Grunig and Hunt (1984)'s four models of public relations are perhaps the most commonly used theories in the field. They are useful in that they divide a complicated subject matter into four fundamental areas which can then be separately addressed. Corporations may refer to these models in establishing their CSR efforts.
For example, the first area (Press Agentry) deals with the activities of those who will do anything to gain publicity. Perhaps Bransonesque stunts are not appropriate for establishing convincing social responsibility, but certainly widespread advertising of a particular endeavor (such as BP's cleaner fuel promise) will be beneficial. The Second model describes the modern complexities of the growingly accurate one-way information for corporations. An effective example of this can be seen in Shells unexpectedly honest environmental reporting; companies wishing to be seen as ethical must adopt similar strategies whether they be communicated through large scale media organisations or perhaps through the companies own website (a cheaper and safer option).
Model 3 and 4 deal with asymmetric and symmetric two-way communication respectively. Some argue the existence of a true symmetric model is not possible, but Grunig and Hunt (1984) insist it to be the most effective. Companies should aim to implement CSR programs that consider the objective of the PR work to be as important as or more important than the company itself; such as the aforementioned BP pulling out of a potentially lucrative Alaskan Oil drilling project in the interests of the environment.
I firmly believe that in most cases where a corporation is attempting to become more responsible, the strategy is just another method of gaining competitive advantage in a growing market. A corporation's need to differentiate themselves from competition in a society where the consumer is more informed than ever before means that CSR is an important facet of any corporation's strategic planning.
BP's reputation (through extensive advertising) of 'cleaner petrol' was just a byproduct of an unselfish socially responsible program to create cleaner more efficient fuel? I don't think so! BP's efforts to create cleaner/better fuel is a clever effort to create a distinguishable product in a homogenous market whilst building a favourable reputation. As Leisinger (2002) states:
"In 1994, according to a survey conducted by the Walker Research Institute, some 78% of American consumers avoided products from companies of which they had negative perceptions; 48% of these consumers said that their purchasing decisions were influenced by the morality of companies' business practices."