Ever since Britain’s Prince William became engaged to his longtime girlfriend Catherine “Kate” Middleton in November, the globe has been abuzz with news of the royal family and their soon-to-be newest addition. Just five days before Christmas, a public relations firm in Maine became a key player in spreading the excitement.
Nancy Marshall Communications of Augusta has teamed up with a family-owned British merchandise company, Church’s China, to disperse royal wedding memorabilia throughout the United States and Canada.
“This is the first royal wedding in the Internet era,” said Nancy Marshall, founder of Nancy Marshall Communications. “It will be so different than Lady Diana and Prince Charles’ wedding when there were no online sales. It’s appropriate because Prince William and Kate really want to be a royal couple of the people.”
The couple will be wed on April 29, a day that has been declared a national holiday in the U.K.
“The British, they all want to feel like they’re a part of this wedding, and William and Kate are making people feel like they are a part of it to,” Marshall said. “I think a lot of Americans are sort of taken in by the glitz and the glamour. It’s sort of the fantasy of any American girl.”
Commemorative memorabilia is one way people are staying close to the royal wedding. Kate now wears the engagement ring of William’s late mother, the beloved Princess Diana — and diehard fans of the royal family can have their own lookalike rings. A ring replica of the oval sapphire surrounded by diamonds can be yours for $19.90, $22.88 or $99, depending on the make and seller.
But Church’s China sells the only collection of commemorative items to have been granted official approval by the royal household. The approved Royal Collection includes pillbox, tankard and plate — all fine bone china engraved with the letters “W,” for William, and “C,” for Catherine.
The company has been busy taking orders since the first day it put the Royal Collection on its website for The U.K. Gift Company, the online sales division of Church’s China.
“In the space of 24 hours, we took more orders than we would normally in a typical week. Many of these orders came across the water. Our American and Canadian cousins haven’t taken long to catch the Royal Wedding Fever,” according to the company’s blog.
Established in 1848 by wheelwright and carpenter Thomas Church, Church’s China is one of the U.K.’s longest established china and glass retailers. The current owner, Stephen Church, is in the fifth generation of his family that has owned and managed the company.
“It’s almost ‘in the blood,’” said Church on Wednesday in an e-mail interview. “I have so many happy childhood memories of visiting my grandfather and father in their enormous Aladdin’s cave of a store. As a family, we lived and breathed china and glass retail.”
Their oldest royal commemorative item is the Moustache Mug manufactured by Belleek China in Northern Ireland to commemorate the Coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in the late 1800s. The moustache mug, while not a common household item, has a shelf over the rim to protect the big moustaches sported by Victorian gentlemen.
Nancy Marshall Communications has dealt with several clients who’ve needed national and international public relations. For example, she has done public relations for the State of Maine Office of Tourism, Cross Country International tour service and former Governor Angus King.
To publicize the Royal Wedding Collection, Marshall’s agency is sending press kits to 500 media contacts throughout the U.S., to outlets such as the Boston Globe, USA Today, Oprah and CBS Morning News. In March, Church plans to visit New York and conduct interviews.
The agency has blended old-school public relations tactics — press releases, radio talks and interviews — with newer methods such as using social networks like Facebook and Twitter. And the agency recently posted videos about The U.K. Gift Company and The Royal Wedding Collection on YouTube at www.youtube.com/user/RoyalWeddingGifts.
“This is the first time I’ve promoted a British company in the U.S. It’s a little bit different, but I think it’s great because a lot of companies would want a New York publicist, but I don’t think it mattered to Stephen. I don’t think it mattered to him that my agency was in Augusta, Maine.”
In addition to The Royal Collection, the company sells other brands of wedding memorabilia such as the Royal Worchester collection: English bone china teacups, trays and tankards decorated with photographs of the couple.
The $529 Royal Worcester Lion Head Vase displays a photo of the couple surrounded by gold guild trim.
“There’s going to be a limited run,” Marshall said. “They aren’t going to make that many of them.”
“There has always been interest in the USA and Canada in the royal family and royal events. But what’s different this time is the influence of the World Wide Web,” said Church. “For the first time ever, our friends in America have access to commemorative items and can, in effect, join in the celebrations and the fun that characterize this great event.”