Public Information Model of Public Relations: Theory and Importance

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Public Information Model: this article provides a practical explanation of the Public Information Model. After reading, you’ll understand the basics of this powerful public relations tool and it’s importance. Enjoy reading!

What is the Public Information Model?

James E. Grunig and Hunt, both internationally known public relation experts, were the first to propose public relations models such as the public information model. These models have been developed and changed over the decades. The general types of public relations models are the press agentry model, the public information model, the two-way asymmetrical model, and the two-way symmetrical model. This article will solely provide information about the public information model.

The public information model is a public relations model that has been developed from the beginning of the 20th century until the half of the 20th century. Public relations is concerned with maintaining communication between an organization and the public. Public relations, and therefore also the public information model, facilitates the communication process between different groups in society. Public relations is additionally in various models concerned with researching the perceived values of stakeholders.

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Public relations models can have one-way communication, which is information transferred in one direction, or they have two-way communication, which is information shared into two directions and includes the feedback of the sender and receiver of the messages.

Public information model

The public information model of public relations is concerned with providing truthful information about an organization to the public. This information could comprise information about the organization’s identity, important people to the organization, success stories, but also messages to warn the public.

A typical characteristic of this model is that the communication process is based on one-way communication. Researching constituencies is not always executed, but and the emphasis is often placed on the trustworthiness of the messages. Organizations put a high value on sharing accurate information, which is additionally solely meant to inform the public without focusing on publicity.

With regards to privatized organizations, the primary goal of the public information model is to maintain and further improve the brand image in the minds of the public by sharing relevant information to the stakeholder, such as met objectives.

Although the information streams only one way, the information is many times constructed creatively and informative with the intention to maintain or further enhance the perceived values the public has to the subject or organization. For this reason, only public relations experts usually create these types of statements. These experts are capable of transforming the missions into meaningful words that influence the perceived values of stakeholders.

Information can be shared via press releases, newsletters, banners, flyers, magazines, and brochures, but also verbally at conferences. As long as the information is concerning the organization and the values it has on its stakeholders, it can be published. This type of information sharing between organizations and the public is many times still seen at governmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, but also at other large businesses.

According to the public information model, the shared information cannot tell the public what they should be thinking. Still, by using repetitive information sharing, organizations can address the importance of a topic.

For example, today, there are various advertisements. In the tobacco industry, it is mandatory to include on-pack advertising on tobacco products that address the potentially dangerous effects of smoking.

When these advertisements are analyzed, it is not seen that they make statements like ‘smoking is bad for your health,’ but instead, only the potential effects of smoking are addressed, and the public can decide on what to think. Governments place a high priority on sharing this type of information because the health of the public concerns them. The government additionally hopes that the number of smokers will decrease with this initiative.

The public information model can also be used in crisis management. When a natural disaster occurs or when a threatening disease outbreak happens, messages are shared by using the public information model. The information shared could comprise relevant information or instructions about the topic which could include preventative measures.

The importance of the public information model in business

The public information model has gained more importance since half of the 19th century. Previously, companies used public relations as a tactical means to prevent the press from getting too close to management. Today, companies collaborate with public relations agencies and they try to be fully transparent.

Be being transparent, companies can use the public information model as a means to share the identity of the company. Firms share brand messages that all together form the image of the company in the mind of stakeholders, which can include their customers and other groups that have an interest in the company. In the long run, accumulated messages and incentives of companies help to build a company’s reputation. For this reason, the public information model has a high priority in today’s businesses.

Private organizations use different subfunctions in their corporate communication to achieve consistency in their messages. For instance, firms implement corporate social responsibility incentives and share related messages with stakeholders. These incentives could include monetary transfers to specific funds but also minimizing the use of water in production processes. These organizations attempt to utilize the public information model by communicating internally and externally to educate employees and the public about the organizations’ incentives and how this relates to their identity.

It is also essential to communicate messages internally because the employees operate at the frontline with customers. Another subset of the public information model is communicating effectively with investors. Today, companies acknowledge that it is important to demonstrate its financial statements in a way that is understandable by its audience.

The above-described subfunctions of corporate communication only serve as an example of why companies use the public information model. The bottom line is that companies must be transparent and share accurate information with the public to gain the trust of their stakeholders. The messages from the company should next be structured in a way that is useful to anyone who has an interest in the organization. Therefore, utilizing the public information model in business has become more gained more importance.


Various organizations can use the public information model. It is however frequently used in large corporations. Central in the public information model is to share important and correct information that is of interest to the public via mass channels. Messages are creatively designed so that it is not apparent how it should influence the audience. According to the public information model, messages must be truthful but are many times created in a way that could change the audience’s perception of the topic. Still, these are neutral messages for which the stakeholders can personally decide how this information will be processed.

Sharing information based on the public information model can be very important. Large organizations use it to demonstrate to the public how they operate and how a company can have a positive impact on society. Governments use the public information model more for reasons such as sharing messages that improves public’s safety. These messages can be related to health but also advice about traveling to specific regions in the world.

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Now It’s Your Turn

What do you think? Have you ever heard of the public information model? Do you recognize messages in your surroundings that are shared based on the public information model? Do you have any tips or suggestions?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

More information

  1. Bowen, S. A. (2005). A practical model for ethical decision making in issues management and public relations. Journal of Public Relations Research, 17(3), 191-216.
  2. Clark, C. E. (2000). Differences between public relations and corporate social responsibility: An analysis. Public Relations Review, 26(3), 363-380.
  3. Cutlip, S. M. (1962). Effective public relations. Pearson Education India.
  4. Foster, F. D., & Viswanathan, S. (1993). The effect of public information and competition on trading volume and price volatility. The Review of Financial Studies, 6(1), 23-56.
  5. Grunig, J. E., Grunig, L. A., Sriramesh, K., Huang, Y. H., & Lyra, A. (1995). Models of public relations in an international setting. Journal of public relations research, 7(3), 163-186.
  6. Morris, S., & Shin, H. S. (2002). Social value of public information. american economic review, 92(5), 1521-1534.
  7. Moynihan, D. P., & Ingraham, P. W. (2004). Integrative leadership in the public sector: A model of performance-information use. Administration & Society, 36(4), 427-453.
  8. Philip J. Kitchen. (1997). Public relations: Principles and practice. Cengage Learning EMEA.
  9. Signitzer, B. H., & Coombs, T. (1992). Public relations and public diplomacy: Conceptual covergences. Public relations review, 18(2), 137-147
  10. Sriramesh, K., & Vercic, D. (Eds.). (2003). The global public relations handbook: Theory, research, and practice. Routledge.
  11. Sumpter, R., & Tankard Jr, J. W. (1994). The spin doctor: An alternative model of public relations. Public Relations Review, 20(1), 19-27.
  12. Valone, T. J., & Templeton, J. J. (2002). Public information for the assessment of quality: a widespread social phenomenon. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences, 357(1427), 1549-1557
  13. Wilcox, D. L., Ault, P. H., & Agee, W. K. (2006). Public relations: Strategies and tactics.

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Published on: 10/19/2020 | Last update: 02/06/2023

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Alexander Zeeman
Article by:

Alexander Zeeman

Alexander Zeeman is Content Manager at ToolsHero where he focuses on Content production, Content management and marketing. He is also an International Business student at Rotterdam Business school. Currently, in his study, working on the development of various management competencies and improving operational business processes.


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