Arthur Page, the Capitol Hill and the First 100 Days
It’s a fascinating time to be in Washington, DC right now. The first 100 days of any new administration (sort of a fake deadline, but one that the media loves) is always a time of intense focus. And it is true that when a President’s popularity ranking is high, THAT is when it is time to expend political capital in the capitol (could not resist a short grammar lesson on what is a pet peeve of mine).
So President Obama is going to try to ramrod some rules and legislation through, most Democrats will support him and there will be wailing from the Republicans. Happens every time. Lots of rhetoric that people dissect, but I ignore.
So since I am sure that President Obama is reading my .rss feed on his $3,300 mobile device (what a commercial for the company), I harken back to what I think are the fundamental keys of acting in such a way to gain public acceptance — and that is the Arthur Page Principles.
In 1927 (this is not a typo), Arthur Page, a former VP for “American Telephone and Telegraph”) set our the fundamental principles for what has become the modern-day public relations practice (and I consistently argue, the basis of both offline and online- the Page Principles). Here’s my combination of Mr. Page’s advice along with my unsolicited input for the incoming administration as well as the new Congress.
- Tell the truth. Let the public know what’s happening and provide an accurate picture of the company’s character, ideals and practices. [My note: Nothing could be more true for me. Most people feel that politicians don’t tell them the truth. If you are going to raise my taxes, tell me. I am a big boy].
- Prove it with action. Public perception of an organization is determined 90 percent by what it does and 10 percent by what it says. [My note: If you are worried about “the little guy” or the unemployed, isn’t it a little incongruous to spend millions on an inauguration, even if it is paid for with private money? What if one — just one — incoming President said that the best way to thank supporters would be to donate the money what would have been spent getting drunk and shouting (and I have been drunk and shouted at inaugural balls) and start some sort of job retraining center for the unemployed?]
- 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. [My note: In this case, the “customer” is the American public and you are going to get 300 million different opinions. This one is a little harder, but there has to be a better way to listen/govern than opinion polls].
- Manage for tomorrow. Anticipate public reaction and eliminate practices that create difficulties. Generate goodwill. [My note: This actually fits pretty nicely with “political capital.” Generate good will amongst supporters and hurry up and spend it. But I am also curious if things like “manage for tomorrow” include the looming social security problem that no one wants to talk about.]
- 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. [My note: Not a lot to say about this except that how many times has an administration come to town and said “THIS IS GOING TO BE THE MOST ETHICAL ADMINISTRATION IN HISTORY!” ‘Nuff said.
- 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. [My note: Remember Ronald Reagan, his good humor and charm that earned him the nickname of both “The Great Communicator” as well as the “Teflon President?” ]
Just my thoughts, but it still amazes me that a set of guidelines that were laid out more than 70 years ago would still be SO relevant today.