The 4 Models of Public Relations and Ethics

No matter how many public relations classes I take at university, there is one name which seems to follow me everywhere.

That is Jim Grunig and Todd Hunt.

Ok, well it is 2 names, but you get the idea.

These two were the ones who came up with the 4 models of public relations.


So, it comes as no surprise that we discuss them quite often in class.

When I first started analysing the models and understanding their practical application to campaign strategy there was one key idea I noticed.

That was the changing nature of public relations and how these models have had to adapt over time to remain ethical. After all, it is often questioned that because of the true nature of public relations and the profession itself it can never be classified as ethical. (Don’t worry – I have strong views on this, but let’s save that for another post).

So without further ado, here are the 4 models of public relations by Grunig and Hunt.

The Press Agentry Model.

  • One way communication method
  • Uses persuasion and manipulation to influence audience to behave as the organisation desires
  • Unethical
  • Think of celebrities who endorse products they perhaps don’t use…

    Kylie Jenner’s Instagram is littered with sponsored posts

The Public Information Model.

  • One way communication method
  • Uses press releases and other one-way methods
  • Ethical
  • Mainly used by government bodies such as, Vic Roads and the CFA

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 5.38.18 PM

Vic roads Twitter announcement

The 2-way symmetrical model.

  • Two way communication
  • Uses communication to negotiate with publics, resolve conflict, and promote mutual understanding and respect between the organization and its publics.
  • Ethical
  • Mainly used by NFP sector


Two-way asymmetrical model

  • Two way communication (however, it is imbalanced)
  • High amounts of persuasion and manipulation
  • Differs from the press agentry model through the use of research to find out how best to persuade the publics

I hope you found this interesting. Stay tuned while I cover ethics in PR in weeks to come!




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