In our Industry, when discussing our craft and what goes on in it, we often talk about a singular protectee. We relate to the words “protectee,” “client,” or “boss” easily because we equate those terms and meanings to what it is that we do.
The terms float off our tongue just as easily as “hello” or “goodbye.” They are vernacular words used to describe, discuss, or formulate plans for our primary concern: our client.
Having said that, what happens when there is more than one primary client? What happens when the “primary” becomes two, three, four, or more? What happens when your client instructs you that their two-year-old, is the primary “client” on a particular day or outing?
Understanding the Family Dynamic
Understanding a particular family’s dynamic is challenging, intimate, time-consuming. It can be a very slippery slope, which, if mishandled, can be detrimental in many ways. I also believe it is a test of how focused and abreast you are about the nuances of protection. Think about some of the issues facing your family today: work, bills, home upkeep, spouses, children, school, college, transportation, food, travel, etc. You have some control over all these things when they are your issues because you can make first-hand decisions to resolve the challenge. Now, as a protector, take those same issues, put “client and family” in place of “your family,” and try and get the same result. While it’s not our job to handle our client’s day to day responsibilities, they do have a tendency to bleed into your day as well.
This is a prime example of where your soft skills come into play. In your attempts to understand your clients’ needs, your rapport with them will be key. Trust is a major factor in being privy to the inner workings of the family. Being trusted with sensitive knowledge makes it all the more imperative that you’re able to focus on your SERVICE skills and fine-tune your attention to detail.
Dynamic families have dynamic schedules; now, add children into the mix. Your emergency skills for minors must be current and well versed. Experience with children and their needs, as it pertains to protection, is essential. So too is understanding the family dynamics surrounding those children.
Are you competent as a protector? That’s a genuine question you must continue to ask yourself. It takes nothing to throw a pigtail in your ear and proclaim your arrival to EP, but what is your competency level when protecting a large family?
Are you competent enough to prepare movements for a week-long international vacation for your well-known client and family? Add to that the request they not be photographed? What about coordinating the traveling entourage (chef, nannies, manager, personal assistants), etc.?
Are you still feeling equipped to handle all this? Okay, so, now coordinate the luggage, transportation, medical requirements, hotel security, check-in, daily activities, and don’t forget, most importantly, the personal protection of your principal. I can go on, but in short, it’s all about keeping the standard of service you provide at a high level at all times. Because after all, you’re a competent, professional, protector, right?
An Approach to the Protection of Children
To any parent, the most important object to them is their children. To a well-known celebrity, the most important object to them is their children, times ten. In some cases, the children are heirs to fortunes, some are even heirs too royalty, and they all have one thing in common: they are the center of the universe for their parents, your client. How up-to-date is your knowledge of kidnappings? How will you provide the best protection for the children and your client simultaneously as a solo specialist? Therein lies the challenge for you, the specialist. Keep the thing that matters most to the client, their child, safe no matter what.
I’ll describe the approach that I take. First and foremost, it must be understood what the parameters are for the child or children. What are the expectations upon you concerning the safety of the family? Clear, concise instructions must be gained and formulated between you and your client. For example, what are they allowed/not allowed to participate in? What do you need to know about their diet? Are they allergic to anything? In the event of an attack on the principal who gets coverage first? What type of transportation should they travel in? All very real questions you need to have answers for. What decisions are you, the specialist, allowed to make concerning the child in the parents’ absence? What the acceptable boundaries for other staff members? In my experience, it’s usually not a good idea for you to go against requests made by a parent when it comes to the care of their children.
Social Media Impacts on Protection for Families
I’m going to be blunt in this section, because the use of social media by clients, or their families, can be very impactful. Still, even more impactful is YOUR use of social media! I personally find it intolerable for a specialist to post pictures of them alongside their clients, or even just photos of the client on their personal social media channels. It’s a total disregard for a client’s privacy. In some cases, specialists are becoming promoters and publicists for a client they’re supposed to be protecting.
Social media can have a devastating effect on the protection of your client and his/her family. The social media footprint for families with celebrity heads is an increasingly common problem. Children of celebrity parents are constantly throwing caution to the wind in their use of social media platforms. The effects are never realized until it’s too late. It should be a top priority for any specialists working in a family setting. Celebrities can sometimes cause irreparable harm to themselves by making poor social media decisions. When you log onto social media, think about dropping a stone into a still pond, the initial splash is great. But when it comes to social media’s impact on real-life it’s the ripple effect from that stone that will hurt you, your client, or their family. Therefore, in a family protection setting, it should be a top priority for any specialist to monitor family media use to the best of their ability in order to mitigate risk. In this modern age, the ability to monitor, advise, challenge, and change the social media habits of your client is fast becoming an essential skill.
Being Attentive vs. Being in The Way
Being able to operate as a specialist within the confines of any family is challenging. Being wealthy or famous doesn’t change the meaning of family, it only intensifies the dynamics due to potential additional risks. As a specialist working in and around a celebrity and their family, you are privy to certain insights. Whether it’s family discourse, celebration, sadness, business, or just everyday life, you must find a way to be invisibly present. Celebrity families have a constant presence of staff in their homes, including security, and it can be overwhelming to the family structure. It is your job as a professional is to limit exposure within the confines of the home until needed. Again, this is a skill that is learned on the job because all families are different. However, the foundation of your Executive Protection training should be acute enough to be able to operate within a family dynamic. Working with celebrities, especially within a family structure, is a specialized skill to be honed. And if you can master it, you potentially open up a much broader customer base that can be rewarding on multiple levels.
A Family Affair
By: Mark Roche EPS/FAA UAS Pilot
Mark Roche is a US-based, full-time Executive Protection Specialist who has extensive experience in working with both celebrities and their families. He is also a FAA Licensed Drone Pilot, specializing in EP related uses and a graduate of multiple close protection programs.