involved daily contact with British and foreign officials at all levels. He organised Diana’s international visits and journeyed with her all over the world. In addition to managing the Princess’s relations with the media and government, he also wrote the majority of her speeches.

His first book Shadows of a Princess was a bestseller and he has written hundreds of articles on a range of subjects. He regularly contributes to programmes on the royal family. A qualified private pilot, he has recently started travel writing and enjoys archaeology, which he studied at Cambridge.

He lives in London with his wife Mary Jo Jacobi.