Determining the official rank or precedence of the stakeholders is to determine who is most important to us. Who ranks first, second, third? This determination is eventually used when a tailor-made protocol is developed and the rank is applied in, for example, the order of the flags, assigning the seats and the order of the speeches.
Order of precedence is a hierarchical ranking of primarily functions. In general, it does not rank individuals, but the bearers of a specific function. The precedence is determined in an objective way. For example, a head of state is the representative of all the inhabitants of a country and is therefore considered to be ‘more important’ than, for example, a mayor who ‘only’ represents the inhabitants of one city.
Determining the precedence is not an exact science. There are rules determining the rank among equals, among different groups and among individuals. The rules of precedence are often complementary, but sometimes they contradict each other. It requires some practice to deal with precedence and to be able to put officials in the correct order.