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Two-Way Symmetrical Communication

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Two-Way Symmetrical Communication

Introduction

Today in 2019, public relations have significantly transformed. Many political, economic, and social activities tend to rely mostly on public relations to push their agendas and make things work out. For a long time, the two-way symmetrical model of public relations has been used. This model is mainly focused on ensuring that decisions made benefit the organization as well as the audiences. The objective of Grunig’s symmetrical communication model is to embrace negotiations between the public and an organization. It aims to nurture mutual understanding. Two-way symmetrical communication was initially stimulated by Carter’s, Chaffee and McLeod’s conceptualization of co-orientation (Yuan et al., 2017, p.342). According to Grunig and Hunt, this model presents a scientific persuasive method of communicating with main audiences. Persuasive communication is utilized with an aim of benefiting the organization than the audiences. This model is manipulative and is effective in controlling audiences. Essentially, the model proposes that the public, organizations, and individuals need to use communication in adjusting their ideas as well as the behavior of others instead of controlling how others think. Currently, organizations, the government, and individuals focus on adjusting others’ ideas by using the two-way symmetrical model (Al-Hasni, 2019, p.92). Organizations tend to rely on public relations to promote their own businesses. Public relations is basically a strategic communication process organizations, people and governments utilize in building mutual beneficial relationship with the public. With the significant transformation in public relations, which have also been influenced by technologies, controversies have emerged as some question whether the two-way symmetrical model is applicable and relevant for use in public relations in 2019. Therefore, using public relations theories and models, this paper determine whether a two-way symmetrical communication model is a reality in 2019 by analyzing two-way symmetrical communication model of two organizations; Starbucks Corporation at 2014 and Coca-Cola Company at 2019. Coca-Cola and Starbucks are prominent companies that significantly rely on public relations to promote their sales. These two companies are chosen due to their significant use of two-way symmetrical communication theory in conducting their public relations.

With regards to the situational theory of publics, it can be deduced that the use of the two-way symmetrical model of communication is a reality in 2019. The situational theory asserts that large groups can be sub-divided into four publics with regards to their level of recognition as well as involvement in an issue or an organization (Kim, 2019, p.6). It focuses on explaining the reason some publics are active while some are passive when searching for information regarding a topic. The theory is governed by the concept of passive and active information collection and processing. With this in mind, the two-way symmetrical model is significantly applied in various public relations. This model is a democratic framework which public relation practitioners are bound to follow and is deemed to be effective, relying on the situation. The general objective of the two-way symmetrical model of communication is to create a common understanding between concerned parties since it is human nature to want not to be controlled. For instance, in 2014 there were a series of racial protests in the United States responding to the deaths of many unarmed black citizens caused by the police, most of them being white. Starbucks then initiated “the Starbucks Race Together Initiative” a public relations campaign in 2015 that received over 2.5 billion social media impressions in just 48 hours (Logan, 2016, p.94). This public relations initiated by Starbucks sought to address the racial issue in United States through vitriolic comments. In this campaign, Starbucks significantly applied a two-way symmetrical communication model to persuade the public to avoid racial discrimination and oppression.

With regards to the situational theory of publics, this public relations campaign significantly applied this theory. Since, the issue that needed to be address was a racial issue, Starbucks applied the situational theory of publics by subdividing the public into different suitable publics based on their level of understanding and level that they have been affected by the issue. The main intent was to persuade the public to embrace social change which needed support from various sectors of the society. All social media platforms were used to persuade the public to embrace social change against racial prejudice. The fact that the public relations received an overwhelming 2.5 billion social media support and impression proves that the two-way symmetrical model applied was effective (Logan, 2016, p.97). Essentially, suppose an individual is controlled or feel less and inferior to another individual, they tend not to develop trust and most probable to withdraw entirely from a relationship (Lee, 2018, p.41).  Therefore, in this campaign, Starbucks sought to persuade the public rather than forcing the public to embrace social change. The main focus was establishing relations with the public and giving them equal opportunities such that they feel confident to participate in key issues or agendas. For example, in this campaign social media influencers were used to create hashtag setting an agenda in Twitter to stimulate a debate and persuade people to embrace social change that will eradicate racial prejudice.

Just as the situational theory of publics stipulates, public relations practitioners applying two-way symmetrical communication are more focused on creating a sense of open communication to enable the people to understand the issues at hand and also build trust to take part in moving an agenda collectively. This is evident by how much likely we are to be in a positive position in times of crisis due to the strong relationships that have established a robust reputation. In the Starbucks Race Together Initiative, the campaign was staged to give room for open communication to the public so that the people would understand the situation and give their views and show concern. This was done through posting the campaign on various social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook (Logan, 2016, p.98). The campaign received an overwhelming social media response which proved the two-way symmetrical communication model works. In this generation, most public relations practitioners have adopted to use social media platforms to influence and push their ideas and agendas (Farache, Tetchner, & Kollat, 2018, p.152). In various strategic management levels, public relations practitioners significantly apply two-way symmetrical communication allowing their audiences to have a voice and take part in making decisions. The situation theory of the public categorizes people into the public, which helps in identifying roles for various individuals that they play. Starbucks applied this theory by categorizing the public into various publics so as to determine the best way to address the situation (Logan, 2016, p.97). They identified the most affected individuals, and those least affected which helped in streamlining their campaigns to stimulate social change. Essentially, the youths are the ones that are mostly targeted by public relations practitioners. With the help of social media, the situational theory of public categorizes individuals based on the level of their activeness in social media platforms and their levels of interaction and engagement in social issues or discussion. Two-way symmetrical communication is highly practiced through these social media platforms since it provides room for negotiation and development of mutual understanding taking place between an organization and its publics (Farache et al., 2018, p.155). For example, in Starbucks’ campaign the campaign mainly used social media to spread the message try to persuade the public to embrace social change against racial discrimination. Regards to level of activeness of social media platforms, the campaign identified that the youth were mostly reached by the campaign since the youths tend to be more active on social media. Therefore, to increase the level of persuasion, social media influencers were employed to push the trend or the topic such that they increase the level of persuasion in the public. Essentially, Starbucks preferred using the two-way model since it provides them with tools well as a pathway required for creating a strong company reputation established on strong and lasting relationships since the model grants both the organization and the audiences the voices and allows them to take part in addressing issues. All organizations aim at being prosperous and meeting their goals (Lim & Greenwood, 2017, p.771). Therefore, it is ideal to use the two-way symmetrical model in public communication relations since it maintains the best interests of both the organization and the audiences in a fair and balanced manner. Organizations and audiences are capable of collaborating to grow and strengthen the overall success of the organization’s objectives.

Propaganda is another popular technique that organizations use in public relations. The Coca-Cola in 2018 used propaganda to promote its major brands including PowerAde, Inca cola, Fanta, Dr. Pepper, Coca-Cola, Evian, Sprite, Minute Maid and Fuze tea. Coca-Cola intended to satisfy the needs and inform the public of its product (“CDAE Coke.pdf,” 2018, p.1). Therefore, through a two-way symmetrical method, Coca-Cola used propaganda to market its products by political and corporate symbols. For instance, Coca-Cola utilized the United States identification by branding themselves as an American Brand or as a brand representing America. To spread this propaganda, Coca-Cola applied pluralism which was aided by the use of media advertising and social media platforms. According to pluralism, it implies that diverse opinion is capable of coexisting and prospering harmoniously. Pluralism is in line with the two-way symmetrical communication as it encourages participation and gives the audiences a voice to participate. Concerning this theory, it denotes that this type of public relations that is prevalent, especially in online platforms (Crane & Livesey, 2017, p.42). The global success of social media platforms, as well as other interactive online technologies, have enabled Coca-Cola with a direct link to consumers all through the day such that it is easy to spread a propaganda that is essential in promoting and marketing its major brands. Social media platforms and other interactive online technologies have encouraged pluralism. Pluralism is exhibited in social media platforms since it provides every person with the opportunity to freely give their opinions and taking part in important discussions or debates. For example, propaganda is easily spread in social media such as Twitter by Coca-Cola through its official Twitter handle or hashtags whereby it allows the public to freely comment and express their opinions concerning their products.

The impact of social media platforms in public relations can be viewed on a global scale since currently, most activists use Facebook to push their agendas. Coca-Cola currently use Facebook to set their agenda by spreading propaganda in Facebook and other online platforms. Coca-Coca has significantly adopted the use of social media and bloggers in spreading their propaganda (“CDAE Coke.pdf,” 2018, p.2). Today, Coca-Cola use the help of social media influencers to spread a propaganda that is intended to influence the public’s behavior. Due to the high competition in the beverage industry, Coca-Cola has settled on two-way symmetrical communication model through propaganda to influence consumer’s behavior to purchase their products. Pluralism plays an integral role in stimulating openness to give opinions among the public. Today, we live in a democratic world where everyone has the right to give opinion. Organizations now have diverse options to access different sites, which enables them to reach new audiences as well as engage with prospective new supporters every day (Crane & Livesey, 2017, p.43).  At the moment, Facebook is capable of providing an opportunity for the public to have a voice in an integrated online location. Essentially, championed by pluralism theory, the two-way symmetrical model is integrated into our day-to-day for public relations practitioners managing social media platforms. Today, two-way communication is a reality in 2019 for public relations practitioners, irrespective of whether all have implemented it or some are attempting to implement it (Lee, 2018, p.42). Symmetrical communication is a reality in 2019 as it can be seen in Coca-Cola since digital communication promotes it and also makes it unavoidable. Additionally, currently, in 2019, digital communication is significantly used, which gives the public the freedom to control their sources of information, making organizations have minimal options but to communicate with the public symmetrically (“CDAE Coke.pdf,” 2018, p.2). Furthermore, business success is being achieved through acting for the best interest of the society. For example, Coca-Cola is using social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to obtain feedback or comments from their customers which can be used in improving customer service.

To sum it all, it is apparent that two-way symmetrical communication is still a reality in 2019. From Starbucks’ campaign used persuasion to influence the public to avoid racial prejudice in 2014, up to recently in 2018 whereby Coca-Cola used propaganda in promoting its sales in the United States. The use of two-way symmetrical communication that was initially used in the past is still relevant and applicable in 2019. Essentially, organizations and public relations practitioners currently applying two-way symmetrical communication are more focused on creating a sense of open communication to enable the people to understand the issues at hand and also build trust to take part in moving an agenda collectively. All in all, 2019 is an advanced era characterized by highly sophisticated technologies such as social media platforms that have transformed activities of public relations practitioners. Since the two-way communication model encourages conversation and participation among all people, it is widely applied by organizations.