The Dublin Conversations: An evolving response to a turbulent communications landscape: Putting purpose centre stage in liquid times

Sarah Bowman, Andy Green, Padraig McKeon

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Introduction and Purpose: This paper suggests that PR practitioners are well placed to respond to the changing organisational and communication landscape as society shifts to being more unstable and uncertain in line with what Bauman (2000) calls liquid modernity. Some even call this new era a ‘post communication world’ (Macnamara, 2018). The modern PR professional operates in multiple spaces requiring individuals who are comfortable operating betwixt and between social roles and fluid work identities. Consequently, this paper asks the twin question: how can PR respond and shape this new environment, and how do PR practitioners equip themselves with the necessary knowledge and skills.

Literature Review: Digital disruption and globalisation are transforming the nature of work (Lo Presti, 2009) as organisations respond to environmental turbulence and change (Malhotra, 2002). Individuals require competencies around flexibility, adaptability and learning to learn with these becoming increasing important as boundaries between organisations and stakeholders, communication disciplines, and real and digital worlds blur and entwine. At the same time, organisations are struggling to tackle increased demands for social justice. Against this backdrop professional fields are now more varied (Noordegraff, 2016), networked and interlocking (Barnett, 2011). Revell and Bryan (2018) talk of liquid professionalism with the need to constantly re-invigorate capabilities in fluid and changing times. Others talk of an ecological approach (Barnett, 2011) allowing for greater professional interdependencies grounded in responsibility. Trends in the literature, therefore, suggest the need for fresh ways to deal with these challenges.

Methodology and Findings: The paper draws on a year-long initiative called the Dublin Conversations that brings together individuals that want to explore and create a new future for PR practice. It takes an action research approach involving collaboration with practitioners to propose a new approach to PR that can tackle and address these challenges. It is also underpinned by rhizomatic tendencies (Delueze and Guattari, 1988). Findings so far suggest practitioners want a new set of theories and tools that can help them support organisations as they re-orientate operations and communications in a changing world. Such a re-orientation requires helping organisations understand better what is meant by purpose delivering purposefulness and calling out purpose-wash. From this the Dublin Conversations has started to create a set of tools (or canvases) that can support practitioners as communication leaders

Implications and Limitations: From a theoretical perspective the Dublin Conversations helps to extend thinking around communication leadership informed by liquid modernity, liminality and rhizomatic approaches. From a practical perspective, it strives to build a knowledge repertory for PR by creating tools that can be used by practitioners to re-orientate organisations through an uncertain world that requires organisations to be robust, authentic and just. The limitations are based on its current exploratory nature and the need to test the value of the tools so far created.


Barnett, R. (2011). Towards an ecological professionalism. In: Sugrue, D. and Solbrekke, T. D. (eds) Professional Responsibility: New Horizons of Praxis. London and New York, Routledge, pp29-41

Bauman, Z. (2000). Liquid Modernity. Cambridge: Polity

Deleuze, G., and Guattari, F. (1988). A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. Trans. B. Massumi London: Athlone Press (original work published in 1980).

Lo Presti, A. (2009). Snakes and Ladders: Stressing the Role of Meta-Competencies for Post-Modern Careers. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance, 9:125-134

Macnamara, J. (2018). Public Relations and Post-Communication. Addressing a paradox in public communication. Public Relations Journal, 11, 3 (retrieved from

Malhotra, Y. (2002). Information Ecology and Knowledge Management: Toward Knowledge Ecology for Hyperturbulent Organizational Environments. Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS). UNESCO/EOLSS Publishers

Noordegraff, M. (2016). Reconfigurating Professional Work: Changing Forms of Professionalism in Public Services. Administration and Services, 48, 7:783-810

Revell, L. and Bryan, H. (2018). Fundamental British Values in Education: Radicalisation, National Identity and Britishness. Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing Ltd
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2020
EventPubic Relations Institute of Australia - online, Australia
Duration: 19 Oct 202020 Oct 2020


ConferencePubic Relations Institute of Australia
Abbreviated titlePRIA


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