Expert Author Tony J Ridley
"What happens in Vegas, stays on YouTube" is now a common phrase and reality, just ask Prince Harry. Reputation management and the risk posed by citizen journalism and readily available cell phones are now a key service expectation when it comes to executive and dignitary protection services. Considering the poor result of both Prince Harry's protection team and that of the US Secret Service scandal following their antics in Colombia, it is becoming very clear that government agencies are inadequately prepared or understand this now common threat. In this article we look at contemporary executive protection requirements with a focus on reputation management. By reading this article you will immediately be able to evaluate your own executive protection and reputation management systems to determine if they are comprehensive enough for the modern environment.
"They are there to protect him for security reasons, not to regulate his life" comments by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Howe in dismissing the role of his government supplied executive protection agents charged with "protecting" Prince Harry highlights the disconnect between what government agencies deem a threat and what constitutes a major threat in the commercial world. Allegations that they also participated in the party antics of the group, does little to install confidence in the holistic protective security service.
The worldwide coverage and resulting scandal involving US Secret Service agents following allegations of inappropriate behaviour whilst conducting reconnaissance of pending Presidential travel locations, also reinforces the disconnect between real word executive protection demands and the governmental approach to the service. How could these services and skill sets therefore be relevant to commercial, celebrity and business clients when the outcome and damage can be so significant? Why do buyers of executive protection services think that only "government trained" agents should be engaged for commercial services when the demands are worlds apart? Why do celebrities think that massive human shields are the best protection for their reputation and physical needs when intelligence and technology dominates the executive protection market in the modern world?
A recent training session I conducted for a former government security professional, now a kidnap for ransom specialist, reinforced the need for awareness and skills in online reputation management and the impact of social media or citizen journalism. She confirmed the despite a long and successful career in a similar role within the government, she did not know the first thing about online reputation issues but increasingly it was a significant factor in the protection and recovery of high profile individuals. Kidnap for ransom, extortion and blackmail cases are seeing the use of public and private networks to spread fear, rumours and targeted content for economic gain. In a couple of simple sessions, we were able to introduce key management systems, identify monitoring solutions and create a crisis response mechanism to ensure the facts where dominating the message in the event of abduction or reputation damage.
Access and information is now readily available on executives and celebrities along with the ability to broadcast negative or breaking news, therefore reputation management has become included in the array of services and demands of executive protection professionals. More and more companies, celebrities and agencies are monitoring and tracking what is said or group sentiment towards them. At the cold face, executive protection services need to support these efforts as part of a preference for cure over treatment. They can not exist without each other.
  • Do you know what is being said about your product, service, name, client or celebrity, by whom and where?
  • Can you manage the content and access around the individual?
  • Is your information linked to your physical and protective security services?
  • Is every one that needs to know the threat, plan and response aware of their roles and responsibilities?
  • Does your plan work in the real world?
  • Can you prove that it has and will work under real-world conditions?
  • Do you know the warning signs of an impending crisis?
  • Do you know exactly what you have to do in order to reduce the threat?
If you don't know what to do for all of these issues or have a plan for these priority areas, you have a significant vulnerability. These are the fundamental requirements to a comprehensive executive, celebrity or VIP protection system and service. Anything less is a placebo.
This article draws observations from the recent Prince Harry and US Secret Service incidents that reflected poorly upon the protected VIP and the service provider. Outlined are the key issues that have been overlooked and the expanded requirement for executive protection to include reputation management, at all times. Use the information in this article to assess your current plans, providers and understanding of executive and celebrity protection services.
Tony has generated significant value to clients and companies by enabling business growth, maximizing variance on return for assets, expanding market share and cost efficiencies. Hundreds of companies and departments have benefited from the direction and input provided by Tony.
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