When learning the 20th century history of public relations, we often focus on Ivy Lee and Edward Bernays. Lee’s 1906 “Declaration of Principles” and Bernays’ 1923 book “Crystallizing Public Opinion” had profound impact on the growth and understanding of the profession. Students of PR history should also know Arthur Page, who built on their early efforts and helped shaped public relations as we know it today.
Page, who served as vice president of public relations for AT&T from 1927-1946, created the “Seven Principles of Public Relations Management.” They are as relevant now as they were nearly a century ago. Here’s a slightly edited version:
- Tell the truth. Let the public know what’s happening and provide an accurate picture of the company’s character, ideals and practices.
- Prove it with action. Public perception of an organization is determined 90 percent by what it does and ten percent by what it says.
- Listen to the customer. To serve the company well, understand what the public wants and needs. Keep top decision makers and other employees informed.
- Manage for tomorrow. Anticipate public reaction and eliminate practices that create difficulties. Generate goodwill.
- Conduct public relations as if the whole company depends on it. No corporate strategy should be implemented without considering its impact on the public. The public relations professional is a policy maker capable of handling a wide range of corporate communications activities.
- Realize a company’s true character is expressed by its people. The strongest opinions — good or bad — about a company are shaped by the words and deeds of its employees. Corporate communications must support each employee’s capability and desire to be an honest, knowledgeable ambassador.
- Remain calm, patient and good-humored. When a crisis arises, remember that cool heads communicate best.
When a 21st century PR practitioner is performing skillfully, ethically and effectively, there’s little question that Page’s principles have greatly influenced their actions. Students of PR–and PR professionals on the front lines every day–must remember to embrace Page’s sage advice. His tenants are what makes our profession uniquely necessary in our world of constant communication. Your thoughts?