Public Relations Theories
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What Are Public Relations Theories?
Theories are a collection of assumptions that explain how processes work. They are also used to make predictions about the effects of those processes. Theories are usually not unbending rules but rather are merely guides.
The importance of public relations theory is to give an understanding to public relations practitioner of how and what makes public relations work. As an example an engineer needs a theoretical knowledge of physics for him to be able to build a bridge that will not collapse.
During the early days of public relations there were no theories that had been formulated so early practitioners had little or no guidelines for directing them to crafting communications plans, tactics, strategies, or programs.
James E. Grunig who has been practicing public relations for over 20 years and is widely regarded as a public relations guru and Todd Hunt suggested models that have helped tremendously to create advances in the field of public relations. His theories have guided practitioners to become better and more ethical in their field.
What Are These Theories By Grunig and Hunt?
The four models in Grunig’s and Hunt’s theories have developed into models by which the practices of today are analyzed and judged by. Here is a review of the four models.
Public Relations Theories / Press Agentry Model.
During the 19th century press agents labored to create news to influence public opinion. A press agent does not conduct surveys or research they just want to manipulate behavior. Accuracy and credibility are not priorities with this kind of model.
This is a one way communication from the press agents to their publics that uses persuasion and manipulation to influence behavior of an audience. This method is usually employed by practitioners for one way communications to sell products or services without any quantitative analysis of the results.
Public Relations Theories / Public Information Model.
This model is still a one way communications method but accuracy of the message become more vital. This model does not consider information about the audience to be essential in constructing messages and releases. In the early 20th century there was move among some enlightened public relations practitioners towards more truthful and accurate messages.
The move away from half truths and outright falsehoods was the precursor to increasing ethical practices. Although this model still does not have any methods for quantitative analysis of the results practitioners are slightly more inclined to gather feedback from their audiences. This model is used mostly by government agencies, military units, and law enforcement agencies.
Public Relations Theories / Two Way Asymmetric Model.
Feedback is more important to practitioner but the aim is not to improve organizational practices but rather to influence attitudes of their audiences. After World War I there was an increase in consumer products which also dictated the need for marketing that was targeted specifically for a definite demographic or audience.
Although this models advocates two way communication practitioners are hardly thinking about balanced communication. The goal of this model is to get into the psychology of their audience so that messages can be tailored to get the most effective reaction. This is the method most used by advertisers all round the world.
Two Way Symmetric Model. This is probably the most ethical method of all the models. The aim of this model is dialogue not monologue. The feedback that the organization gathers is used to change organizational practices.
Negotiation, resolution of conflict, mutual understanding, and mutual respect between the organization and its publics are the desired results of this model. This model is often employed by business or non-profit organizations that find themselves in a conflict situation. This model attempts to find a mutually advantageous solution to a problem.
For more information about public relations and how public relations can boost the reputation of your business follow these links:
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Still unclear about the concept of PR? See our What is Public Relations page for clarity.
Dig deeper. See the Public Relations History page.
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