When I’m talking about public relations what I’m really talking about is communicating. Communication is the key to developing strong relationships, not only between two caring people, but also between businesses and their publics (employees, customers, shareholders, etc). What public relations is all about is people learning about each other and developing a mutual understanding. One of the best ways to do that is of course Grunig’s two-way symmetrical model.
The two-way symmetrical model is basically a way for two groups of people to share ideas and (hopefully) gain something from the experience. This is an ideal way to communicate and technology has made it easier to do than ever before!
Many companies are taking advantage of new web technologies to encourage two-way communication. Just today Asus and Intel launched a new website called WePC (see Engadget). This new website allows users to submit their own designs and ideas for a new notebook computer. The submitted designs and posted feedback will be considered by both Asus and Intel and may actually be incorporated into a finished product. The WePC about page states:
Your designs, feature ideas and community feedback will be evaluated by ASUS and could influence the blueprint for an actual notebook PC built by ASUS with Intel inside.
Dell is another company that has had good experience with the two-way symmetrical model. In February of 2007 Dell launched a new website called IdeaStorm (see entry at Wikipedia). The IdeaStorm website is very similar to the WePC one, in that it allows users to submit articles, comment on existing ones, or vote them up or down. Almost immediately, Dell received an overwhelming number of requests to offer an alternative, open-source operating system as an option on new Dell computers. This flurry of responses eventually convinced Dell to begin offering computers with the Ubuntu (Linux) operating system pre-installed (see here and here).
Now I think that’s a pretty great result. Not only did customers get exactly what they wanted from Dell, but Dell also proved that they were listening to their customers and were willing to give them what they wanted. That’s great communicating and great publicity!