The latest incident with French President Emmanuel Macron being slapped by someone in the crowd has once again fired up the keyboard warriors who take any incident (video or picture) such as this and claim how improperly the EP team functioned and what would they have done differently and, of course, be more successful. As a Greek proverb says ‘’Whoever is outside the dance (floor), can sing many songs’’ Meaning: It is easy to talk about something when you are not the one involved in it.
As security practitioners, we must be very careful what we say online, keeping in mind, whatever you post online stays online even if you delete it minutes later. We should not criticize security details and/or the people involved because we do not know all the facts, details, limitations and the full story. When you post a comment on a 10-second video, you may not have the full story. You do not know what happened before or after the incident. What you see in a photo may not be the full picture. It doesn’t make you any more ‘’professional’’ when you try to spot the wrong moves in an incident where you weren’t involved and you do not know all the parameters: you are just assuming.
In this case, we heard many opinions:
‘’Why didn’t they keep standard formation?’’- How can you keep standard formation when your principal is anticipating close interaction with a member of the crowd? Greeting lines are extremely tedious and are one of the most difficult situations to read and provide protection.
‘’The reaction time was slow.’’- The reaction time always seems to be slower when you see an incident on a video over and over again rather than being involved with it in real-time in the field.
‘’They were lucky he wasn’t holding a knife.’’ – Actually someone did their job well and made sure he (or anyone else in the crowd) wasn’t holding a weapon. What most fail to understand is that these crowds are previously checked for anything that can be used as a weapon.
‘’Why didn’t they saw that coming?’’ – They don’t teach ESP at EP schools…
‘’Why didn’t someone teach Macron?’’ – Most protectees won’t sit down and learn from you about protection, they want you to protect them. It’s not their job to know how to do yours…Why do you think you’re employed?
Now let’s address some challenges for protecting public figures and try to make some rational sense of all of this.
Protecting people whose identity depends on the public, such as politicians, in this case, is very much different than protecting a C-Suite executive for example. A politician needs the interaction with public. They shake hands, hug, get pictures with and celebrate with large crowds. Having people like them is what makes people vote for them, and they need to look and act quite approachable to everyone in order to gain votes. If they don’t get the votes, well, then they no longer hold their current political position. They have to attend gatherings and events and most of those functions may be outside of your span of control regarding organizing it. You have to provide services as best as you can with what you have and minimize whatever limitations you can.
In this case ‘’the unknown crowd’’ is the issue. The ‘’crowd’’ provides a good opportunity for the enemy to blend in, act and even escape in some cases. Also, as most public appearances are preplanned and announced, the enemy has the time to be prepared for the attack. And when we say attack, let’s clarify that “attack on your principal” is not only an assassination or physical harm but also an attack on his/her personality, reputation or by causing embarrassment.
While most EP training schools focus only on physical attacks, have in mind causing embarrassing situations may be something your principal is particularly vulnerable and endangered by, thus it is something you must be prepared to prevent. Making sure the crowd has been checked for anything that can be used as a weapon doesn’t mean you are safe from an embarrassing situation. Paying attention to people’s hands and what they are carrying doesn’t mean you can be sure about the intention of a handshake. A handshake can become a pat on the shoulder or a slap on the face. How would you know the intentions of the handshake and act within 2 seconds to prevent it? You must be in very close proximity to do that and sometimes you have limitations on how close you can be with your principal, particularly when they are interacting with the public and potential voters. When any public figure decides he/she want to come within close proximity of a voter, you are required to break the standard formations and you cannot have security between the voter and the principal because they need that ‘’personal space’’.
Act too aggressive and they will perceive this position as very unapproachable, something that goes against your principal’s political campaigns. So you have limitations or adaptations to perform your protective job competently.
Another thing to consider is that some protectees will appear uncooperative with you and your suggestions or directions. They will do the exact opposite of what you have instructed them to do or whatever the plan was because they thought doing something different was ok, safe or was suggested at the last minute by their campaign manager. Some protectees will ask you to protect them no matter what. The fact that they won’t consider changing their lifestyle, and you have to do your best, becomes another facet of the ever-evolving detail.
Have we forgotten the flying shoe incident with President Bush in a press conference in 2008? The red paint thrown at Mary Harney, Ireland’s Health Minister in November 2010? Berlusconi’s nose being broken and two teeth knocked out when a man attending a political rally threw the statuette of Milan’s Duomo gothic cathedral straight in his face in 2009? Eggs being thrown at Bill Clinton in Warsaw, Poland? Nicolas Sarkozy being a victim of a flying pie in 1997? The book thrown at Obama in 2010? The glitter attack on Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlently in 2011? Pope being attacked by a woman who jumped barriers at St Peter’s Basilica and knocked him down in 2009? The famous slap on Dimitra Liani Papandreou, the widow of ex Greek PM at her book signing by a woman who appears to be there to sign her book? Bill Gates’ “Pie-to-the-Face” fiasco? There are so many more similar incidents including paint, body fluids, pies, yoghurt, vegetables, flour and even flashing body parts such as the Femen members who went toplessness in front of the EU-Russia summit, in Brussels, in December 2012.
Can we criticize the EP team members involved in these incidents? Can we say that you would have done better after the incident has taken place? From the moment you have a complete crowd check for weapons, you are in a “secure” space. But what leads you to believe that you have a better understanding regarding the mental status of someone who appears to be a voter or a fan? Can you honestly guess his motives if he/she wants to slap, or spit or in some way embarrass your client?
If you haven’t provided security details for Public Figures, it may seem easy for you to criticize an incident like this, but criticizing what you don’t know and just assuming doesn’t make you right and it very well may show your ignorance. Instead, use this incident as a reminder that people will use anything to harm your client’s reputation and their imagination can be big and quite unpleasant. Keep it as a learning tool for yourself and yet another scenario in your head of what you would or wouldn’t do if…
Founder & CEO
Perception is everything, protect yourself and build your reputation on solid ground.
*These are part of a panel of personal opinions formulated from my experience in the industry as an EP agent, business owner and recruiter for other corporations. Keep in mind that just because I preach it, doesn’t mean I haven’t made the mistakes. It’s actually the fact I have made some of these and it’s caused me to learn what can work and what doesn’t. You may not agree with me or follow up with the suggestions but experience is an amazing teacher…”Let he who has ears…”*
1) Know what you know and know your value. (Know what you are willing to sacrifice as well, working more hours, night shifts, holidays, for how much, or how little.)
2) Know what you don’t know and either leave it to someone else or study it (There is nothing worse than someone who is trying to operate in many different fields, and yet, have quite limited knowledge on each field and act as though they’re the authority on it.) Focus on what you are most interested in and master it. Only move on to something else when you have a solid foundation on a topic and you are prepared to expand to something else.
3) “Listen more and talk less” Comment or post on social media only if you have something constructive to say, always stay on point and use professional language
4) Post or comment only on subjects you know well, subjects you have studied and subjects you know from real-life experience. There is no need to post daily or non-related posts.
5) It takes specific work and quite simply, boots on the ground to consider yourself experienced. Having worked EP two or three days a month doesn’t make you qualified enough to disagree or raise your voice with people who have been doing this for 10+ years. Neither are you an expert after one or two years in the industry (You can always see who is who and what they know and don’t know by what they post on social media). Stay humble, lay low and learn your trade well…Your day will come)
6) Maintain a professional image on all business-related social media sites. A suit and tie picture will always be better than a tank top or a duckface selfie.
7) Build a professional LinkedIn Profile, highlight your skills and post all your professional and educational achievements.
8) Stop posting sensitive information, IDs and license numbers on social media (You are a security professional! If you fail to protect even your own personal information, what does that tell me about how you handle your clients’ information??)
9) Always maintain OPSEC in every post you make. Always think, “How could this be used to harm my client or my team?
10) Protect your data! We have seen more and more security professionals warning their connections that they have been hacked! If your ex gf can hack your Facebook or LinkedIn profile, then you are probably not very good at keeping your clients or your detail’s information safe.
11) Keep high school drama out of social media.
12) Control your emotions, remain professional at all times…You are your client’s close protection, NOT his/her “Buddyguard”. Friendly at all times, not Friends.
13) Be careful of your connections and the people that you recommend or work with. Have you heard death by association? Make no mistake, it is a very real factor in our business!
14) Build a professional-looking CV, keep it simple and to the point. There is no need to hire a CV writer, you know what you have done, trained for and accomplished.
15) Invest time in building connections. Spend time talking to others or helping them with their projects. I have gained many contracts after the interviews I did with others.
16) Offer pro bono services to companies you respect and want to be involved with.
17) If you are single and have no family commitments, perhaps you work that shift on Christmas or other holidays so someone else can spend the day with his children. You have no idea how being understanding can help you in the long term.
18) Study your clientele and any potential clients. The industry has changed significantly and the new wave of clients are IT gurus, app developers, cryptocurrency investor, reality stars etc. Always be knowledgeable on current trends and topics.
19) Be informed on local and international news, threats and events that affect the industry and the needs or operational aspects of your clients.
20) Don’t be arrogant, there is a fine line between being confident and arrogant. Never cross it…There usually is no way back once the damage is done.
Denida Zinxhiria Grow
Founder & CEO
To all CEOs, celebrities, VIPs and high value individuals…
At some point in your careers, you will most likely find the need to retain, or at the very least, inquire about close protection services for yourselves, your loved ones and possibly for those you employ closest to you.
Now, the list of companies and corporations that provide these type of services is quite lengthy and, while at first they all appear very impressive, you need to be thorough as you take a deep look at them and the ideals and morals they represent. Again, you are searching for the perfect fit that best protects yourselves, your families, employees and all things that you need secured and confidential.
A quite disturbing trend as of late has been the repeated posting of pics with you as the client, at your locations and in front of your vehicles, private planes, residences, etc. while boasting about the details of who you might be, what was happening or other items of a secure nature. Now, this is entirely unacceptable no matter what the terms or conditions of their employment may be with you. You, and all that that may encompass, are to be secure, confidential and invisible for all intents and purposes. Period.
Social media has become the source of all communications amongst a great number of these entities and this in turn has led to a trend of exposing enormous amounts of confidential client information when it is not only unnecessary but highly unprofessional and, frankly, childish. At times, it has even been portrayed as “marketing” when, in it’s true form, it’s nothing more than schoolyard bragging.
So, when researching a prospective organization that you perceive may be the one you will choose, a thorough search of all related social media should be performed. The company’s sites, the reviews and even the social media sites of any/all possible employees that you might hire from their corporation. If they are willing to expose their previous clients with seemingly reckless abandon, you will most likely be the next celebrity/VIP pic that hits the Facebook/Instagram/LinkedIn circuit and that is, I’m quite sure, not your desire at all.
Many companies will show an endless supply of “tactical” pictures, extreme condition photos, worst case scenario snapshots, etc. Please understand that most of the organizations are composed of a large number of former military members, former LEO/SWAT members and private security contractors who have “been there & done that”. But it is always wise to remember that while these skills are highly advantageous should everything go tragically wrong in your day, these type of days should never happen if the proper planning is performed which is completely above and beyond the “hard skills” as they are often referred to.
Another highly recommended item is a detailed NDA and total social media blackout for all involved. Leave nothing to chance and be very clear regarding the seriousness that this represents to you and the severity of disciplinary action should it be violated. Again, you and all you hold most dear are to be secure, confidential and private and definitely NOT on the front page of a local newspaper, tabloid, media page or out to the highest bidder.
Always remember this…You came looking to us with your concerns and fears, placing your overall well-being in our capable hands. With that in mind, you should always feel protected, safe and secure from anyone or anything that might wish to harm you. And that harm should NEVER be at the hands of the very people whom you have so willingly trusted to provide the very best security, protection and peace of mind.
Denida Zinxhiria Grow
Founder & CEO
At Athena Worldwide we are industry leaders for promoting, training and staffing female bodyguards internationally. With our affiliate offices, we can provide world-wide close protection and executive protection services for entertainment professionals, politicians, CEOs, Royal Families, journalists, clergy and corporate personnel. Want to find out more about female bodyguards? visit www.athenaworldwide.com
Since social media has become so much a part of everyone’s daily activities and many use it as a way to promote their services, speak their mind and/or interact with others, companies who either have or utilize a social media presence need to also protect their brand and reputation from the online “acts” of their own staff/personnel. An all too commonplace example: John X works for security company Y and during his social media networking, he posts about his clients, where was he flying to, he speaks about how he is being paid, how much he makes, becomes rude with another colleague with whom he disagrees, he bullies him, etc…
Now, someone may think, and an alarming number of people do, since John X is not networking from the company’s Y social media account but from his own, there is nothing wrong and no harm done. WRONG. Anyone who works for you and has his work title/position linked to your company, represent your brand and is responsible for your reputation and can also be a liability for you and considered as the weak link of your company or someone who’s online activities are such that your competitors can use it against you. A bad security operative working for you shows the public how low your standards may or may not be and degrade the standards you appear to have when hiring people and how, apparently, you do not care about ethical considerations and personality traits.
It can also be used against your company in the market by your competitors claiming ‘’We have the best operatives available’’, or ‘’Our people are the utmost professionals’’, etc. How many of you have seen someone’s online behaviour and thought, ‘’Wow I can’t understand how that company hired someone like him/her…’’ So we can see that a social media policy not only will protect your company’s reputation but it can also reflect the maturity and professionalism of your employees.
Another reason for having a social media policy is the fact that, when you have a proper one in place, you most likely won’t be dealing with as many social media crisis situations. Keep in mind that in today’s digital age the quick spread on social media posts can make crises go viral quickly and ruin your reputation leaving a negative electronic footprint for you and your company.
Now that we’ve addressed why it is needed, let’s see what a social media policy is. Simply put, it is a set of rules/documents that outlines how a company and its employees should carry themselves in online activities. Your employees will be advised of what they should or should not do in social media platforms, protect your company’s trade secrets, improve revenue due to increased and positive productivity, and also be aware and stay away from violating federal law.
Is there a ‘’One size fits all’’ social media policy for every industry? No, depending on the industry you are operating within and what your activities are, as well as what you would like to achieve and what your values are, each company must develop its own social media policy and social media crisis management plan.
The most basic concepts we could say that any social media policy for security companies should include are:
- A list with what not to speak about in public: topics/information that no one should mention in social media. Basically, do’s and don’ts.
- Approval or disapproval for employees to post pictures or drop clients’ names (Although at Athena Worldwide it is our policy that no one use or mention clients’ names or post pictures, many other companies are ok with it. So again, it comes down to what are your company’s values and goals).
- Who will be the company spokespeople and who will be the people in charge of your social media accounts?
- Who will be the person in charge of writing or approving information and educational posts for your blog and social media accounts?
- Who will be responsible to deal with and address complaints? Most of the time, it is up to the company’s management to deal with complaints which can be a poor choice as dealing with complaints comes down to managing a crisis and how to de-escalate the situation. You have to be trained to do so and not get emotionally involved.
- How will your company address training, promotional video, or website copyright infringements by other companies?
- What will be your direction on how to respond in online conflict situations? For example, how will you respond if someone attacks your company tactics, your employees, etc?
- Who will be assigned as your social media crisis management person and what will be your crisis management plan?
- Outline the basic steps that your employees can take to protect their own privacy online. Does your company provide basic cybersecurity awareness and insider threat awareness training?
- Will your company be offering online etiquette training to your employees?
- Will your company be enforcing consequences? Any social media policy, without consequences for people who break it, is invalid. Your company must decide how it will handle violations, list the potential consequences, and make sure enforcement is understood by your employees.
Always have in mind: as a security company or practitioner, you are working with a very specific clientele and you are in charge of their safety, their peace of mind, and their confidentiality. How you represent yourself in social media, how you react in ‘’challenging’’ posts and critiques, or what content you see valuable and professional enough to share in public, shapes your virtual persona identity/footprint and your image as a security professional. It takes years to build a good image and reputation… and only a few words online to destroy it.
Interested to find out more how to build your company’s Social Media Policy and Social Media Crisis Management Plan? Contact us.
Denida Zinxhiria Grow
Founder & CEO
One of the most serious of all professional deadly sins in our industry is the overcharging of the client or spending his/her money unreasonably and/or unwisely. We have seen too many companies presenting the “threat” to be much bigger than it truly is so they can cause more fear and create a dependency from the client and assign more bodies on the ground. The more bodies you have on the ground, the more money you can charge. The problem with this is not only the unethical portion but also, at some point, the client or someone from his company who is in charge of the security budget will sit down, evaluate and decide you are ”too much”, cutting down on the number of agents, simply decide to go with another security provider or, worst-case scenario, accuse you of fraud and unnecessary overbilling and take legal action against you.
What most people don’t know is that someone who is going to reach out to you for his/her protection, either needs it or thinks he/she needs it. They want to hire a company and be done with it. Replacing you or searching for another provider is something they want to avoid, if at all possible. Those clients are looking for stability so if they seek to replace you, chances are your services are lacking something important or there is something wrong with the numbers you are charging. How many of you have started with a team that the number of agents has been reduced to even half after a couple of months? Overcharging can be quite damaging to your contract as it will clearly show you are taking advantage of said client.
Another issue that can make clients go searching elsewhere for services is how you manage their budget. We all know those operatives who will order the most expensive dish on the menu ”just because the client is paying”, or those operatives who will charge for services outside of the clients’ responsibility for their expenses while on duty. Yes, there has been that CPO who charged the client for that expensive spa treatment, or the massage, or the most expensive wine bottle for room service, or that one who demanded first-class airline tickets…and the list with the real-life cases goes on.
Just because a client is taking care of your expenses during your rotation/duty hours, it doesn’t mean in any way that you should take advantage of or abuse his/her budget or money. And often as not, this expensive lifestyle you are witnessing is THEIRS, not yours. Remember your place and who you are to the client and to the detail. If the client offers something, be grateful but always keep in mind, that was a one-time thing, not a proposition to continue with some type of spending spree on the detail’s part.
These types of protection professionals and their corresponding behavior show the level of how unprofessional they are and how much they disrespect the fact that someone else is kind enough to provide for all their costs while they are in the client’s employ. A CPO who knows how to properly manage his/her client’s money will always go much further and always be considered and thought of as a real professional.
Denida Zinxhiria Grow
Founder & CEO