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Four Models Of Public Relations Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 5440 words Published: 27th Jul 2021

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The four models of public relations and communication are practiced by J. Grunig and Hunt in year 1984. At that time, many scholars of public relations are doing the research of how these four models are practiced by public relations practitioners and why they practiced. The four models are press agentry model, public information model, two-way asymmetrical model and two-way symmetrical model. They described how public relations practitioners to be effectively and ethically practiced by offers a normative theory in two-way symmetrical model. Mixed-motive public relations were practice with combine the two-way symmetrical model and two-way asymmetrical model.

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In 1975, the first study on the behaviour of public relations was done by J. Grunig, he categorised it and published the result in 1976. The study is telling about how the communication functions is perform in the different way by the public relations practitioners and why their behaviour is not alike. In order to categorise the different behaviour of public relations, an excellent public relations model was introduced in which how they are practice. Although there is no any representation can be perfectly described the reality of the world, but it is still a need to come out a model for people to understand and work on it. “Model” is defined as a set of values and a schema of behaviour practiced by public relations practitioners and public relations department in organising their programmes and campaigns.

The different kind of public relations have been describing by the historians and some other textbooks’ authors with some coarse terms. For instance, according to historian Eric Goldman (1948), press agentry model in the early era was named as “the public be fooled” and public information theory was named as “public be informed”. The one-way and two-way communication also named like the same manner in the textbooks by Cutlip and Center’s in the first edition in 1952. J. Grunig stated one-way and two-way models of communication in his first study of the behaviour of public relations with included the direction and purpose of communication. Synchronic and diachronic communication are the concepts took by J. Grunig from Thayer’s (1968) which is the behaviour used by particular organisation to practiced it all the time in order to isolated from any interference. While the diachronic communication is used to maintain mutual affairs of organisation to not only benefit the organisation itself but also their public.

A study of Grunig (1976) claimed that synchronic and diachronic communication were too simplified and as plain as daylight to described the behaviour of public relations after he measured the practice of sixteen public relations activities in around two hundred of organisations in the area of Baltimore-Washington such as press releases writing, counselling the leaders, planning a program, evaluation on a program etc. After that, he comes out the asymmetrical model and symmetrical model to replace synchronic and diachronic models with understand the purpose of public relations to balance up the communication and effect between the organisation and its public.

The four models of public relations and communication are leading and bringing the researchers to understand their behaviour in practicing like advertising or campaign. The models are using until today is because they are effective to convey the particular message from the sender to the receiver which is the organisation to their public. They are using these models in order to achieve their objectives of placing their message in media. Press agentry model is intended to get favourable attention in media. Public information model is use to inform the public like a fact, it is frequently used by the non-profit organisations, education institutions, government agencies and some other corporations. Two-way asymmetrical model is a persuasion and manipulation which aimed to influence the public to act in the way organisation’s desire. Two-way symmetrical model is attempted to achieve a win-win situation which build mutual understanding between the organisation and its public (Kellimatthews, 2009).

1. Press Agentry Model


Press agentry model was the earliest PR model. It comes out in the late 19th century (Grunig & Hunt, 1984). The heyday of this model from 1850 to 1900 and P.T. Barnum was the representative of the historical figure (Chao, 2012). Press agentry model is one-way communication as the flow of information that is from the sender to the receiver which known as source-to-receiver communication. People who send out the message are not much take no account of second party’s response, comment, point of view and so on. Press agentry attempts to alter the act of publics whereas do not have the intention to change the behavior of the organization. Public relations whose are under press agentry struggle for publicity in the media in almost any way possible.

Practitioners of press agentry have included so-called fathers of modern PR, Ivy Lee and Edward Bernays. In the early 20th Century, both were Broadway press agents, when Broadway was the capital of the entertainment world, before moving on. Bernays’ move into constructed news that accounts for audience perceptions and biases is a sophisticated form of press agentry. His 1915 80-page press packet for the Diaghilev Ballet Russe American tour was an early example, and his work in 1932 publicizing autos for General Motors with testimonials from business and academic leaders was more elaborate.

Press agents had done a research by monitoring the media in which they sought to post favorable articles related to their clients. Besides that, the American impresario P. T. Barnum is the prototype practitioner of this model at the same time he also promoted circuses and other entertainment venues such as the singer Jenny Lind. In Press Agentry publicity model, public relations expects increases the reputation of the organization to their target audience, stakeholders, employees, partners, all other affiliated with it through managements. In additions, this model hiring public relations expects who established a positive reputation of their brand and states in the minds of the audiences through arguments and reasons. Their potential customers had influence by simply imposing creative stories of their brand, idea, thoughts and USPs of the products.

Although J. Grunig and Hunt claims that the “public-relations-like” activities completely history, they argues that the press agents used the first name in the mid-19th century and it specialists to the practice of public relations. Andrew Jackson, Daniel Boone, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Calamity Jane who’s practiced the press agentry model of public relations as such heroes. Furthermore, P.T. Barnum, the most prominent practitioner and skillfully presented his circus performers by using the axiom which is “There is a sucker born every minute.”

Moreover, Curiosity and skepticism played as important role in the process of successful for the press agentry model. Butterick (2009) recommended that when we read the tabloid newspaper, we can just take a look to the inner editorial pages, the new movie or CD is launched to see the press agentry model. Therefore, Press agents like Max Clifford who responsible as masters of the industry and carefully managing the media coverage of their customers. He also claims that ‘even the so-called exclusive pictures of semi-naked celebrities on a beach in a Sunday newspaper can sometimes be the result of a collusion between the star’s publicist and photographer’.

Nowadays, press agentry model is still using in our society. It can easily clarify that the ethics which involved to this model are highly questionable at the same time the admission from Grunig & Hunt announced that the model there are an characteristics of propaganda attached to distil the negative connotations (Butterick, 2009). However, it is eventually shows that the curiosity and skepticism of it which make sure the press agentry model is still working and prominent in modern day. Although it is a modern day, PR practitioner should be more familiar with the truth, the foundations of this model still exist whether it be to publicize a sporting event, a theatre production, or ‘the scariest film of the decade’, as in the recent movie release ‘Paranormal Activity’ (2009). We, the public, will either want to believe what we see, or find out for ourselves if our scepticism can be improved correct that why this model is still working for practitioners seeking to gain the illusive media spotlight in 21st Century.

Press agentry is closely associated with publicity in the entertainment world. Press agentry is the practice of attracting the attention of the press through technique that manufactures news. Methods associated with press agentry include staged events, publicity stunts, faux rallies or gatherings, spinning, and hype. A common practice is the late 1800s and early 1900s, press agentry is not part of mainstream public relations. Rather, it is a practice primarily associated with major entertainment-related events, such as Hollywood premieres and boxing matches. The goal of press agentry is to attract attention rather than gain understanding. Even today, however, the term press agent is sometimes used interchangeably with publicist in traditional Broadway Theater and motion picture industries. Today’s entertainment industries are populated with publicists rather than press agents. Publicists are individuals skilled in media relations who attempt to get the name of their clients or events in the media by carefully constructing messages that inform, educate, and persuade. Some are astute in branding and positioning strategies to aid the careers and success of their clients.

In contrast, press agents want attention either good or bad in most any form. Press agentry had been called persuasion for short-term advantage through the use of truth bending and even distortion, but it can also be simply the staging of provocative acts to get publicity and draw attention to an individual, event, or cause. Therefore, it is understandable that one of the earliest proponents of press agentry was Phineas Taylor (P.T) Barnum, the famed American showman and promoter who put gun Gen. Tom Thumb on exhibit and launched a mobile circus featuring Jumbo the elephant and freak shows. Barnum was a master of press agentry. For instance, he wrote letters both praising and criticizing his circus show to newspaper under an assumed name.

In the early part of his career, Edward L. Bernays was also a master of press agentry. He persuaded 10 debutantes to hold up Lucky Strike cigarettes manufactured by his client, the American Tobacco Company, as “torches of freedom” while participating in New York’s Easter parade. In 1929, Bernays staged a global news event by organizing the “Light’s Golden Jubilee,” a worldwide celebration commemorating the 50th anniversary of the electric light bulb for his client, General Electric. Bernays managed to secure several prominent individuals for that event, including carmaker Henry Ford, electricity scientist Thomas Edison, and President Herbert Hoover.

Henry Rogers, one of the founders of Rogers and Cowan, the largest and most successful West Coast entertainment publicity firm, became famous when he promoted an unknown contract player for Columbia Pictures named Rita Hayworth. A fictitious group of Look magazine from the Fashion Couturiers Association of America asserts that Hayworth was the best-dressed off-screen actress after Henry contact with them. Look magazine took the bait and put Hayworth on the cover and published 10 pages of her photographs.


Press agentry is ink. A sales-driven approach does whatever it takes to get exposure for clients in the media without resorting to paid advertising. Press agentry is not above truth-bending or lying to reach its pragmatic objective. It will make up facts if it needs to do so. It is persuasion for short-term advantage. Press agentry will not dissolve because it is a long term job of PR. Press agentry has convert its operation with the value of ethnics for more than 10 years ago. It made a balance within getting exposure and maintaining the reality for fact. However, getting exposure will be serving as first if there are any failures.

Press agentry relies on spin. It is interpreting facts to fit one’s view and to get media coverage. Christopher Buckley’s hilarious novel, “Thank You for Smoking” lampoons this type of practitioner brilliantly, and post-presidential debate commentary from Democrats and Republicans is a quadrennial example of spinning. Press agentry includes any technique that manufactures news which are publicity stunts, faux surveys, fake committees, constructed events and other tactics practitioners continue to use.

Propaganda classified as one of the characteristic of press agentry model (Grunig & Hunt, 1984). The term of propaganda in press agentry model, refer to PR practitioner exaggerate and more hype than facts in order to get publicity for their client. They will not care the public feedback and just want the public behave as they want. According to the academics such as Butterick (2009), Theaker (2004), and Johnston & Zawawi (2004), when create news to influence the audience, the precision and reliability are be compromised through the way of stunts or specific publicity seeking. PR practitioners use various types of PR tool to make sure that audience take a specific course of action and behave what they wish. This type of practitioners will go into ‘press agents’ (Butterick, 2009).

2. Public Information Model

Public information model is one of the four models of public relation. It is the second earliest model. It is a one-way communication model. This model is revolved from half-truths to more ethical practices. This model aims to inform the public. It involves the sender who sends message or information and receiver who receives the message of the information. The model involves little of research, on contrary, the readability and readership is quite high. The model mainly practices by the government, non-profit association and business.

According to Grunig & Hunt (1984, pp. 22), “the purpose is the dissemination of information necessarily with persuasive intent. The public relations person objectively reports information about the organisation to the public.” Unlike the press agentry model, public information model focus more on the distribution of information than creating news. It intended to give clear and factual information to the audience.

One of the examples of the public information in Malaysia is the declarations of Deputy Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and the state executive councillors on the assets they owned. The news was published in the early year of 2012. They had reviewed about their investments, fixed deposit, loans, shares, houses, cars, property like shop lots and others (The Star Online, 2012). This action had showed that Lim Guan Eng and the state executive councillors had practised the public information model. They tell the truthful information to the public through media. They let the people to get informed about their personal assets. They try to be transparent which shows their fair and honesty in ruling the state.

Ivy Lee’s, one of the earliest public relations practitioners, was the first to use the public information model. He was advising a railway company to be honest to the public and media regarding the accidents on the railways. The reputation of the company had risen. Further, it had increased the public information model’s value especially for the crisis management (Americanessays, 2011). Some statements argue that the transmission of honest and truthful in managing the crisis is vital though it is not only the way in the method in crisis management. Telling the truth to the public may bring deficit to the company. However, the appropriate management of crisis and adequate apologise would give a better reputation than closing the truth (Americalessays, 2011).

As for the crisis in the Malaysia context was the crisis faced by the MAS Sdn. Bhd. This is the news reported in The Sydney Morning Herald, an Australia online newspaper titled, “Malaysia Airlines in ‘crisis’ after loss”. This is issue started in 2005. MAS was facing the financial crisis and this issue reviewed to the public about the reason. This online press reported the amount of the loss like the loss of 2.52 billion ringgit and the problems faced for the flights like the competition with other airlines like AirAsia. The company told the truth story of the crisis to the public which this action may bring damage to the company and the reputation of the company may fall. This shows that the company serves the public by telling the truth. It put the public before its company. This goes same for the press that published the news. The press practises the public information model in this particular case. The press serves not only for the business company, it also reserve the right of the public to know the facts and truth (The Sydney Morning Herald, 2012).

As the example above, these days, the other companies like the media company also practice the public information model, even though the model is applied the government, non-profit association and business in the past.

There is a statistic showed that this model has the highest percentage of 50% of the organisation practicing this model nowadays (Theaker, 2004, 2nd ed.). The tools such as the press release, brochure, flyers, the web content, and others are used to distribute the information to the public (Thoughsleeding, 2008). The information that will be included in the distribution materials are the details of the company, products, testimonial, success stories and others. Promotion and publicity of the companies are aimed to be spread among the target audience. Though the main objective of the public information model is to disseminate the information to the public, this model does not pursue to persuade the public nor change their attitudes. It should be benefiting the public the most. However, some of the companies have the other motives. They wish to publicise their company, products and services, build brand awareness and brand image, position the brand, and others (Management study guide, 2012).

This model is still practicing and it is highly practised by the public in nowadays. This had indirectly showed that the model has certain effectiveness in communication. The following will be discussing the model with the government agencies about how they utilise this model in producing the respective news to the public.

The present Prime Minister, YAB Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had announced the 1Malaysia concept. The government had put much effort in publicising the concept especially to educate and to inform the public about the concept. The effort can be seen in the Malaysia mainstream media, such as radio, newspaper and television. Newspaper is the tool that used the most often to transmit the vital and detail information about 1Malaysia concept.

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In the one of the mainstream newspaper, The Star, 1Malaysia is strongly publicised. The Star is used to inform the public about the announcement of the plans and programmes under 1Malaysia. The most popular 1Malaysia plan is the 1Malaysia Grocery Shops. The Star published about the details about the shop like the location, grocery items sold, the pricing list, business hours and other information. This is to educate rather to inform the public about the groceries in 1Malaysia. (The Star Online, 2012)

The mainstream media are indirectly linked with the Malaysia government. The content is sometimes bias and being controlled. The publishing of 1Malaysia concept seems as one of the controlled content of news. This can be argued be as the agenda setting. The media emphasise and report a lot of news about 1Malaysia. It seems like the media shape and directs the public to think about the grocery shop (Mohd. Adnan Hashim, 2011).

In addition, the news published is rather good news. This had made the public to believe that the 1Malaysia grocery shops are well running and this will gain confidence and support. There are other government plans are also like the New Economic Model, Vision 2020, Green Technology and other government plans. They are mostly used as public information model and agenda setting.

3. Asymmetrical Model

Asymmetrical model include one-way asymmetrical and two-way asymmetrical. One-way symmetrical model doesn’t use any research to find out what the public perceive a particular organisation. However, the organisation doesn’t change anyway but intend to persuade and manipulate the public to behave and to support in the way the organisation wish to. Two-way asymmetrical model also known as scientific persuasion as the model is use social science methods to produce more and more persuasive communication. This model usually focuses on the achievement of changing the audience’s behaviour and attitude in short period of time. Communication under this model is two-way which is from the organisation to its publics, there is also gain the feedback from the public. The main purpose to gain the public’s feedback is solely to help the organisation place their message in a more acceptable way by the public (Grunig & Hunt, 1984). For instance, many of the cosmetics companies are less or even not to use the animal to test their products as they found out that the consumers are tend to pay more concern towards the animal and environment. They try to approach to the consumers with the aim to place them approach to companies’ point of view (Shirley Harrison, n.d.).

According to the historical studies of Olasky (1987, 1989) shows that the success of propagandists at World War II, Bernays believed that humans are can be manipulated. He mentioned mention that humans can be manipulated for the bad purpose as well as good purpose. However, Grunig (1989) stated that publics often take advantage form the strange things such as dangerous products, gender discrimination, pollution etc. For the past examples, Bernay comes out a thought to boost the sales of Lucky Strikes’ cigarettes towards women, he persuade ten ladies who are first time to participate an social event to smoke on the public place while walking in the parade of New York’s Easter. Besides, in year 1929, Bernays also hired by General Electric to persuade many of the world’s electricity supply to switch off the power and light to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Thomas Edison for his invention of light bulb to commemorate the greatness of Edison. In 1924, Bernays started the first education course of Public Relations at New York University. He was the pioneer of public relations academic.

Some people are not believed in public relations practitioner as persuasion is being doubt by them and undesirable for nowadays propaganda. There are positive and negative persuasive communication in the marketplace and society. Such as public healthy campaigns like ‘TAK NAK’ that persuade the public to reducing smoking or even not to smoke to keep the body healthy. The Public Service Announcement (PSA) of encouraging safer driving likes not to break through the traffic light and not driving after drinking alcohol. Furthermore, the political campaign for the elections is using the two-way asymmetrical model which the candidate is seek to influences the voters to stand by their point of view. The candidate will try to persuade the voters to vote for them with slogan like “vote Barisan National to preserve the country peaceful”. This is to create fear among the people deep-seated worries, they play with special appeals to place the propaganda onto the public. Most of the advertising would like to use this model because at the end of the time, the benefits are not enjoyed by the consumer but the advertiser which is the organisation.

The propaganda can use to describe this model. Propaganda intends to alter the public perception on certain thing. It is use as a communication to achieve the organisation’s desire and expectation. The priority of place the propaganda is to change the way public behaves currently to act in the way an organisation aimed to. According to Lasswell’s propaganda theory, the existing environment can influence the people to be vulnerable to simple form of propaganda. One of the examples of propaganda is glittering generalities, which is using the positive words to represent a particular product or person. Such as the newspaper of Guang Ming Daily, they use the slogan of “your everyday best friend” to make people accept and support their newspaper just like a best friend that you needed every day. Another example is “McDonald is America’s favourite”, this is a kind of bandwagon that carrying a meaning of every American are like to eat McDonald, thus you should be one of them. More and more advertising use propaganda to place their product or service in order to manipulate their consumer to agree with the organisation’s point of view and tend to support their product or service. For example, the advertisement of Calvin Klein’s perfume, the scene shows a character that use the perfume will look cool and able to attract the opposite sex to approach them. In other words, whoever wants to look attractive must use the Calvin Klein’s perfume.

Nowadays, more and more of the advertisers like to invite the celebrities to be the endorser of a particular product or service. This is because the celebrities have the ability to influence their fans approach to particular product and boost the sales indirectly. For example, Pepsi, a soft drink company who invest a large amount on the famous celebrities at home and abroad such as Taiwan, Hong Kong and western countries to endorse their product. This is to create a celebrity charm in order to boost their sales. This technique is known as testimonial that able to influence and manipulate the audience to act according to the advertising which is the indeed objective behind the advertisement. The advertisers are aimed at the idolater mentality of the audiences, and then provide the information of how to approach their idol with Pepsi soft drink. In addition, the Disneyland’s slogan, “the happiest place on earth” makes the audiences feel that there is the place to go to feel good and having a better life with no worries. Apparently, the organisation is intended to create an impact among the audiences to step toward to Disneyland to join the joy.

4. Symmetrical Model

According to James E Grunig, he said that Public relations are the spread of management of an organization and publics and the purpose is to establish a target public relationship of mutual trust. Mr. James E Grunig is a noted of public relations theories and adding a new theories which is four models of public relations in 1984. One of the models of public relations is two-way symmetrical model which is the best and ideal model than other three models, said by James E Grunig.

Two-way symmetrical model is emphasizes on dialogue, complete and accurate two-way communication. The main purpose is to promote mutual understanding between organizations and publics therefore the results of communication is benefits to both sides. Furthermore, it emphasis on public relations works to be built on the basic of the investigation and communication to resolve conflicts with strategies public through the dissemination of public relations mode. Besides that, two-way symmetrical models express the meaning of emphasized moral, stressed the need to balance between the interests of social organizations and publics. For example, some public relations department is using a two-way symmetrical model rather than two-way asymmetrical model to carry out the public relations activities.

James E Grung, whose always get attention to others person dialogue, attitudes and behaviour and believes that two-way symmetrical model is unique than two-way asymmetrical model. It is because two-way asymmetrical model just to change others without changing ourselves. For example, public relations mostly used two-way asymmetrical model to reach their target audience. Moreover, he claims that good public relations not only successes to persuaded one side which is client or publics, he or she must persuaded both sides to change. Although some used of two-way asymmetrical model can evenly achieve in two-way symmetrical model. A success two-way symmetrical model is to let others recognize that there had self interest included in the information and to persuade them as well as uses each other common interest to persuade them.

Two-way symmetrical model is refers to the interaction of two factors that affect each other in order to achieve the balanced state in society. There are several characteristics positioning relationship between the government, mass media and publics. Thus, this is also a kind of communication between the states on behalf both. Firstly, it is two-way in performance of the government and media to maintain mutual cooperation and mutual restraint. It means that government should actively using the mass media public resources, truthful, fair, proactive in mass media to provide government information to understand the ideal of the spread of mass media and value orientation therefore maintain relationship between government and publics. Besides that, mass media as social and public resources and helps publics to convey their perceptions and comments for government. Two-way symmetrical model used for media to enhance the relationship between government and publics at the same time achieve the harmony of social relations. Second, two-way symmetrical is the best way to lead the government and media to share a common goal which is to protect public’s interest. For example, government promoted 1Malaysia concepts through media such as television and radio. This shows that government used two-way symmetrical model to maintain good relationship with media and publics.

James E Grunig argued that two-way symmetrical model can included the central route to persuasion. The central route to persuasion is persuaded by the arguments or content of the message. For example, after hearing a solution of the problems, people may decide to forgive and forgot the problems because they will convinced to it. Furthermore, Public relations also used the two-way symmetrical model to resolve conflict. For example, public relations provided the ways that will benefits to two sides therefore the conflict will be fulfilment. In addition, public relations increases the effectiveness of organizations by maintain the independence to organization and publics. For example, organizations manage the independence by building long term effect and stable the relationship between organization and publics.

Two-way symmetrical model also used by public relations to shared mission of their organization. For example, there are many public relations programs such as fund raising or health campaigns are motivated more for the need to support from public than conflict. Moreover, two-way symmetrical model mostly used in maintain the relationship between organization and publics and negotiate with publics. It will make the organization more responsible to their clients and publics. For example, organizations need to fulfil public’s needs and wants at the same promoted organization reputation. Therefore, two-way symmetrical model can even defined the ethics of public relations is rather than an outcome.

Two types of research have been shows that two-way symmetrical model makes organizations more effectives. It shows that two-way symmetrical model is the most ethical approach to public relations and the ethics of public relations and the effectiveness of the models will helps to achieving the public relations objectives. For example, public relations announced to publics the information and tog


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