Public Relation Models

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The purpose of this essay is to achieve better insight into the different methods of conducting real-life public relations nowadays. Theoretically, several models have been developed to categorize the different types of PR practice/practitioners; analyzing the usage of these models by PR professionals will reveal the extent to which they are valid in real life. Because these models deal with the communication-flow involved in PR, the essay will begin with a basic outline of how human communication works and how it can be applied effectively, using theory from Stappers (1988) and Dervin (1989)- Stappers offers a basic conversation model which describes the information and communication processes, while Dervin discusses the role of audiences in communication. The next step will be to analyze the aforementioned PR models and shortly describe them, starting with Grunig’s (1989) set of models (symmetrical and asymmetrical) and moving on to Van Ruler’s (1997) tested models (the technician, sales manager and intermediary). The final section of the essay will concentrate on real-life examples of how the PR models are applied, related to commercial business and international public relations, provided and examined by Lordan (2006) and Grunig (1993). The examples will include customer input to organizations and the use of Grunig’s models in US politics. A detailed analysis will follow which will lead to the conclusion of how the communication-flow models apply to real life, and how valid each models is today.

Communication: how does it work?
To generate awareness of the communication process, Stappers created a general communication model. To successfully communicate, the receiver of the message does not only have to receive the information but also understand the meaning of it. Accordingly one can divide the receiver’s tasks into “phases such as noticing, observing and knowing” (Stappers, 1988, p. 1). If one would combine these activities, one can use the term ‘information source’. When the receiver is observing, he or she gains knowledge. This is called the information process – “it consists of the receiver and the information source” (Stappers, 1988, p. 3). It will become a communication process when the receiver communicates the message to someone else.  Within the communication process there is a sender, who supplies another person with a message. A communication process is when a person, the sender, supplies another person with a message. According to Stappers, communication revolves around second-hand experiences (benefiting from other experiences), and also passing (sending) them on, allowing others to benefit from your experiences. This can be considered as an optimistic view of what genuinely happens; one should regard it more as a desirable result of communication.  Communication enables us to share each other’s experiences and evolve with them, this is why this model can be seen as a two-way flow of information; one sends, receives and shares. Dervin came up with a similar conclusion to communication (specifically two-way), by discussing the importance of the audience during public communication campaigns. According to Dervin (1989), the audience is not “an amorphous mass” (p. 20), but rather a group of people who can learn from and teach (through feedback) the sender. If you listen to your audience you can understand what they need and possibly satisfy them (as well as yourself), thus building a bridge to your “Uses (Helps)” (Dervin, 1989, p. 18) over the gap that would exist if audience feedback was absent. This “sense-making approach” to communication simply states that two-way communication is superior to one-way communication. Using this basic information on communication-flow, we are able to explain how communication works in the different PR models offered by Grunig and Van Ruler....
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