Human society has undergone a significant evolution since the dawn of its birth. Human beings have studied and adapted the world around them to survive and conquer high quotas in terms of quality of life. To better study their environment, a form of research called the scientific method was developed and has evolved throughout history. This is undoubtedly how knowledge is achieved today, and it is the only objective and universally valid way.

Unfortunately, there is very little scientific literature about it for people who devote their lives to the practice and investigation of protocol. And when it comes to languages, the research work in Spanish is scarce and almost non-existing in English. Since the beginning of time, those who have exercised protocol did not need to register or study it since their knowledge was based on customs and legislation. Thus, it was transmitted from person to person. Over time, people who worked as protocol professionals captured their experience, ultimately leading to a rich and developed professional or pragmatic literature. The problem with this approach is that each author, depending on the branch of knowledge from which they come -law, communication, etc.- and the sector in which they exercise the protocol -official, corporate, or social- sees the discipline differently. Therefore, they see and describe their part of the protocolary reality. In the absence of the application of a scientific method that gives an objective and universal approach, it is a particular and “biased” vision that cannot be taken as an absolute truth (Delmás Martín, 2021, p. 2865).

This last perspective on the reality of the existing literature on the protocol has already been described perfectly by Álvarez Rodríguez (2008, p. 162) in a scientific paper. She concluded that a pragmatic character marks this literature and that it has been trying to get closer to the academic part. On the other hand, by analysing the trajectory of the bibliography, she concluded that, in Spanish, four different schools or approaches had been generated in which professional literature on protocol could be unified: the diplomatic school, the historical approach, the law school, and the community approach.

The first of these is the diplomatic perspective. The author considered its father, José Antonio de Urbina. He practised law for many years and was diplomatic; therefore, it is not hard to imagine why he was the one who considered protocol as a tool for mutual understanding between nations or cultures.

Secondly, we have the legal school, which, as its name suggests, focuses the study of the protocol mainly on the laws: norms, customs, and legal rules that have been adopted over the course of time. It’s meaningful when we think of it since professionals in this field base their work on these laws and norms that are the essence of protocol science. It made an impression on professionals very quickly at the time. It is what has led many professionals and scholars of the subject to consider that it is the only protocol that comes from the official since it comes mainly from existing legislation. From my perspective, after having studied the scientific literature, this point of view is partial and does not allow us to acquire a holistic view of the protocol. The most representative author of this legal trend is Francisco López-Nieto.

The third approach is the historical one. It focuses its study on the narration of the traditions, customs, and social uses that have been happening throughout history. It makes significant contributions as well as the previous ones. We consider Felio A. Vilarrubias as the most outstanding author of this current.

Finally, we have the communicative perspective. This has driven the protocol to a great extent among protocol professionals. Considering it as a communication tool for public and private organisations and generator of reputation and brand image has kicked off its study in communication sciences to obtain the most significant possible benefit from it. It is one of the most popular today and has the most followers and scholars.

To summarise, regarding schools, two clarifications can be made by the author, which I refute from my study of the subject: the first is that, although the different schools have been happening over time, none of them has annulled the previous ones. All of them are considered valid and bring a vision to the discipline. On the other hand, an obvious conclusion emerges: none of these fields of study of the protocol can fully provide solutions to the needs of the discipline at present on its own. However, together they give us more meaning.

Therefore, to understand the protocol in its fullness, we must see it from the diplomatic, historical, legal, and communication perspective and the sociology, anthropology, and other disciplines (Bernad Monferrer, Rubio Calero, & Delmás Martín, 2021, p. 2758). The protocol is like a prism with many faces, and only by looking at it from all of them will we fully be able to understand it and develop the science of protocol.




Álvarez Rodríguez, M. L. (2008). Nociones de protocolo desde la bibliografía de sus autoridades. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, (63), 165-173. https://doi.org/10.4185/RLCS-63-2008-760c-165-173

Bernad Monferrer, E., Rubio Calero, D., & Delmás Martín, D. (2021). Protocolo: dispersión de su conocimiento en otros campos. En La comunicación a la vanguardia. Tendencias, métodos y perspectivas. (pp. 2737-2759). Madrid: Editorial Fragua.

Delmás Martín, D. (2021). Una experiencia en análisis de contenido de definiciones de protocolo propuestas por profesionales del sector. En La comunicación a la vanguardia. Tendencias, métodos y perspectivas. (pp. 2846-2869). Madrid: Editorial Fragua.

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Written by Daniel DELMÁS, Professional of events and protocol. 

28 September 2021, The Netherlands

Category: International Protocol

Reference: DD280921IP

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