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Natalia Pyskaty Corporate Communication AMC523 AE2 Individual Assignment Marks & Spencer Case study Head of Media Relations

1. Media communication theory models: a. Schramm's Model of Communication (see fig. 1) Schramm’s communication model, 1954, divides into sections, where at one point the message is send to the receiver; however, it is split into segments and based on the identification on the key elements, it creates successful outcome. Based on how it is understood and interpreted by the receiver, the message would have different impact on people with different understanding. Therefore, it is essential that the message has its clear connotations. Various noises, however, can interrupt the passage from the sender to the receiver, changing its meaning. According to the model, the communication cannot be successful if there is no feedback received; the passing on of the message guarantees communication.

Grunig & Hunt, based on their broad range of research throughout the years, has established 4 types of communication models. The theory has been practiced by many PR practitioners in the past, but it is still very popular. Some of the models have been highly criticised against ‘idealisation’ of the communication between an organisation and its audience. It has been also said, that some of the ways the receivers are treated is not ethical yet it is a successful tool to manipulate the audience’s minds. b. Press Agentry/ publicity model Press agentry model focuses on the publicity to gain attention of the readers towards the organisation. It focuses more on the outcomes rather than the processes of the communication. The model would be reflected upon staged events, publicity stunts and spinning. The goal is therefore to attract the receiver, rather than the message to be understood. It is closely associated with propaganda and interpreting the facts to fit one’s views (Grunig & Hunt, 1984 pp. 21). Media coverage is therefore an extremely effective way of raising the organisation’s profile. The model was highly popular in the 1920s and often practiced by Phineas Barnum, an American figure closely associated with manipulation. The idea behind the agentry model, was to provide specific set of information about an organisation covering the uncomfortable facts, instead of telling the truth.

c. Two – way symmetric model The model is based on the exchange of information between the customers and the organisation. The model’s key factor is to bring the company closer to its publics, creating a win-win effect on both parties. It helps to manage relations with the clients and the company, and so the organisation’s actions are based on the received feedback. It is therefore representing a dialogue not monologue between the sender and the receiver, making it the most ethical model of the 4 outlined by Grunig; it

prompts the company to use the assembled feedback of the receivers, to make changes in the organisation’s performances.

d. Two – way asymmetric model This model is associated with Edward Bernays, who talks about manipulative ways of communication in his book ‘Crystalizing Public Opinion’; the idea of the model is to convince the audience about the most positive factors of the organisational performance; focusing the views on the good. However, to make the model work in practice, the company should first get to know its customers and their needs. The company must listen to its audiences, and measure their actions against the statement. The goal however is not to provide a balanced argument, but it is focusing on the psychological field of the customers’ needs. The model is therefore mostly used by advertisers.

e. Public information model This model has been established by Ivy Lee, based on the idea that public should be informed, with an honest and reliable statement from a company. In his Declaration of Principles, he explained his thought on media relations, stating that if the truth of a company is harmful for its brand image, it should be changed. The public information model, therefore reflects upon Lee’s believes, by focusing on informing the readers via telling the truth, because, according to Lee, the public will find out sooner or later.

2. Key facts on Marks & Spencer’s performance:     

In 2007 the company has introduced the ‘Plan A’ strategy, that has been developed throughout the years and transitioning into ‘a new way of working and engaging with our customers.’ Since 2015, M&S Sparks cards have been used by 5.6 million customers, and 93% of which have chosen a charity to support; in total, £2.4 million have been raised for a good cause. In 2012, M&S stores, offices and warehouses became carbon neutral, causing an impact on the safety of the environment. Marks & Start and Make Your Mark employability scheme, helped 50% people from disadvantaged community get to work. M&S is obtaining raw materials, of which 49% of cotton, 99% of wood and 27% of leather come from sustainable sources.

Marks & Spencer has been focusing on the values of its products since the very beginning of opening the first store. Now, the company is known worldwide for its high-quality materials and the brand’s image on the market. The company itself believes in the huge impact that is making on the environment and social platforms among its customers, and employees (M&S 2017). The use of sustainable sources

to allowing the company to obtain raw materials, implies the changes that were made to clarify the focus on not only M&S customers, but the whole environment; sympathising towards new potential customers and broaden the stakeholders group.

3. M&S annual report 2017 Marks & Spencer has released the annual report of 2017 on its corporate website, highlighting the events and successes of the year. The report has been written as an honest statement, pointing out the focus on the customers’ needs, via two-way communication. However, alongside the successful marketing, the annual report also indicates the loss in numbers and negative events, giving itself the readers a thoughtful note. Chairman, Robert Swannell, is proudly talking of the company as ‘well equipped for the digital age and totally focused on its customers’ (M&S, 2017). As it is his last annual report at M&S, Swannell is proudly talking about the improvements and foundations for growth. However, the statement is clearly stating that the company’s profit before tax was £613.8m, down 10.3% on last year and that the group profit has fell. From the media relations side, the Chairman is giving an honest announcement, informing about the losses and takes part of the blame himself for the decrease of the numbers. Chief executive’s strategic update, provides the readers with a clear outline that the main goal for the company is to stand strong as a sustainable retainer, by focusing on the two-way symmetric communication model; aiming at the customers and providing them with what they need by listening to their needs. Steve Rowe, chief executive officer, in the report, clarifies the goal behind the ‘Plan A’ and how it was ‘repurposed to make it more customer-focused’ (M&S, 2017). The annual report, informs the readers about the M&S customer segmentation, and how the company makes connections between its employees and the audiences. The chart shows, that 38% of the customers are male and 62% female, with a total number of 32 million customers. The brand is aware of the technological innovations throughout the years, and the fact that over 50% of the online orders have been made via tablets or smartphones, stating itself the easy access to the website.

4. Situation analysis: Paddington Christmas ad case study Marks & Spencer has released its Christmas advert in November 2017, aiming at kids and families this Christmas. However, the success of the campaign has been a wide topic among its viewers, and PR practitioners. It is therefore argued that the campaign has been the lest successful overt the past years, in comparison to previous promotions from the organisation. Soon after the advert was released, it has gained a lot of criticism as, it was believed by many that the video contained a swear word (Evening Standard, 2017).

The viewers’ have been mocking the video and sharing their thoughts on social media platforms. The tweets, however, were mostly full of humour rather than negative boycott towards M&S company or Paddington bear (see fig.2) As the research shows, M&S has been proud of its relations with the customers, and aiming at their needs; the company has been trying to provide its audiences with best quality products and focusing on the safety of the environment and keeping in mind what social impact the organisation is making. The numbers from the annual report indicate, that M&S has adapted the ‘Plan A’ as a way of focusing on the external and internal connections. Therefore, the response the company was making as a response to the negative statements from its viewers, was based on the Public Information model. The organisation, has responded by confirming all the customers, and defending itself the advert, saying that ‘it is “clear” that the words are “thank you, little bear” (The Guardian, 2017). Alongside Marks & Spencer’s defend of the advert, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has made a clear statement, a spokesman saying ‘the ad did not contain a swearword and therefore did not break the rules’ (The Guardian, 2017). However, M&S did not post an update on social media platforms responding to the negative comments about the advert, instead the company focused on promoting the hashtag #lovethebear (Facebook, 2017). It was clear, that after the release of the video, the brand has been hoping to focus the audience on Paddington, and promotion of the related products, that were later available at the stores for the customers to buy. Nevertheless, in comparison to one of Marks & Spencer’s competitors, John Lewis, the Paddington has been reportedly a successful campaign. Meanwhile M&S had to clear the statement alongside the ASA, John Lewis’s Christmas campaign has been criticised ‘least successful Christmas ad in five years’ according to The Sun, (2017) and the industry figures.

5. Evaluation The Paddington case study, is the most recent and more popularised among the media over the past couple of weeks. It has been viewed, shared and retweeted by many, and it shows how media and social platforms have responded towards the video, and how Marks & Spencer itself reacted against the criticism and affirmation. The conflict about the Christmas advert, released by M&S in collaboration with Paddington, has its base around the Schramm’s communication model. At a point, where a sender was clear about its message, the significance and the meaning of the advert, has been incorrectly decoded and therefore the interpretation has been mistaken. Companies have responded towards the criticism in an honest way, informing the viewers about the misunderstanding, clearly stating their primary aims.

Although M&S has defended itself through the Public Information model, the social media platforms, such as Facebook, allows the company to focus on the two-way symmetric model, and respond to the customers’ comments; indicating itself, the organisation is focusing on its audience and the gathered feedback.

Appendix: Stakeholder’s map

customers & target audience



competitors internal communication

media relations



society politicians


Online magazines


Journalists Bloggers

Stakeholder’s map show that the Head of Media relations has a wide range of audience, based on different areas of study. Media such as online magazine, and the connections with journalists and bloggers should be maintained; the impact the press is making on the social and environmental platforms would have an impact on the overall brand’s image. Meanwhile internal communication between the employees, suppliers and distributors help to create connectivity with the customers.


Fig. 2


The Sun (2017) 'I DON'T FEEL SAFE' Marks & Spencer warehouse worker reveals ‘dangerous’ working conditions due to performance-related targets [online] available at: [accessed 20 December 2017] Marks & Spencer (2017) M&S annual report 2017 [online] available at: [accessed 20 December 2017] David Mitchel (2017) Paddington and the Law of Unintended Consequences [online] available at: [accessed 20 December 2017] The Guardian (2017) Marks & Spencer poised to announce more store closures [online] available at: [accessed 20 December 2017] Grunig, J. & Hunt, T. (1984) Managing Public Relations. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Tim Morris (2014) Ivy Lee and the origins of the press release [online] available at: [accessed 20 December 2017] UK Essays (2013). Introduction of Press Agentry Model Media Essay [online]. Available at: [Accessed 20 December 2017] Ebony Simpson (2014) The Four Models in Grunig’s and Hunt’s PR Theories [online] available at: [accessed 22 December 2017] Businesstopia (n.d.) Schramm's Model of Communication [online] available at: [accessed 2 January 2018] Evening Standard (2017) M&S Christmas advert 2017: Shocked TV viewers claim burglar swears at Paddington Bear [online] available at: [accessed 28 December 2017]

Natalia pyskaty ae2, corporate communication  

One of my favourite pieces of work I've done for PR degree at Southampton Solent University; the whole work was done by myself.

Natalia pyskaty ae2, corporate communication  

One of my favourite pieces of work I've done for PR degree at Southampton Solent University; the whole work was done by myself.