Q. One of the guest lecturers in my class mentioned the Arthur Page Society several times during his talk, and my professor says the organization is something I should aspire to. From the Page website, I can’t determine how you become a member and what they do. I see you’re a member, so please let me know what I should know. -SA
A. Comprised of 400 of the senior-most PR professionals in their respective agencies and corporations and several prominent PR academics, the Arthur W. Page Society (AWPS) is arguably the most prestigious public relations group in the world. The organization is dedicated to strengthening the role of public relations through its programs and network. AWPS was begun nearly 30 years ago by senior PR executives at AT&T and named after the late Arthur W. Page, who in 1927 became the first person to hold the title of Vice President of Public Relations at the communications giant. Arthur Page definitely had a ”seat at the table” of management, in the community and government. He’s considered the founder of the modern practice of corporate public relations. (For more on his life, check his biography on the Arthur W. Page Center’s website. The Center is based at Penn State University and is not part of AWPS).
In order to be considered for Page Society membership, individuals need to hold the top PR position in a company or significant agency. Most members are chief communications officers, agency CEOs or well-published PR academics, although several former agency and PR heads remain members after stepping down from their former positions. A select group of academics who are recognized for their thought leadership in PR also are members. The organization holds two major conferences a year, one in the spring and the other in the fall. The spring meeting is open to potential future Page members, while the fall meeting is members only. AWPS also holds periodic regional meetings and has an excellent program for future leaders of the profession who are serving in key roles within their organizations.
Over the years, AWPS has focused its meetings around seven principles that convey Arthur Page’s PR management approach. I’ve tried to adhere to these principles throughout my career. These are great words of advice as you launch your career:
- 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 10 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 about public reaction to company products, policies and practices.
- 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. Corporate relations is a management function. No corporate strategy should be implemented without considering its impact on the public. The public relations professional is a policymaker 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. As a result, every employee — active or retired — is involved with public relations. It is the responsibility of corporate communications to support each employee’s capability and desire to be an honest, knowledgeable ambassador to customers, friends, shareowners and public officials.
- Remain calm, patient and good-humored. Lay the groundwork for public relations miracles with consistent and reasoned attention to information and contacts. This may be difficult with today’s contentious 24-hour news cycles and endless number of watchdog organizations. But when a crisis arises, remember, cool heads communicate best.