08 February, 2009

Arthur Page

Arthur W. Page was a vice president and director of AT&T from 1927 to 1947.

Arthur was born 10 September 1883 to Walter Hines Page and his wife Willa A. Page of Aberdeen, North Carolina. Arthur helped his father with the monthly magazine World's Work, and in 1913 took over as editor from his father.

In 1927 Walter S. Gifford hired Page to become vice-president for public relations at AT&T. One of his first assignments was to prepare a speech for President Gifford to present in October that year to the National Association of Railroad and Utilities Commissioners meeting in Dallas, Texas.

In the early 1900s, AT&T had assessed that 90 percent of its press coverage was negative, which was reduced to 60 percent by changing its business practices and disseminating information to the press. According to business historian John Brooks, Page positioned the company as a public utility and increased the public's appreciation for its contributions to society. On the other hand, Stuart Ewen wrote that AT&T used its advertising dollars with newspapers to manipulate its coverage and had their public relations team write feature stories that were published as if they were written by independent journalists.

In 1941, when the book The Bell Telephone System by A.W. Page was published, the Dallas speech was quoted in chapter 2: "Responsibility for such a large part of the entire telephone service of the country...imposes on the management an unusual obligation to the public..."

 He is sometimes referred to as "the father of corporate public relations" for his work at AT&T. The company was experiencing resistance from the public to its monopolization efforts. Page is said to have established a series of public relations heuristics generally referred to as the Page Principles. In fact, they were composed by Jack Koten, Larry Foster and Ed Block, founding members of the eponymous Arthur W. Page Society, which acknowledges that the Page Principles are derived from Mr. Page's works. No words or phrases from Mr. Page's writings appear in the principles and none of the Page Principles authors worked with or for Arthur Page. It is unclear if any knew or met Mr. Page or that a bibliography or notes survive.

Arthur died in September 1960.

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