"Memorable experiences are what protocol is about after all."

PSOW Staff - Sunday, March 25, 2018

During National Protocol Officer Week, we caught up with Andrew Loeb Shoenig, winner of last year’s NPOW contest who captured—on film—a minor protocol breach involving a US flag being gifted to the wrong dignitary and how he was able to reconcile the situation. This year, we catch up with Andrew to get his reflections on his recent PSOW complimentary training, his current plans as well as his thoughts on the importance of protocol in today’s world.

Andrew, tell us about your complimentary training as winner of last year’s National Protocol Officer Week contest? What class did you attend and what was the experience like? I attended the May 2017 training in Washington, DC. It’s an intensive experience, covering a lot of ground in a relatively short amount of time. The course organizers and trainers put a lot of thought into the curriculum, mixing various formats of learning with an emphasis on application. They also – unsurprisingly – put a lot of thought into the experience. Memorable experiences are what protocol is about after all. Protocol is a toolbox, and the PSOW training is a great way to develop the various tools.

What were the top takeaways from your training as it relates to the protocol profession? What resonated with you the most? A benefit of the DC program is visiting the 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon. Among her many accomplishments in her protocol career, one of the trainers Diane Brown had played a leading role in managing protocol during the immediate aftermath of the attack on the Pentagon in 2001. She also was responsible for protocol during the various memorial services that followed through the opening of the memorial several years later. Our site visit to the memorial with her was a real highlight of the program – and not just because it was one of the final sessions, which we know as protocol professionals tend to be what participants remember. I’d visited the memorial before on my own several times, but visiting with Diane added another level to the experience as we considered what role protocol played in ensuring the memorial dedication was a meaningful experience, despite the difficult context – difficult because of both the emotional purpose as well as high-stakes logistics.

This year’s theme for the NPOW contest theme is “Where in the World is Protocol?” where entrants are asked to describe a place in the world protocol (or lack thereof) is showcased in the world and why protocol professionals are needed more than ever. Do you have any immediate thoughts that come to mind on how you would answer this query?Protocol is a human endeavor – something one can forget when also considering flags, agendas, titles, and seating arrangements. As a human endeavor, I think protocol exists in the relationships between people. That’s where it is in the world.

You have already worked in some very interesting positions related to protocol, including your position as Associate Director of International Programs for the Congressional Studies Group at FMC. Get us up to speed on what you are doing now and what your future plans entail? I’m back in the classroom, this time as a graduate student of Public Administration in the School of Government at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This semester I’m in a course on Organization Theory, which uses a four-frame model developed by Bolman and Deal. In this course in particular, I’ve drawn on my past experiences in a protocol-related role and the PSOW training as context for our reading and discussion about the culture, people, politics, and structure of organizations and their environments. Looking ahead, I hope to find professional opportunities to support the strategic operations of public service organizations. An understanding of protocol can play a vital role in this work.

What do you think are the biggest challenges that protocol professionals face in a world of instant communication, political tweets and how “fake news” may cause misconceptions about other countries and cultures? Intentionally hurtful speech is inexcusable and incompatible with the values of public service. Unfortunately, intentionally hurtful speech, like more innocent faux pas, is nothing new. What has changed is the speed and reach of communication. Protocol professionals must work harder now to ensure solid people-to-people relationships under gird more fluctuating official ones.

What would you tell a prospective student thinking of attending a PSOW session? One of the assets of the PSOW Training is your cohort. While a heavy majority served the military, there were also protocol professionals from other sectors. The varied perspectives enrich group discussions and adds great value to the formal curriculum. As you learn, protocol is both an art and a science, best when tailored to the environment and purpose.

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