Sample Research Paper on The Two-Way Symmetrical Model

The Two-Way Symmetrical Model


Public relation is an integral part of organizational success because it enables the management, workers, and the clients to communicate at different levels of process. As such, public relation has a fundamental role in communication. However, the excellence theory provides a systematic application through which public relations can be efficient, managed, and promote monetary value. According to Grunig et al. (2002), the evolution of this theory has triggered many research activities that have focused on ensuring the public relations practices are effective and ethical. Since the theory was developed from other mid range theories, it serves as a theoretical and an empirical standard for public relations practices. On the other hand, a contrary school of thought holds the position that the theory is not sufficient to be applied in the current context of social, political, and organizational situations in the public relations practice. The basis of the excellence theory is effective communication by the PR professionals, which goes beyond search for corporate results. Craig (2006) postulates that being a superb communicator “means developing as an individual, realizing the principles that underlie effective communication, raising the proficiency and temperament traits that logically materialize from stern engagement in the application of communication, and thus contributing to the nurturing of such communication-based principles, skills, and personality in society” (44). This paper presents an analysis of how the excellence theory can be used as a decisive inquiry paradigm to enable establishment of spaces reachable by marginalized public by PR officers.

Presentation of the excellence theory

Communication as a public relation tool ought to be both normative and constructive so that it serves as a mechanism for a generalized population to understand the globe and help achieve results (Craig, 2006). Here, it is clear that communication is used at an organizational level to serve to main purposes, which is to facilitate understanding and achieving results. As a result, an effective communicator is not confined to the set rules, but he or she has to develop through practice. Ordinarily, the role of the public relations professional is to act as a communicator within an organization. Therefore, it is important to understand the definition of public relations in the build up to the excellence theory. Grunig (2002) defines public relations as “the organization of communication between the corporate organization and the ‘publics’ that it relates with” (3). Thus, the excellence theory was advanced to display how public relations can be orchestrated in the internal and external publics to manage the audience. Based on the theory, public relations officers should underscore the significance of the audience, not as a passive audience, but any interaction of audience and messages results to a feasible and enfranchised perception with the organization.

The significance of the excellence theory lies in the manner in which the organization is able to develop its relationships. Here, a good relationship developed between the organization and its publics is effective towards achieving corporate and public goal. In this regard, the company is able to limit the costs that would be incurred through negative publicity in a poor relationship. On the other hand, it is also effective in deterring and providing goods and services that are needed by the stakeholder, thus promoting organizational revenue (Grunig & Grunig, 2008). Systematically, it is the responsibility of the PR professionals to evaluate and discover strategic publics, which can be used to build long-term relationships for the prosperity of the organization. Here, the relationship will provide the organization with a clear strategy to benefit maximally from strategic publics through designing an ideal communication program (Grunig & Grunig, 2008). A vigorous study in the field of excellence theory has set to identify and classify valuable public relations into four basic categories. The first category is through sanctioning of the public relations function, which postulates that successful organization is compelled to empower public relations as a decisive management function. Second, is the identification of the communicator roles that encompasses both administrative and managerial responsibilities. Another recognized category is the management of communication function that requires PR to be aligned as an autonomous communication function. The last category is the PR model that emphasizes on a two-way symmetrical approach for an organization to develop its internal and external communication strategies.

The “publics” concept in the theory of excellence can be obtained both from the inside and outside of the organization. A single public entity through the interactions with PR professionals is a good source to evaluate the stakeholders’ perspective towards the corporate goals. A failure of the management to identify to recognize and appreciate these different perspectives results in a situation where the organization makes decisions based on the ideals of a dominant coalition (Grunig, et al., 2002). This can be catastrophic if the mitigating factors are ignored, leading to a severe loss of confidence in the economic, social capital and moral ethics. Therefore, the contemporary public relation issue is how to use a two-way symmetrical model to integrate the CSR and maintain a balance in satisfying the needs of the society, individual and other PR professionals.

The current scenario

Corporate governance has become a widespread feature of every business entity in the modern world. The failure of key organizations due to a weak corporate governance system has forced other business entities to clinch this new idea. For example, Enron, WorldCom, and Parmalat are large global organizations that have failed due to a weak corporate governance mechanism. Ideally, the best mechanism should establish a good return as compared to the cost of running the business. The idea of corporate governance has manifested in the minds of many entrepreneurs because it has been identified as the best method to secure and retain investor confidence for a company. However, managing people within an organization is a very difficult activity, especially if they come from a diverse cultural background. As such, communication is a vital factor of corporate governance because it defines how good a manager can obtain and relay information that is essential for organization processes. Competition among business enterprises has led to non-ethical issues that have greatly affected the conduct of many companies. Examples of such companies include; Enron, Parmalat, Nike, Kozlowski, Philip Morris among other companies. The question arises as to what extent has the business ethical issues gone up to? Here, an organization is characterized as either ethical or unethical based on its communication to the internal and external stakeholders.

This contemporary CSR problem in business is due to lack of the companies to maintain long-term communication among its stakeholders. For example, failure of an organization to determine the ethical standards or customers’ requirements leads to managerial decisions that magnify the unethical problems. Therefore, public relations can be used to develop an effective corporate social responsibility. Here, the social corporate responsibility will reflect on the major actions taken by an organization. Therefore, public relations can be used to solve CSR problems through the excellence model that focus on communication to develop strategic managerial decisions. For this part, the sweatshop problem provides an ideal case scenario for applying the two-way symmetrical model. The CSR had failed to provide the stakeholders with relevant information regarding the labor practices of its contractors. Here, Nike held the position that the ethical conduct was not part of its mandate. As such, the consumers’ campaigners staged campaigns that demonstrated Nike in the negative way as unethical. This led to a devastating economic problem to the company with its subsidiary in Bangladesh collapsing whilst a global boycott of its products was also in place.

Critical application of this theory to a current scenario

Praxis is a strategy used by managers to make critical decisions within an organization based on theoretical well-orchestrated case examples. Here, all decisions are made after intensive communications of the public relation issue. The role of the management is to ensure that an organization is able to compete with other organizations through strategic policies. As such, the policies have to be developed and later implemented. This is a critical responsibility of public relations because it is in charge of all communication plans. Grunig, Grunig & Dozier (2006) have confirmed that an effective management decision has to be inclined to the on stakeholders based research paradigm to develop its corporate goals and objectives. In this regard, the CSR requires managerial decisions that are consistent with the stakeholders needs. As such, these stakeholders’ needs can only be obtained from an effective communication plan. The excellence model postulates that an organization will achieve its desired level of success if they attain their goals. In this regard, the goal of CSR is to maintain a high level of ethics through its operations. Conversely, the excellence theory can be applied to develop a public relation system that is able to identify the corporate goals.

Another approach of the excellence theory that can be applied to the CSR model is the strategic constituencies. Here, the public relations through communication are able to identify significant elements of the business environment, which, when declined or supported can successively alter achieving the goals of the organization (Grunig & Grunig, 2008). Based on the situational theory, stakeholders within an organization are identified and classified in relation to their understanding of the problem and the ability to demonstrate the urge to unravel information about the dilemma. According to Northouse (2012), the situational theory classifies stakeholders as “nonpublic, latent public, aware public, and active public according to their relationship and response to a problem” (45). As such, each of the stakeholders ought to be dealt with at each level. In this regard, the management should focus to establish a communication structure that facilitates effective communication at each of the identified categories. Since the CSR affects the company externally, it is important to satisfy the stakeholders.

The excellence model is one of the approaches Nike chose to use to avert its sweatshop problem. This theory provides the basis in which a company can maintain high standards of ethics whilst forming associations with the societal democratic structures. Accordingly, Nike decided to establish an excellent model through outsourcing its manufacturing. Here, the thought behind this excellence strategy was to ensure that it was able to save money in the manufacturing process and subsequently use the cash to roll out a robust marketing campaign. Through the marketing campaign, the company would provide a good communication platform to converse with its customers. Here, the market research was done about the customers’ needs and the perception of their products. Communication as an element in the excellence theory was excellently articulated in the Nike model. This led the company to become a giant in the sports and apparel industry with a very strong brand name. Based on this model, the public relations was a fundamental factor acting as a communicator. Focusing on the stakeholders that the Nike Company represented was the success factor in the apparel industry. This is consistent with the position forwarded by Cameron et al. (2007) when he claimed that “as both practitioners and scholars . . . central to the success of both the organizations we represent or study and the communities that we serve” (192).

Through implementing the excellence theory of public relations to achieve its success, Nike considerable established another organizational problem. The role of the public relations professionals through the excellence model was to ensure that there is effective communication between the company and the stakeholders through the robust marketing campaign strategy. However, this was sufficient to promote the brand of the company into the global market. In the end, the ideals of the two-way symmetrical model resurfaced into the management of the company. According to this model, a successful organization should consider the interest of stakeholders as paramount to that of the organization. Botan & Iazelton (2006) argue that a two-way symmetrical model provides a mechanism to strike a balance between an organizational interest and that of stakeholders. Further, they present that this balance can be realized through using research and communication as a basis to solve conflicts arising through the organization process. In the case of Nike, it had been compelled to take responsibility of its contractor’s unethical behaviors. On its response, the company decided that it was not part of its CSR to consider its contractors ethical position. This established the source of Nike problems since its contractors were largely seen as conducting their business in a very unethical manner.

The two-way symmetrical model was vital for the rejuvenation of the Nike Company. The model requires that stakeholders be given more preference than the organization itself. In this particular case, stakeholders had raised a lot of criticism to the company about the conduct of its contractors. For example, during the time of low prices in the Taiwan and Korea markets, the company decided to extend its products to the Indonesian market. However, in that market, the company was faced with criticism for partnering with a contractor that paid its workers’ much less that the set standard in the country. Consequently, the company chose to use the two-way symmetrical model to redeem its image that was highly criticized. Understanding that the interest of the public was fundamental, the organization decided to perform an independent audit of 600 contractors and determine the unethical problems. This bared fruit because the human activists applauded the initiative because it was able to expose the contractors that were unethical. Similarly, the company went ahead to become the pioneer organization to publish a list of contractors. This was a positive image because it was a public relations strategy to ensure that all stakeholders have the right communication regarding to its CSR and ethical position. Through application of the two-way symmetrical model, the company was able to redeem its image ion the fashion and apparel industry and become a giant.

On the other hand, the two-way symmetrical model was not sufficient to be applied in the context of Nike Corporation. A lot of criticism has hit this theory because it is only applicable in a situation where there is untainted conflict and cooperation. This was not the case of Nike because the critics were based on marketing strategies. The best public relations alternative that the company should have implemented ways to consider the CSR issue that was of common interest to both the company and the public (Cameron et al., 2006). Although the two-way symmetrical model was effective to articulate, excellence to the company problems persisted. For example, the organization has just witnessed the collapse of its factory in Bangladesh recently at the height of a strong global brand. It would be expected that the strong global image would assist the company to remain strong along its subsidiaries. Consequently, this shows that application of this model to solve the problem only focused on pleasing the public through improving their image, but it failed to provide a strong CSR strategy to protect the company in the long-term. This implies that the model is not honest that the organization and the public can achieve equal benefits. This is consistent with the perception offered by Fitzpatrick & Gauthier (2001) that an ideal two–way symmetrical should focus to evaluate the consequences of organizational decisions and measures that can affect a definite outcome.


Public relation is a fundamental concern of any organization that intends to realize success from its operations. However, the operations of a particular company have severe effects in the perception of the members of the company. Here, it is the responsibility of the public relations to ensure that effective communication balance exists between the stakeholders. As such, the excellence theory is the foundation basis of contemporary public relations. In the current world, the ethical position of an organization is evaluated based on its CSR. This paper has focused on the sweatshop ethical problem that affected the image of Nike Company. At first, the company had developed its excellence model to contract manufacturers and use the revenue obtained from this strategy to undertake a robust marketing campaign. This worked for the company because it achieved its excellence of being a global giant in the fashion and apparel, especially with the sportswear. Here, communication was fundamental in the marketing process to ensure that the stakeholders are provided with the best information regarding their processes. However, this never lasted for long because critics labeled the company as unethical based on the conduct of their contractors. In response, the company decided to implement a two-way symmetrical model to redeem its image. Here, emphasis is put on the individuals than the organization. Particularly, Nike decided to undertake an audit of its contractors to determine their ethical position. This was enough to satisfy the critics because it revealed information about the contractors to the satisfaction of the public. Although this was sufficient to redeem the image of the company, it was not a long-term strategy. The company witnessed the collapse of its factory in Bangladesh recently at the height of its strong global brand because it unsuccessfully applied the model. In conclusion, a two-way symmetrical model is an effective way of using public relations to address the CSR issues of an organization, but this has to focus on the current action that would satisfy both the organization and the public.





















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