Is State Protocol similar to Event Management?

by Thomas Sladko*

Is State Protocol similar to Event Management?

Quick answer yes – long answer no! To start my first blog entry I would like to get a little pit personally: When I started working in state Protocol – back in 2007 – I quickly realized that everything I knew about Public Relations and Event Organization (I gathered my first working experience in this field) is not directly adaptable to State Protocol. State Protocol is much more sensitive and complex. When organizing an event for a private multinational company money does not count. An event costs 200.000 Dollars? Ok if the media output and the coverage was worth the effort – never mind. An event should be focused on sustainable energy? Ok! If we could sell more products with this philosophy – you name it and the marketing department will guide the way. Summarizing these arguments: Event Management is guided by a simple Input-Output-Philosophy.

State Protocol is much more complex because it is more than it normally seems: Appearance in the public has always been important. In State Protocol the media coverage is very important too but selling “your Protocol product” is much more delicate than it is for profit orientated companies. We are dealing with public money. We are dealing with taxes citizens pay. And nobody would understand why we spend their “hard paid taxes” on luxury events to help politicians win the next election.

One aspect Event Management and Protocol have in common is logistic: In Protocol we have to think about the logistical and operative work (the work which nobody really notices) too. But one main difference to normal “Event Management” is that we consider much more security aspects, because we often work very closely with persons who are at highest risk. Another difference is that we take diplomatic relationship which countries have to each other into consideration: we consider cultural differences because we know that each behavior has a communicative message which could – if wrong interpreted – lead to the abortion of diplomatic relations. And all the time we try to sensitize ourselves on cultural communication.

Considering all these aspects of Protocol I recognized that seeing Protocol work through the eyes of an event manager would never “produce” the output we want. In order to work in State Protocol one person needs good communication and organization skills. It would need to be polite and sympathetic towards others, have a good general education and good manners. Knowing at least one foreign language is very essential. Cultural understanding and experience with foreigners is the asset one should bring into Protocol profession. And of course in State Protocol one should be interested in politics and how it works but you should not be member of a political party. State Protocol should treat each guest of honor equally with the same courtesy – no matter if agreeing with its political orientation.

I think that these aspects could be trained and studied from experienced Protocol professionals who respect the interdisciplinary of Protocol: Protocol consists not of one single science but is a conglomerate of many sciences and professions: communication science, political science, business administration, culture science, international relations and diplomacy, history, journalism, public relations, sociology, philosophy, etc.

To answer finally the topic question I would say that Protocol could be understood as “Interdisciplinary Event Management with intercultural communication”.

*About the author

Thomas Sladko is the Deputy Chief of Protocol at the Federal Chancellery of Austria and ISPD lecturer.

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