I was doing some research this week on a quote for a piece we are putting together for an upcoming awards banquet at PRSA San Antonio.
I was looking for a quote from Arthur W. Page, a pioneer in corporate public relations who served as the first vice president PR at AT&T; because his philosophy embodies my overall feelings of what excellence in public relations should entail.
Page practiced six principles of public relations:
- Tell the truth
- Prove it with action
- Listen to the customer
- Manage for tomorrow
- Conduct public relations as if the whole company depends on it
- Remain calm, patient and good-humored
Underlying these principles is an important characteristic, COURAGE. In order to practice public relations as a management function, one must exhibit courage – the ability to push back against management decisions that don’t have the best interests of the stakeholder firmly in mind.
While researching, I ran across a fantastic article by Marilyn Laurie upon her acceptance into the Arthur Page Society Hall of Fame. Laurie also served at AT&T; as executive vice president of brand strategy and advertising at AT&T;, albeit more than 30 years after Page.
She told the story of her CEO Bob Allen taking a significant pay increase and bonus only one month after laying off 40,000 employees as AT&T; prepared to spin off Lucent Technologies. Although in the past Laurie had great respect for her CEO, she writes:
“I’ll leave to your imagination the conversation I had with Bob when I advised him not to take the bonus (although I can tell you in Arthur Page terms, it was not exactly ‘calm, patient and good-humored’)…When the big guy takes the cash while the little guy loses his shirt, it is seen as failing a test of character. And I can tell you, don’t hold your breath for those kinds of failures to be forgiven by the public.”
Sometimes doing what is right is not easy and often your advice will not be heeded. However, your ability to interject insightful counsel for your stakeholders in a time of crisis is a measure of your effectiveness as a public relations practioner.
Have some guts, get a spine and stand up for your stakeholders!
Oh, and the Page quote I chose for the awards program:
“The fundamental way of getting public approval is to deserve it.” – Arthur W. Page.