Grunig and Hunt’s four models
James Grunig and Todd Hunt used four categories of communication relationship with publics, placed in a historical context (see handbook p.
1. Press agentry/publicity model
2. Public information model
3. Two-way asymmetric PR
4. Two-way symmetric PR
Press agentry/publicity model
A press agent or publicist aims to secure coverage for a client, and truth is not an absolute requirement.
This type of PR is most common in showbusiness – celebrity PR – where individuals are promoted through media coverage. Understanding is not necessary for this kind of PR, which is likely to measure success in column inches or airtime.
An example of this kind of PR is the American circus owner P.T. Barnum, who in the 1850s obtained massive coverage for his ‘Greatest Show on Earth’.
He coined the phrase ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’ and used stunts such as the ‘marriage’ of circus stars Tom Thumb and Jenny Lind to gain massive media coverage ‘pseudo events’ = activities created solely for publicity purposes.
David Boorstin: “Contrary to popular belief,
Barnum’s great discovery was not how easy it is to deceive the public, but rather, how much the public enjoyed being deceived.”
Barnum’s successor today is publicist Max Clifford, who has a reputation for securing front page coverage for his clients, though he also claims that much of his work is spent keeping them out of the papers.
One of Clifford’s most memorable coups is the Sun’s front page headline ‘Freddie Starr ate my hamster’.
Another example might be publicity activity surrounding a famous artist, which has been orchestrated by a number of public relations consultancies (Celebrity PR) influenced the news content of daily newspapers, as well as providing the material for magazines
Public information model
This kind of communication provides information to people – where accuracy is now important and essential.
This model does not seek to persuade the audience or change attitudes, but to release relevant information to those who need it one-way communication, from sender to receiver.
Ivy Leadbetter Lee at the turn of the twentieth century; a business journalist who tried to obtain information about the highly secretive US industrial conglomerations that dominated the economy of the time. An early illustration of his principle in practice was his advice to a rail company to tell the truth about an accident instead of concealing it.
Lee’s advice to the Rockefeller family on how to respond to the Ludlow Massacre at the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company plant and counter their image as greedy capitalists by publicising the money they gave to charity.
Local and central government continue to practise public information communication through press releases giving details of committee decisions, budget allocation, or movement of personnel.
In recent years, the shift from public to private sector utilities has placed a similar emphasis on the need to explain pricing policies to customers ‘transparency’ by improved technology via the internet
Two-way asymmetric PR
This model introduces the idea of feedback or two-way communication.
It is asymmetric or imbalanced because the intended change is in the audience’s attitudes or behaviour rather than in the organisation’s practices. It is also described as persuasive communication relies on an understanding of the attitudes and behaviour of the targeted publics (e.g. health campaign)
Planning and research are important to this kind of public relations.
Edward L. Bernays established to advise the US government during the First World War wartime propaganda (see handbook p.14)
Bernays’ idea to extend Lucky Strikes’ sales of cigarettes to women by persuading ten debutantes to smoke while walking in New York’s…