Exploring trauma-informed listening among public relations professionals

Katie R. Place, Stephanie Madden, Mikayla Pevak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


There is an increasing awareness of the prevalence and impact of trauma on publics’ lives, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. As intermediaries who shape symbols, discourses, meanings, and practices amidst evolving social, cultural, and psychological landscapes such as these, public relations professionals must remain mindful of their potential to inflict harm on the recipients of their work and understand publics’ lived experiences that may involve trauma. Yet, little research has explored public relations work from a trauma-informed approach. Building upon Macnamara's (2016b, 2018) architecture of listening model, this study considers how public relations can help enact trauma-informed organizational listening. As such, this qualitative analysis of interviews with 54 public relations and strategic communication professionals yielded insights for listening with consideration for trauma and harm among diverse publics. Findings suggest that public relations professionals engage in trauma-informed listening via respect and sensitivity, listening out for invisible or unheard trauma, consideration of power distance, understanding that the trauma can be inflicted by communications work, and with consideration for ‘compassion fatigue.’ Combined with existing organizational listening theory, this article offers practical recommendations for how organizations can enact trauma-informed listening.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102393
JournalPublic Relations Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Marketing

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