Expert: Prince Harry Is Dealing With His Nude Photo Scandal All Wrong

He’s apparently taken down his private Facebook account and is trying to lay low. But he should really probably own up to the photos, apologize, and start trying to diversify the things he’s known for online.

The Sun’s cover story on the photos; the paper was the only one to run with this even after the royal family’s lawyers asked them not to. TOBY MELVILLE / Reuters

Today’s Google results of Prince Harry’s name:

So that’s still going on. And the story is just the latest reminder of just how sticky the internet is. Any famous person who’s ever been photographed naked knows this. Anyone who’s ever tweeted something embarrassing knows this. Since we all stare at this thing all day long, plastering it with so much personal — and arguably narcissistic — content, at all hours and in various states of sobriety, entire companies have emerged that do nothing but manage people’s online personas. Reputation.com is one. Think of them as publicists or image stylists for anyone unhappy with what pops up when they Google themselves. Like Prince Harry.

Even though he’s not heir to the throne and weathers these scandals more easily than his married brother would, he still has to weather them. So far his strategy seems to have consisted of lying low — ignore it and maybe the tabloids will stop with the balls puns, already! Except, no, that’s not how this works. And despite the privileges afforded to Harry as a royal (naked pool parties in ostentatious Vegas hotel suites that would be inaccessible to the average person, let’s say) he still has to go to work, which means he can only hideout for so long. Today he returns to his helicopter pilot job at the Royal Air Force Wattisham base, where he “will have formal interviews with Lieutenant Colonel Thomas de La Rue and the Head of Army, General Sir Peter Wall, who will ultimately decide how reprimand Harry for the scandal,” Us Weekly reports. And so the story continues developing, as the prince tries to get it under control. Along with lying low, he’s reportedly taken down his Facebook page, which was encrypted with a pseudonymn anyway. From Us:

“Because all of the Vegas drama he’s frozen his account,” the source explains. “No more Facebook for Harry for a while. He’ll probably come back online in the future, but, for now, he’s been advised to go offline.”

He obviously can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, but he can at least try to wash it down the drain. Polly Wood, a senior member of the Special Projects team at Reputation.com, says the best way to manage one’s online persona is to push the embarrassing Google results down the page by flooding the zone with content that portrays you the way you want people who Google you to see you. The first step in that process, she says, is owning up to the thing that’s ruining you. “Walking away and acting like it didn’t happen is just going to fuel the fire more,” she says. If you own up to it and move forward, people are more forgiving online. I think it’s foolish to not engage and represent yourself.”

Taking down his private Facebook page won’t help the matter — he’s not the one who took the photo of himself naked holding his package and posted it to Facebook anyway. “He needs to really work to get separate, positive content to be more visible in his search results,” Wood says. He might launch a “Prince Harry Wearing Clothes and Holding Kittens” Tumblr, for instance.

The good news for celebrities who are covered all the time is that eventually these stories do get pushed down the page (only 3 percent of Googlers click over to page two). When you Google “Blake Lively,” her naked photos don’t come up on top anymore. Though those might not hurt her ability to land movie roles, such scandals might hurt a celeb in other ways. Even if you’re really hot and seem like a nice person overal, brands might not want you for endorsement deals and Vogue might not want you for a cover in the wake of such a scandal.

Some celebrities do handle these things well, Wood says. Ashton Kutcher’s “very good, diverse online presence” stands out, in fact. “He’s been good about using social media consistently to help make negative stuff less sticky.” After this happened not that long ago, check out the top Google result for his name:

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