Rules and Etiquette

Whether you work in a government entity or a not for profit organization, you will run up against rules that are both written and unwritten that you will need to be aware of in order to be effective and bring people on board. While many rules and regulations are written and easily known and accessible, there are often many unwritten or cultural norms that film commissioners need to be aware of in order to effectively deal with partners and stakeholders. These rules may change depending on the region or part of the world, but it is important to understand that regardless of where you are, they do exist and you need to know what they are.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of what these rules might look like and a film commission might deal with them.

Communicating with Elected Officials  

Imagine for a moment that you have been asked to present to your local governing body. You are to present to them regarding the impacts that your office has had over the last two years. It will be an opportunity to help them better understand the impact of having film production in the area and how your office is critical for increasing this highly beneficial industry in their jurisdiction.

You work in a small area and personally know many of the elected officials. This is your first time presenting in this venue and you decide that the best thing to do would be to launch right into your presentation when it is your turn. Unfortunately, you did not take the time to learn the protocol for addressing the governing entity and have offended the members and the leadership who are now no longer listening to the merits of your presentation.

Most elected boards, commissions, councils or other entities are made up of elected officials with formal titles that dictate how they are to be addressed and in what order. While some jurisdictions may be nice enough to make it very clear what the rules are for addressing elected officials either in a formal group meeting or in a one-on-one business meeting, many do not make it clear what the protocol is and it is up to you to be educated about how people should be addressed and in what order.

For instance, in the United States, when addressing a legislative committee it is common that comments are to be addressed first to the Chairman/Chairwoman/Chair:

“Mr. Chair, I would like to address the issue of….”

In addition, each response after the initial presentation may also need to be made through the chairperson. It is generally inappropriate to just address the group as a whole or answer a question without first recognizing the Chair.

Hearings and meetings are not the only places where formal titles are important. When addressing any elected official, addressing them with their title (until told to do otherwise) is always a good idea. It is also important to know which officials should continue to be addressed by their titles even after they have left office. In many parts of the world, a President is forever referred to as Mr. or Madame President, as long as they live.)

If you work in a region where there are indigenous people and lands (Native Americans, Province First Nations, Aboriginal Peoples), it is also crucial that you have a strong understanding of their cultural etiquette, government structure, and protocols. They may need to be recognized even if they are not in the room.

Finding a protocol mentor or attending a few meetings ahead of time can be very good ways to learn what is expected and assure that you do not accidentally break protocol.

Questions you should answer for yourself:

1. What elected councils, commissions, boards, officials do you present to or deal with on a regular basis?
2. What protocols or etiquette do they adhere to?
3. What are the appropriate titles for the elected officials that you interact with on a regular basis?
4. When is it appropriate to address them using the title and when can I skip it?