Page Speech Archive Analysis

The speeches delivered by public relations industry icon Arthur W. Page, during his tenure with the American Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (AT&T), offer an insightful and historical perspective on the contemporary industry standards and ethical practices from which the public relations industry currently operates. Page’s contribution to corporate public relations expends beyond his ability to integrate the function of public relations into the management structure of a major corporation and institutionalize the practice as a way of life for an organization. As highlighted in these speeches, Page’s contribution to the public relations industry is also found in the ethical public relations principles and practices he advocated on how to manage public relations. As a result, the speeches referenced in this collection have the potential to serve as a valuable resource and guide for today’s public relations professionals who are looking for guidance on proven practices from which to operate and make socially responsible decisions.

Page’s contribution to the public relations industry is documented in the speeches he gave to company employees, company executives, and numerous audiences outside the organization. The speeches referenced in this collection span 29 years, from 1927, when Page first began his career as vice president of AT&T, to 1955, shortly after he retired from the company and began consulting for it in 1946. In an effort to preserve the words, counsel and advice of an industry visionary for future generations of practitioners, a total of 38 speeches were compiled. Five manuscripts obtaining seminal speeches that emphasize many of the public relations principles Page promoted are included within this volume. Readers will also find references and summaries to all 38 Page speeches along with a list of the key topics and principles he addressed within each speech. The remaining 33 manuscripts not included in this volume, as well as other letters Page wrote and interviews he provided while at AT&T are not contained here. They can be found in their entirety at the Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication at The Pennsylvania State University.

The earliest speeches recorded during Page’s time with AT&T address those given internally, within the company. Specifically, the first 15 speeches given from 1927 to 1931 address a variety of the Bell Telephone System executives and employees, including those who oversee operations, sales, and publicity. Another nine speeches delivered after 1932 address a variety of audiences outside the company such as the Women’s Junior League, the Institute of Life Insurance, and the Association of Life Insurance Presidents. Three speeches were delivered after 1946 when Page retired from the company and began consulting. There are also two items included in the list of speech references that were authored by Page, but there is currently no indication as to whether or not they were delivered orally (see speech #30 and #34). In both instances, Page is credited with the content. Any letters Page wrote or interviews he provided were excluded from the list of references.

Page’s philosophy of public relations serves as proven guidelines for how large enterprises should conduct business affairs in the public interest and cultivate favorable public opinion. There are seven principles identified by the Arthur W. Page Society as exemplifying Page’s philosophy. These principles were identified throughout this collection of speeches. These principles include 1) tell the truth, 2) prove it with action, 3) listen to the customer, 4) manage for tomorrow, 5) conduct public relations as if the whole company depends on it, 6) remain calm, patient and good-humored, and 7) the company’s true character is expressed by its people. As recognized in the essay, “A Man of Vision, Valor, and Values,” the relevancy of the principles Page continually advocated for demonstrate his keen insight into the practice of corporate public relations. Of note, Page’s understanding of the public’s need for more than honest and truthful communications was evident in the speeches he delivered. As the essay mentions, Page was keenly aware of the need for businesses to remain transparent. Although honest and truthful communications were, and still are, imperative corporate practices, this essay points out that Page’s belief that businesses had a responsibility to the public with whom they served to remain transparent—a practice and policy that today’s corporations would do well to emulate.

Page developed his public relations philosophy during turbulent times for American corporations. First, he helped AT&T successfully manage public relations at a time when suspicion of big business was rising and the company was not only a monopoly, but it was considered the largest corporation in America. Next, he helped the company profitably weather through the Great Depression during a time when many organizations faced severe economic hardships, and last, he met the challenges presented by supply shortages presented by World War II. As Page weathered these circumstances his philosophy of public relations management was repeatedly tested. As a result, readers will find each of the tried-and-true principles exemplified in Page’s words and captured in this collection of speeches as insightful and valuable today as they were so many years ago.