Protocol in Action

Why Do Organizations Need Protocol Officers?

What does a Protocol Officer do? Why is it that protocol is most noticeable when it is absent? Is it pertinent in fields/industries other than diplomacy? Is protocol useful or is it merely decorative?

PDI-POA members and others reply: Why do organizations need Protocol Officers?

  1. They facilitate cross-cultural relations and communications
  2. They establish distinguished events and etiquette standards
  3. They uplift organizations’ brand – both internally and externally – to outshine competition

           — VALÉRIE DALATI: Founder and Capacity Building Consultant, The Talent Lab

  1. A Protocol Officer knows how to research and advise staff on international visitors, appropriate events, gifts, etc.
  2. …can keep the leadership team out of hot water when flags are displayed at low-level as well as high-impact events.
  3. …pays attention to the details so programs and events are facilitated with respect.

           — TERRY DENNISTON: Chief of Staff, Chancellor’s Office, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, USA

  1. To have a person knowledgeable regarding relations
  2. To insure protocol consistency during operational changes
  3. To provide a point of contact for command representation

           — CYNTHIA MORGAN HUNTER: Directorate Cadet Activities: Protocol, Social Development & Cadet Hostess, The United States Military Academy, Highland Falls, NY, USA

  1. Most companies rely on administrative assistants to set up meetings or coordinate events.  What is needed is a Protocol Officer, preferably a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) or Certified Meeting Manager (CMM).  (All protocol officers should be required to obtain these and other certifications, most companies require this: I just saw it as part of a job description with Lockheed for a Protocol Officer).
  2. A Protocol Officer brings expertise beyond the scope of a meeting planner in areas such as: training personnel on proper procedures when working with guests; preparing country briefs on international guests/customers; developing an appropriate agenda; organizing cross-cultural events; developing international contacts; having an awareness of government rules on (ITAR, Legal, Ethics, DOD, Gov’t, Foreign National guest); conducting research on gifts; reviewing security concerns; and knowing military ceremonies.
  3. Companies lose business because of mistakes made by staff during client visits and lose sight of how to properly welcome a guest. They are in too much of a hurry to get down to business. While clients want to see a professional team, many companies do not invest in a Protocol Officer who makes a major impact.  The first impression a guest often has of a company is the Protocol Officer.
  4. When companies use a Protocol Consultant for training staff and assisting in visits, it delivers a major benefit to the bottom line.

           — MICHAEL LYNN: Co-Founder, Global PEC (Protocol, Etiquette, Civility) Academy, USA

  1. Corporations, universities, and governments can all benefit by having a Protocol Officer on staff because it puts them ahead of the competition. Global businesses need to be educated in how to do business internationally so they can navigate the cultural waters successfully which in turn makes your company successful.
  2. Etiquette: A Protocol Officer can train staff in the proper dining etiquette.

           — KATHY MONTALVO: Program Manager/Protocol Officer, Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA

  1. …having an in-house resource to turn to for advice on precedence, titles and forms of address, seating, gifts, flags, etc. is invaluable when it comes to conducting business.
  2. …most don’t, and having someone on staff paying attention to the details will set your team apart.
  3. …protocol officers possess a specialized and sophisticated skillset that give leaders of organizations a well-informed starting point from which to navigate the myriad cultural customs and practices observed by their contemporaries and counterparts.

           — DAVID NELSON: Director of Executive Office Operations, National Restaurant Association, Washington, D.C., USA


  1. The Protocol Officer in an organization will be responsible for all protocol matters & issues involving his/her Principal and his spouse and also manage all events, meetings & ceremonies in the organization.
  2. He/she is the key INTERLOCUTOR within that establishment and all other public or private organizations for all aspects of visits and handling of high-level dignitaries.
  3. He/she provides guidance and advice to the organization on protocol rules concerning correspondence, forms of addresses, official etiquette, order of precedence, flag regulation, seating arrangement, choice on exchange of gift etc.

           — HENRY NNOSHIRI: Head (Protocol Unit)/Chief of Protocol to the Honorable Minister, Ministry of Budget & National Planning, Nigeria

  1. A protocol officer allows you to conduct your business without any distractions or interruptions. Your global guests will feel comfortable, welcomed and relaxed in the atmosphere they have created. When a company is prepared with all the necessary precautions that a protocol officer has created, your meeting will flow smoother and will be noticed by your global visitors and guests.
  2. With a protocol officer, they will cover every detail of the visitor or the business meeting. This could be their travel, hotel arrangements, meetings, food and entertainment. Whatever arrangements it may be, it will allow the executives of both sides to focus on their matters at hand, to flow easily and without any complications. There will be a very comfortable and relaxed atmosphere and not a worry about the cultural differences or offending one another. Again, this was created because of a protocol officer handling all of the details from start to finish.
  3. The protocol officer will have studied and created information sheets way in advance for all of the travel arrangements and meeting details for the various individuals or groups of people that are meeting new companies and your business. This preparation will make all the difference. This could include various protocol procedures in flag protocol, seating arrangements, the importance of hierarchy, tours, entertainment, meeting protocol, etc. Without the guidance of this protocol officer it would have never happened and it could have cost you the business of this global company.

           — COLLEEN RICKENBACHER: Co-founder, Global Protocol, Etiquette, and Civility Academy, Dallas, TX, USA

Protocols are those norms by which organizations operate.  These norms are established so one can understand “what right looks like” then judge how members are conforming, stretching the norms, or perhaps are outside of them.  Without norms we only have chaos and every decision or activity is by definition contested.  So, protocols are crucial for organizations and indeed modern society to function for the better good.  With that background it is CRUCIAL for all organizations to have an expert in accepted protocols.  Since we all come from different backgrounds, the Protocol Officer can coach, teach and mentor everyone in the organization on accepted protocols thus enabling us to gage the “norms” of our activities.  The Protocol Officer is the one we go to in order to understand if we are “in the box”, pressing the envelop, or outside the box.

Second, the Protocol Officer is the leadership’s watchdog to ensure the organization is behaving within accepted protocols (norms) and if not, where and why.  So, a Protocol Officer is much like the ship’s watch officer.  The captain sets the destination, the navigator sets the course and adjusts it, and the Protocol Officer keeps watch for shoals, shallow water, storms and areas of clear sailing.  Organizations that move forward without effective Protocol Officers are organizations headed for a shipwreck.


How We Define Protocol

A system of rules that explain the correct conduct and procedures to be followed in formal situations. The word derives from French protocole, the collection of set forms of etiquette to be observed by the French head of state, and the name of the government department responsible for this (in the 19th century). Source: Merriam-Webster 

Protocol comes from Greek and literally means ‘to glue things to together,’ a perfect analogy for what we do. Simply put, protocol is creating the right conditions for business or diplomacy to succeed. Source: Chris Young, President of PDI-POA 2008-2014

Diplomatic protocol uses internationally accepted codes of conduct and courtesies at the highest levels of government and business to build trust, strengthen relationships, and facilitate decision-making between world leaders in global matters that affect us all. The purpose of diplomatic protocol is not only to create a controlled environment in which it is comfortable and safe for government and business leaders to conduct candid and civil discourse, but also to develop successful, long-term international cooperative relationships between nations and people, cultures and communities, which are beneficial to everyone involved. Source: Ann Beard, Founder PDI-POA.

Ann Beard, Founder, Protocol & Diplomacy International | Protocol Officers Association (PDI-POA) has recorded her thoughts about the importance of protocol and the characteristics of a protocol professional. Watch it here.