By Our Reporter
Pablo Bashir Sewalu’s greatest joy in life is to put people at ease. He cannot explain it but since he was a child, Pablo says he liked to make people feel at home. He never thought this natural friendliness would translate into a career, which is what it has led him to the Chief Protocol Officer at Next Media.
But who is a protocol officer? It is someone employed to facilitate meetings, ensure proper etiquette for official engagements, and streamline interactions with dignitaries and other important people.
A decade or so in the delicate business of ushering highly sensitive high profile guests to where they need to be has sharpened Pablo’s sense on what it takes to make a good protocol officer. Pablo has rules he follows that have seen him avert potentially ruinous moments into memories to laugh at.
Here are the five secrets to his success:
Discretion is key
Pablo has been in the room with everyone from the President, to politicians, to top government officials, to top company executives and he says what makes him welcome in these rooms is discretion. He has also handled continental dignitaries like Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and his vice William Ruto. He has even had the honour of handling part of Pope Francis’s protocol during the 2015 papal visit to Uganda.
A protocol officer must be an expert at seeing and hearing everything while not talking about it. A protocol officer is like a bodyguard; the best are never noticed, they are the gel that puts at ease those in their care.
A protocol officer will witness many embarrassing moments but the best of them earn the trust of the protocol officer that no one else who was not at the scene will ever know of it.
Being at the scene leads to another important rule, Pablo has learned as he practiced his trade.
The best protocol officer will minimise to remove opportunities for faux pas to happen. On Pablo’s watch, his first priority is to get his guests to where they need to be and achieve what took them there. This is why Pablo never leaves line of sight for the persons he is in charge of be they delivering an important speech at a business lunch or appearing for the first time for a TV interview.
Having been around a dignitary for hours or years helps Pablo to ensure the environment around them at a highly stressful time will be as comfortable as possible. Equally important, he will organise the environs of the hotel or high stakes event in such a way that his principal is able to function optimally and do what they are supposed to do there.
Few skills are more necessary for the work Pablo does than diplomacy. His ability to bring down the temperature in a room is key as he has to work with personalities who are often on opposite sides of a political fight.
The protocol officer must expect to mediate at some point in their career. Sometimes over a long span of time. Pablo relishes this challenge.
Exit strategy master
Pablo believes that many aspiring protocol practitioners forget it is as important how a guest leaves a location as they arrived. He argues that these final touches are what actually determine the lasting impression a guest will have of an occasion or service they have received while in your care.
This is why time does not matter in his protocol calling. Pablo will ensure that he is at the airport past midnight to receive a guest like revered Mufti Ismail ibn Musa Menk when he visited Uganda in April 2021. The celebrated but unassuming Mufti Menk who shirks an entourage congratulated his hosts on having the only assistant he would consider hiring if he had no choice but to have an entourage after experiencing Pablo’s all round care while in the pearl of Africa.
The height of success for a protocol officer is the expression of sincere gratitude from those whose charge falls under his care, Pablo rounds off.
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