Friday, October 2, 2009

Why study theory in public relations?

Is studying theory important in public relations? I say it is as crucial as a doctor or an engineer studying theories in their courses.Studying public relations theories help in constructing a base to "think" as public relations professionals later.Your first job could be to either to be part of a public relations agency as an executive or maybe even a part of a team to start a corporate communications department in an organisation which doesnt have one! How and where do you begin? There are times when theories are being applied without having the knowledge that it is being applied.Let there be awareness that it is being applied and the point where it is facing its limitations.

To know the nuances of this profession one needs to know theories that help one understand the reasons why an organsiation needs public relations in the first place.As rightly put by noted public relations theorist James E. Grunig in his article "Teaching Public Relations Theory" he explains why one needs to understand theories at various stages in the process of public relations.They are the ones as mentioned below:-
  • Why Organizations Need Public Relations?
  • Strategic Management of Public Relations
  • Public Relations Roles
  • Models of Public Relations
  • The Stakeholder Stage
  • Publics stage
  • The Issues stage
  • The Program stage
There are theories at each stage that has been mentioned above as they serve as guides to novices as well as professionals working in this field.As Grunig aptly says "If I can get students to understand theory, I believe firmly, I will have done my part to move public relations from a craft to a profession." His works can be read on sites such as,, to name a few.


  1. When you study theories relating them in actual environment is important, and most till date which we have discussed in class are applicable. I'm just curious to know did some of them failed to be applicable???

  2. Theories dont fail to apply they just have their limitations and so that leads to new hypothesis leading to "re-search", e.g. Grunig's Four Models of Public Relations which describe the different types of PR practice, we want the two-way symmetric model to be applied as organisations communicate,(especially in the Indian context) but in practice this is not happening, so here is a study as why is there this limitation and can this be overcomed?