Strategic problematization of sustainability reframing dissent in strategic communication for transformation

Franzisca Weder*

*Corresponding author for this work

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


Involving stakeholders in organizational decisions is essential in the present sustainability movement, associated with the social license to operate and specific forms of communication in, from and about organizations with an impact orientation. This paper introduces a concept of strategic problematization of sustainability for transformation as innovative approach to Public Relations (PR), acknowledging the plurality of agonistic voices in stakeholder engagement processes in social, cultural and environmental transformations and challenging the normative concept of dialogue and solution- and consensus-oriented approaches to date. The article discusses the transformative potential of PR by reframing dissent and introducing problematization as ability to agonize and, therefore, as key process of constructive strategic communication for sustainable development. Three conversational procedures in water (scarcity) management on a local, national and international level were chosen to explore the potential of strategic problematization in relation to sustainability as normative framework of today’s society. The implications of the case studies and the conceptual framework expand existing engagement theories with a critical perspective and manifest the transformative potential of PR for a sustainable future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337-360
Number of pages24
JournalPublic Relations Inquiry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • Agonism
  • conflict
  • dialogue
  • Foucault
  • problematization
  • stakeholder engagement
  • sustainability communication
  • water supply and scarcity

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