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Larissa A. Grunig, James E. Grunig, William P.

Ehling, What Is an Effective

Organization?, in James E. Grunig (ed.), Excellence in Public Relations and
Communication Management, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale, NJ., 1992
James E. Grunig, Larissa A. Grunig, Models of Public Relations and
Communication, in James E. Grunig (Ed.), Excellence in Public Relations and
Communication Management, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale, NJ., 1992
In this chapter, we describe four models of public relations that we have used in our
research to capture the enormous variation in public relations practice and to reduce
that variation to these four simplified representations. We also explain why we believe
one of these models will characterize the behavior of excellent public relations
departments, discuss research that has identified the conditions that make the practice
of this model possible, and discuss theoretical developments that clarify how to
practice the excellent model of public relations.
-286J. Grunig and Hunt (1984) first identified the four models in the history of public
relations. Although J. Grunig and Hunt acknowledged that there had been "publicrelations-like" activities throughout history, they claimed that the press agents of the
mid-19th century were the first full-time specialists to practice public relations. These
press agents practiced the press agentry/publicity model of public relations for such
heroes as Andrew Jackson, Daniel Boone, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Calamity Jane. The
most prominent of these practitioners was P. T. Barnum, who skillfully promoted his
circus performers using the axiom, "There is a sucker born every minute."
-287At the beginning of the 20th century, according to J. Grunig and Hunt ( 1984), a
second model of public relations, the public information model, developed as a
reaction to attacks on large corporations and government agencies by muckraking
journalists. Leaders of these organizations realized they needed more than the
propaganda of press agents to counter the attacks on them in the media. Instead, they
hired their own journalists as public relations practitioners to write press "handouts"
explaining their actions. Although practitioners of the public information model
generally chose to write only good things about their organizations, the information
they did report generally was truthful and accurate.
J. Grunig and Hunt ( 1984) identified Ivy Lee as the primary historical figure whose
work characterized the public information model. Lee began his career as a
newspaper reporter who did his best work writing about banking and business. When
he moved to the employ of the businesses he reported, he was able to use his talent for
"explaining complicated and misunderstood facts to a popular audience" ( Hiebert,
1966, p. 39) to help business explain and defend itself.
Both the press agentry and the public information models represent one-way
approaches to public relations -- the dissemination of information from organizations
to publics, usually through the media. Beginning with the Creel Committee during

World War I, however, some public relations practitioners began to base their work on
the behavioral and social sciences. Foremost among these practitioners was Edward
L. Bernays. As a nephew of Sigmund Freud, he took an interest in psychology and
based his practice on it.
Behavioral and social sciences, of course, would not be sciences if they were not
based on research. Thus, the introduction of a scientific approach made the practice of
public relations two-way: Practitioners both sought information from and gave
information to publics. Sciences also are based on theories; and the theories
introduced by Bernays were those of propaganda, persuasion, and the "engineering of
consent." J. Grunig and Hunt (1984), therefore, described the first two-way model of
public relations as the two-way asymmetrical model
-288The two-way symmetrical model makes use of research and other forms of two-way
communication. Unlike the two-way asymmetrical model, however, it uses research to
facilitate understanding and communication rather than to identify messages most
likely to motivate or persuade publics.
Each of the four models of public relations could serve as a normative
public relations. They could tell a practitioner how to be a press agent
information specialist, for example. We believe, however, that the
symmetrical model should be the normative model for public relations
describes how excellent public relations should be practiced.

theory of
or public
-- that it

Organizational Culture
Organizational culture has a strong influence both on who holds power and on how
the organization practices public relations. The relationship between culture
-298and power seems to be circular: People in power develop the culture of an
organization and organizational culture influences who gains power.
Sriramesh, J. Grunig, and Buffington reduce typologies of organizational culture to a
continuum between authoritarian and participative cultures. Authoritarian cultures
generally use a closed-system approach to management and participative cultures an
open-system approach. Evidence of the importance of these cultures came from R.
Pollack (1986) study of scientific organizations. R. Pollack developed several
questionnaire items to measure Donohue, Tichenor, and Olien (1973) concepts of
"knowledge of" and "knowledge about" science - concepts that can be associated with
closed- and open-system styles of management.
Knowledge of science comes from within the science system and reinforces that
system. Knowledge about science comes from outside the system and is more critical

of it. Authoritarian cultures should be more likely to value knowledge of the

organization and participative cultures knowledge about the organization. R. Pollack (
1986) found such correlations among these two types of knowledge and the four
models of public relations. Valuing knowledge of science correlated with press
agentry (.31) and public information (.28). Knowledge about science correlated with
the two-way symmetrical model (.20) and the two-way asymmetrical model (.13), but
the latter correlation was not statistically significant.
Differences in culture manifest themselves in the ways in which the dominant
coalition in an organization exercises power. Although an open-system style of
management should work best for most organizations, normatively, most do not use
that system because the dominant coalition believes that it can maintain its power
more easily through a closed-system approach ( Robbins, 1990) -- an approach that
includes asymmetrical com
-299munication. Concurrently, the dominant coalition typically believes that an open,
symmetrical system threatens its power.
Potential of the Public Relations Department
According to our definition, public relations departments have more potential if they
are headed by a manager rather than a technician, if practitioners in the department -especially the senior person -- have training and knowledge of the two-way
symmetrical model, and if men and women have equal opportunity in the department.
The research reported in J. Grunig and L. Grunig (1989) supports the proposition that
the greater the potential of the public relations department, the more likely it will be
that the senior person in the department will be in the dominant coalition and the more
likely that the organization will practice the two-way symmetrical model.
Schema for Public Relations
Several studies (Fabiszak, 1985; McMillan, 1984, 1987; Nanni, 1980; E. Pollack ,
1984) have reported positive correlations between the two-way symmetrical model
and the extent to which senior management supports and understands public relations
or has formal training in public relations. These same variables correlate negatively
with press agentry and public
-300information and insignificantly with the two-way asymmetrical model. These results
suggest that the way in which senior managers define and understand public relations
produces what we call a schema for public relations in the
organization.. People in general have many different -- and usually
confused -- schemas for public relations, and members of dominant coalitions seldom
provide exceptions to this generalization. The way in which members of the dominant
coalition conceptualize public relations, in turn, essentially dictates how an
organization practices it.

The confusion between public relations and marketing also imposes a limited schema
on the public relations function in many organizations. Maymi ( 1987), for example,
found that the sports organizations she studied, with a schema of public relations as
press agentry, subsumed public relations under marketing. Fabiszak ( 1985) found that
emphasis on marketing in hospitals correlated most strongly with the two-way
asymmetrical model.
Which model the dominant coalition chooses depends on whether the dominant
coalition feels threatened by that model and whether it fits with organizational culture,
the schema for public relations in the organization, and whether the public relations
department has the potential to carry out the preferred model In the dominant
coalition, public relations directors can influence organizational culture, the strategic
public chosen, and the model of public relations to be used for each public.
When J. Grunig and Hunt ( 1984, p. 22) formulated the four models of public
relations they speculated about the extent to which organizations practice each of the
models and about the kinds of organizations most likely to practice them. They
estimated that 50% of organizations practice public information, 20% two-way
asymmetrical public relations, and 15% each press agentry and two-way symmetrical
public relations.