The Transcript

If you’re a student of public relations for even less than a minute, you’re bound to hear about Grunig and Hunt. OK, these aren’t really the two scholars, but that doesn’t matter.

In 1984, James Grunig and Todd Hunt proposed these four models of public relations and this theory is still valid today.

The first model is call press agentry or publicity. It’s a one-way style of communicating where an organization pumps out information, often through a press agent, if that helps you remember the term. Another word for this might be “propaganda” because messages are often based on emotional appeals that can be presented as only part of the information or that has been distorted in some way. There is little emphasis on facts.

The second model, also a one-way style of communicating, is called public information and it differs from press agentry in one important way: There is an emphasis on truthfulness. The organization is generally trying to provide information that is meaningful to audiences. While messages might also use emotional appeals to connect with those audiences, there is an effort made to provide truthful facts or information.

In the two-way asymmetrical model information is presented and feedback from a small number of receivers is solicited. Therefore, more information goes out than feedback is returned, which is why it’s called asymmetrical. The message appeal used in this model usually involves a scientific persuasion base or an expert. Sometimes, an organization is thought to be trying to manipulate its publics using this model.

In the gold-standard of models, a two-way symmetrical approach means that equal information is being sent out as feedback is received by an organization, hence it’s termed symmetrical. An organization is often reacting to and changing how it communicates based on information its receiving back from its audiences.

It’s essential to understand that each of the four models of public relations suggested by Grunig and Hunt have a place within a successful PR strategy. Even though we call one of them the “gold standard” it doesn’t mean that there is no value in using the other models, too. In fact, these are the two most common models used in sport public relations: press agentry/publicity and public information.

At some point in every communicator’s professional life, they will use each type of model so, get comfortable with Grunig & Hunt’s (1984) four models of public relations.

Grunig, J.E., & Hunt, T. (1984). Managing Public Relations. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

Investigate more

Grunig & Hunt’s (1984) four models have remained pretty popular in theoretical understanding of how public relations works in most industries.

The sport industry differs from others in a few important ways and here is our first way.

Commonly, sport organizations have to rely on press agentry and publicity (model 1) and public information (model 2) to communicate with various publics.

Investigate all the models and examples below.
Model 1 
Press Agency/Publicity:
Message comes through someone, often a press agent or a publicist, or some channel (think Twitter) and there isn’t necessarily an emphasis on accuracy. It’s more about emotional appeals.

Do you agree that these are the top 5 stadium experiences for college baseball? By what measure, simply size of the crowd, quality of the food served, loud people in the stands? How were these determined? We don’t really know.
Model 2 
Public Information:
There is an emphasis on accuracy and on making information available.

Both the article written there and the statistics, box scores and links provided there are generated by sport PR practitioners who work for the sport organization (owned media).
Model 3 
Two-way asymmetrical:
A sport organization pumps out a lot information and gets some feedback or responds to some questions. The communication, however, is uneven or asymmetrical.

Players and coaches often answer questions at press conferences. Mass media members who are there can ask questions during the post-game press conference, but you couldn’t. The opponent's student body couldn’t. In that way, this is considered asymmetrical.

(There is currently no link to a press conference. You know what one is though, right?)
Model 4 
Two-way symmetrical:
In this model the organization tries to engage in a process to help guide their communication efforts. There is equal, or symmetrical, emphasis on an even exchange of communication.

Imagine that after the weekend series, a team of Texas Tech employees sent everyone (media, home and visiting team fans, players, umpires, etc.) who attended the game an online survey to complete about their experience and then they followed that up with phone calls to each of them to discuss their experience further. This would be an example of a sport organization trying to engage in a two-way symmetrical process for communicating.

I hope you can see through that illustration that this one, while called the “gold standard” of PR, just isn’t practical for sport organizations.

Often, we’re too busy updating all that information that has to go on a website!