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Public Relations Theories and Models


Although the field of public relations is characterized by complexity due to reliance on theories and certain practices, its role in the effective management of organizations cannot be dismissed. The clear definition of public relations also varies and is mainly based on interdependence through the creation of good relationships with the stakeholders, employees, consumers, and the general public. However, public relations are mainly based on the principle of professionalism. Business practices have been evolving over the years with the need to incorporate approaches that give considerations to the issues of mutuality, consensus, reciprocity, and business ethics. The proponents of the models, Grunig and Hunt, have provided a fundamental approach to the broad concept of public relations. Although their work has been faced with criticism, it has been widely applied in understanding public relations and formed a foundation for further adequate research. Additionally, the models have been used in business training, schools, and business practices.

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Press Agentry Model

Rawlins and Stoker (1999) refer to the press agentry model as publicity and assert that its main goal is to change the attitudes and opinions of the public to align them to those of the organization. This model is mainly based on propaganda that has the elements of exaggerations, half-truths, and lies. This relies on advertising and public persuasion to capture the feelings of the public and ensure that they buy into the ideas of the organization.

The most applicable example of this model is in the promotion of football. The model, in this case, involves the advocacy for football so that the public can get interested in watching and pleading for financial support from the donors and businesses as a way of social responsibility. Further, the model is based on massive media coverage that factors in the elements of entertainment and recreation, creation of a good sports culture through constant competitions, development of the sport, prestige from the game and popularity of the players, clubs and the game, development of the players through coaching and advancement of careers for the players and coaches (Jackowski, 2007).

The model’s applicability to football is evident by the massive media coverage and advertisements especially in events such as the ongoing FIFA World Cup and other events such as the Euro games among others. Additionally, the financial support of football is provided by multinational organizations through sponsorship of the players, clubs, and events. Exaggeration is further seen in the large advocacy of clubs and countries’ popularity while careers of the players are guarded with huge paychecks and training as well as the buying and shifting of players among clubs.

Public Information

This model is based on one-way communication but with emphasis on truth and accuracy (Smith, 2002). It is also based on the ethics of providing objective information perceived to be needed by the public (Rawlins & Stoker, 1999).

The most applicable example of this model is in institutions of higher learning. The model is applied in the clear mission and vision statements of the institutions which are communicated with emphasis based on the core values. The model is also applied in the dissemination of information regarding the courses offered that are mainly advertised in the media. Further, the courses have a set duration of completion and the topics to be covered for the ultimate graduation. The preliminary requirements for the courses are given in terms of the relevant course background and the payment requirements. The model is further applied in the teaching process that mainly involves the dissemination of information from the instructors to the students and the requirements of the assignments. Additionally, the requirements for the pass marks from the courses are given while the rules and regulations of the institution are communicated together with the services available to the students (Moss, Warnaby & Thame, 1996).

The relevance of the model is revealed in the use of brochures to pass the information on the activities the institution is involved in, maps that give the direction of the institution, and other publications to pass the information on the occurrences in the institutions. Further, the application of the model is seen in the issue of press releases when the institutions wish to pass a certain message, clarification, or explanation of the issues affecting it.

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Two-Way Asymmetric Public Relations

This model is based on the reliance on feedback as a way of improving the level of the messages passed by an organization (Smith, 2002). It relies on listening to the public to establish better strategic communication through strategic and persuasive messages. The effectiveness of the model is based on research to change the perspectives of the public and align them to the objectives of the organization.

The model is best applied in financial institutions such as banks due to the need for two-way communication between various stakeholders such as the shareholders, investors, and the general public (Marin, 2007). Banks offer different products and services that are meant to target a specific audience that provides feedback on the same. They also enhance their services through the incorporation of technology such as e-banking, automated machines, money transfer services among others. Further, the management strategies of these organizations are based on adequate research of the market on what is best for them based on feedback from the market.

The services offered by banks are scrutinized by the public. For instance, the quality of customer services is determined by the customers’ opinions on how they are treated at the bank. The financial information of the institutions is disseminated to the shareholders who then give their opinions on the same. The application of the model is supported by the marketing strategies used before the products and services are promoted. Further, the model is revealed in the launch of new products to the public where communication lines are open for feedback (Heath, 2005).

Two-Way Symmetric Public Relations Model

This model is based on the advocacy for the flow of information that is equal and free between the organization and the public (Moss et al., 1996). The model aims at mutual understanding and high degrees of responsiveness coupled with the change of attitudes for both the public and the organization. It relies on feedback for altering the opinions of the public (Smith, 2002).

The model is most applicable in non-profit making organizations (Slater, 2002). This is revealed in the mission, vision, and objectives of the organizations which are based on fulfilling a certain purpose for the community. These organizations are not established for profit-making but rather for providing services for the benefit of the community. This requires adequate research for them to be engaged in activities that benefit the people. They also require reliance on the community they serve since the public has to give information on what it needs. This involves training and educating the public to align its objectives with the organization’s objectives.

The effectiveness of the model is revealed through negotiation, honest feedback, and the adaptation of change through the actual involvement of both the organization and the public. It is also revealed in the management of the organizations in which the community is actively involved. Further, the fact that the projects involve massive funds, adequate and honest feedback is required for accountancy purposes. Additionally, it is relevant in the resolution of conflicts and feedback from other agencies either as criticisms or commendations that enhance their effectiveness (Rawlins & Stoker, 1999).


The models developed by Grunig and Hunt play a fundamental role in the understanding of public relations. The press agentry model is applied in the promotion of football; the public information model is best applied in institutions of higher learning; while the two-way asymmetric model is applied in banks. The two-way symmetric model is best applied in non-profit making organizations. The four models are based on the mode of communication such as one-way or two-way communication and the effective use of feedback.

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Reference List

  1. Heath, R. L. (2005). Encyclopaedia of public relations. New York: Sage Publications.
  2. Jackowski, M. (2007). Conceptualizing an Improved Public Relations Strategy: A Case for Stakeholder Relationship Marketing in Division I-A Intercollegiate Athletics. Journal of Business and Public Affairs, 1(1), pp. 1-7.
  3. Marin, V. (2007). Public relations: contents and models. Brasov: Air Force Academy.
  4. Moss, D., Warnaby, G., & Thame, L. (1996). Tactical publicity or strategic relationship management? An exploratory investigation of the role of public relations in the UK retail sector. European Journal of Marketing, 30(12), pp.69-84.
  5. Rawlins, B., & Stoker, K. (1999). Dealing with paradox in public relations.
  6. Slater, J. (2002). Modern public relations.
  7. Smith, A. P. (2002). An overview of public relations: What it is, when it is needed, why it is used and how to analyze it. Working Papers for English and Communication, 14(2), 163-170.

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