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The Risks of Improper Marketing in Executive Protection

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Executive Protection agents face a unique challenge in balancing marketing and confidentiality. While social media offers free promotion, sharing too much can compromise client safety. Ethical marketing focuses on skills and services, avoiding specific client details to maintain trust and operational security. Discretion and professionalism must always take precedence over the desire for recognition.
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The creation of social media platforms gave the opportunity to many industries and their professional associates to be able to promote their work for free. While 20+ years ago one had to pay to have an advertisement in a printed magazine or newspaper, or have a radio or tv spot, today anyone can present what they offer at no charge at all. This trend has extended to executive protection professionals and security company owners. While no one can deny that marketing is essential for growth even in our industry, it is, however, because of the nature of our services and clientele that some marketing practices used by the majority of our colleagues are actually harmful, particularly when they compromise their client’s and/or team’s operational confidentiality.

Executive protection professionals are tasked with ensuring the safety and privacy of their clients, their assets, or organizations. However, in the quest for ego boosting, (“Likes” and followers on social media), some are sharing far too much information. For example, posting pictures with clients while traveling with them, from their estates/hotels/private jets, detailing their protection strategies, or revealing the locations they operate in, can put not only their clients at significant risk, but also the agents on the ground providing the very service that the client pays for.

Ego vs. Professionalism

A quite frequent behavior we see in EP is the agents using “success-by-proxy” to milk their clients’ fame, exploit them, and elevate their own status. This is something we observe mostly with celebrity “bodyguards” who ensure they are constantly in the spotlight by either posting on their social media platforms or finding topics to be interviewed about. 

These agents prioritize their own visibility over their primary duty of protecting their clients, often seeking opportunities to be seen at high-profile events or in the company of other celebrities. They may even leak information to the press or stage “candid” moments to boost their own public profiles. 

Some executive protection professionals may be driven by the desire to showcase their high-profile clients and glamorous jobs. While it’s understandable to desire recognition, this should NEVER come at the expense of a client’s safety and privacy. Let’s admit it, you paid thousands of dollars to be trained and spend a lot of time training in different disciplines, now your hard work and sacrifices are paying off and you want to talk about it. However, what you want or desire is not always aligned with what you should be doing. There may be the temptation of recognition, and some may say it’s only human to seek acknowledgment for your achievements. If this is the case with an individual or organization, this career field is NOT for you. Period.  The EP world can be extremely difficult, and the rewards of working with high-profile clients often include access to luxury cars, five-star hotels, and exclusive events. And of course, it’s easy to get caught up in the allure of this lifestyle and want to share these experiences with the world. But this burning desire for recognition must be highly tempered with a powerful sense of professionalism and ethical responsibility. And always, ALWAYS remember…The luxury lifestyle, the fast cars, and the fancy hotels or villas, are your client’s lifestyle… NOT yours. You just get to be a part of it due to the inevitable proximity that is the indirect result of your employment. Be mindful of your place!

Professionalism in our field means putting the client’s needs and safety first, even if it means staying out of the spotlight. It is never about you, your feelings, or your promotion. It is all about them! The essence of executive protection is to remain discreet while ensuring that the client is safe and secure at all times. This often requires a prominent level of discretion and a commitment to confidentiality that goes beyond the ordinary demands of other professions.

The Risks of Wrong Self-Promotion

We have seen two sides in our industry, one who claims that the EP professionals must stay away from any use of social media, and the side who claims that social media does no harm. Well, the truth is somewhere in the middle. It is ok to have a presence in social media; HOWEVER, what you share and what you post about must always be very “filtered”. Self-promotion in an incorrect manner can both directly or inadvertently compromise the security and privacy of your clients and your team on the ground. Posting photos or sharing details about a client’s location, schedule, or personal life can provide valuable information to potential threat actors. Even posting about your own location, venues, or personal life gives away where you located and when. And since you work for Client X, we now have a good idea of where he/she is! And how many pictures have we seen of colleagues tagging themselves next to private jets where you could see the tail number, vehicle plates, villas, or hotels where you could identify the location by a simple reverse image search? And we all know those companies, whose agents are using their mobile phone like body cams and recording every detail they work for and post it on Instagram…Nothing is safe unless it doesn’t exist in the first place…

Another plague of our small world (yes, it is ridiculously small, after all) are the colleagues who name-drop their clients or post pics with them. You know those posts where they brag about how great it was providing services for X or Y celebrity, or they share the thank-you notes they received from their clients or their PAs. Some will try to justify their actions by saying, “I don’t work for these clients anymore”, and some will even state that they have the client’s permission to post about them. The inescapable truth is, as an executive protection agent, you are hired not only to protect but also to mitigate risks. By posting about the people you work for, or have worked for, you are adding to their risks by creating a connection between you and them. You are now putting a face and identity to the person who is sitting or was sitting next to them. You know all their security strengths and weaknesses and at any one point in time, someone can now manipulate you to get access to them.

Another plague of our small world (yes, it is ridiculously small, after all) are the colleagues who name-drop their clients or post pics with them. You know those posts where they brag about how great it was providing services for X or Y celebrity, or they share the thank-you notes they received from their clients or their PAs. Some will try to justify their actions by saying, “I don’t work for these clients anymore”, and some will even state that they have the client’s permission to post about them. The inescapable truth is, as an executive protection agent, you are hired not only to protect but also to mitigate risks. By posting about the people you work for, or have worked for, you are adding to their risks by creating a connection between you and them. You are now putting a face and identity to the person who is sitting or was sitting next to them. You know all their security strengths and weaknesses and at any one point in time, someone can now manipulate you to get access to them.

The Dangers of Oversharing

  1. Compromised Safety: When protection details are shared online, it gives potential threat actors valuable information. For example, knowing a client’s routine or security measures can help someone with malicious intent to plan an attack.
  2. Breach of Trust: Clients hire executive protection services with the expectation of confidentiality and risk mitigation. Sharing their personal details or images adds to their risk and posting without consent breaks this trust and can damage professional relationships. Quite often, agents will violate the very NDA that they signed for employment by posting seemingly innocuous information.
  3. Legal Issues: There may be legal consequences for revealing confidential information about clients. Violating confidentiality agreements can lead to lawsuits and damage the reputation of the protection service or the individual agent. One wrong move and you can potentially say goodbye to this career field forever.

The Ethics of Executive Protection Profession

Ethical behavior in executive protection means always prioritizing the client’s and team’s well-being over personal gain. This requires a disciplined approach to social media and your marketing efforts. Instead of sharing client-related content, focus on highlighting your skills, training, and the quality of your services. You can always share general success stories that showcase your expertise without revealing specific confidential information.

True professionalism involves a commitment to discretion. A deep commitment that one must adhere to no matter how visible or low-profile a client may be. It also means resisting the urge to boast about the high-profile nature of your job, and instead, taking pride in the quiet, behind-the-scenes work that keeps your client safe. By doing so, you will build a reputation for reliability and trustworthiness, foundational qualities of a high-standard executive protection professional.

Best Practices for Ethical Marketing

While it’s important to market your services and your company, this should never come at the expense of client confidentiality and operational security. There is a way to exhibit ethical marketing practices that can help you gain recognition without compromising the safety and privacy of those you protect.

  • Focus on Skills and Services: Instead of posting client details, highlight the skills, training, and services your company offers. Share general success stories without revealing personal information.
  • Use Anonymity: If discussing case studies or examples, minimize the specific details. Change names, locations, and any identifying information to protect client confidentiality.
  • Educational Content: Share content that educates potential clients about the importance of executive protection and how to choose the right service, rather than focusing on specific client experiences. You show that you are willing to speak about another client’s services or issues, you’ve just shown your new, potential client that you have no discretion, and your ‘confidentiality’ means nothing.
  • Secure Online Presence: Ensure that any online platforms you use are secure and that private communications with clients are protected.

Executive protection professionals must balance the need for marketing with the imperative demand of maintaining client confidentiality. By focusing on ethical marketing practices, these professionals can build trust and credibility without compromising the safety and privacy of those they are sworn to protect. Remember, true professionalism in executive protection is not about gaining “likes” or followers; it’s about ensuring the absolute security and confidentiality of your clients.

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