Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton 2021

15 The four models of public relations and their research legacy

From the book Public Relations
James E. Grunig and Jeong-Nam Kim


Research on the models of public relations began in the 1970s when J. Grunig used his situational theory of individual communication behavior to conceptualize public relations as the communication behavior of organizations. Organizational theories originally were used to explain public relations behaviors. Dependent behaviors evolved from one-way vs. two-way communication, to synchronic and diachronic modes, to four models and then four dimensions of public relations. Independent explanatory variables began with organizational structures, environments, technologies, and power structures, and eventually included education, knowledge, professionalism, gender, ideology and culture, schemas, conflict and activism, and empowerment of the public relations function. Research on the models culminated in the Excellence study, which showed that knowledge to practice different models, CEO preferences for different models, the actual practice of the models, and symmetrical internal communication practices correlated with excellence in public relations and greater value to organizations, publics, and society. The two-way symmetrical model as a normative standard for public relations is discussed, as well as the practice of the models in different countries, cultures, and organizations. Criticisms of the models are grouped and discussed, and comparisons are made to similar theories of digital public relations, relationship cultivation strategies, dialogic public relations, and organizational listening.

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