I have a great resource for you. It’s the protocol officer’s association, an amazing organization for special events planners, chiefs of staff, people who work in government relations, international affairs, for hospitals, corporations, the military, who manage official residences, and for all of us who welcome distinguished guests, famous people, elected officials, or who plan ceremonies such as commencement, ribbon cuttings, dedications, or inaugurations.
Officially called Protocol & Diplomacy International-Protocol Officers Association (PDI-POA), we met last week in San Antonio for the group’s annual International Protocol Education Forum. Not only was the meeting attended by people from 16 countries, it included an exhilarating range of professional development sessions. We had a talk from Ambassador Rufus Gifford, Chief of Protocol of the United States (who was anything but stuffy), enjoyed an interesting afternoon at a culinary school learning about the importance of food in relationship building, witnessed a military medal presentation ceremony, watched a demonstration by a security dog, chose from a plethora of expertise-building break-out sessions ranging from forms of address to managing an official residence, and finally, had a fascinating explanation of San Antonio’s famous annual city-wide charitable event, Fiesta, and its associated protocol. In between we built important friendships with colleagues who stand ready to lend “how-to” assistance on everything from what advice to give our principal when she has been invited to the White House, to how to participate in cultural traditions in Ghana.
I find that many colleagues aren’t familiar with what protocol actually is and how it is relevant to our work, yet we live it every day. The stereotype that protocol involves nothing more than rules-obsessed fuss budgets tut-tutting about where flatware belongs (though I confess, I do that) is simply not true. In fact, protocol is an essential component of strategy with the goal of creating a distraction-free environment so that leaders can relax and accomplish goals for the benefit of the greater good. Isn’t that what we do every time we plan an event or prepare to welcome guests to the university president’s home? Whether it’s a major donor visiting campus for a private luncheon with the president, or welcoming a delegation from overseas with a detailed itinerary of tours and meetings in order to facilitate research partnerships, setting the scene to facilitate success is an essential part of our jobs. That’s what protocol does.
Yes, there is the official protocol used by the diplomatic corps, but all of us who work in advancement practice our own protocol as an essential part of our jobs. We do so by creating a set of expectations and a consistent style that communicates messages about our employers and that says “welcome” to the people we are hosting whether they are parents of students, or the leader of another country. What’s more, adding an understanding of protocol to your skill set is a powerful asset that can lead to career enhancing promotions.
As many organizations come to the end of their fiscal years and we begin to look forward to the fall, I encourage you to make room in your budget to join Protocol & Diplomacy International-Protocol Officers Association. Whether you are mopping up unused fiscal year funds or building your budget for next year, PDI-POA membership is a credible, solid investment, one that will yield an excellent ROI for both you and your employer.
You’ll find a rich source of high-quality webinars, myriad online programs, expert advice, a peer mentoring program, and an international member directory. You’ll also be eligible for a substantial discount on registration for the group’s 2023 Education Forum in Washington, D.C. Best of all, you’ll become part of a group of professionals who understand the unique demands of our roles and who “get it” in terms of the challenges we face every day.
As the PDI-POA vice president for membership, I invite you to visit our website at protocolinternational.org and click the “join now” button. Individual membership is only $250 per year and includes over $1,250 worth of professional development options. A three-year membership carries a discounted price of $700. Founded 20 years ago by a small group of people who worked for the State Department and the military (hence the government sounding name) PDI-POA has grown to be a highly-respected, unique resource that welcomes people from across the spectrum of public relations occupations. We have a place for you, too.
I look forward to welcoming you and to seeing you throughout the year as a participant in our online programs, and in person next summer in Washington, D.C.