The journey of Public Relations has been a witness to numerous hit and trial methods, to reach its goal of a utopian model where it can cater to the needs of everyone. This can easily be explained through the “4 models” of public relations proposed by Grunig and Hunt.
Tracing the evolution, we can go back to the 19th century, where Press Agentry/ Publicity Model, also called the P.T Barnum model, was prevalent. Being a one-way form of communication, this PR model just focused on getting the clients into headlines without investing time in research or survey, completely neglecting the welfare of the consumers. The PR agents here constantly worked to manipulate the target audience by telling half-truths and fabricating fantasies which were entirely unethical.
The Press Agentry model was followed by 20th century Public Information Model which had its structure based on a
one-way form of communication that shifted its focus from pseudo-events and half-truths to more accurate and authentic information. Though they did not move ahead with formal research, they were dedicated to reaching out to the consumers through press releases, brochures and static web content to place the brand image in the customer’s mind by story-telling, anticipating the attention of the consumers.
The 2-way Asymmetrical Model complemented the 20th-century model and went a step ahead as the post Second World War era saw the rise in consumer products which demanded a two-way communication roadmap where both the parties were equally important. This called for specific targeted, scientific marketing where the PR agents could employ their research to decipher the psychology of customers and manipulate them to fulfil the agenda of increasing sales.
In the wake of such a situation, the 2-way Symmetrical Model evolved which was an enhanced and balanced version of all the models. It concentrated on fulfilling the interests of all the parties involved, from clients to the target public by using the tool of discussion and communication to help them resolve their conflicts and at the same time develop a better understanding of each other.
Therefore, after undergoing so many stages of transformation, the PR successfully achieved its reputation as a mediator between the client and its stakeholders that works for the welfare of both.