What is Public Interest Communications?

Public Interest Communications is an emerging field, and those who practice or study it are continuously applying new insights and techniques to make their work more effective. The field borrows elements from its sister fields of public relations, advertising, journalism and marketing, but is informed by sociology, psychology, political science and neuroscience.

It is the development and implementation of science-based, planned strategic communication campaigns with the main goal of achieving significant change and sustained positive behavioral change on a public interest issue that transcends the particular interests of any single organization.

Lasting change. That’s our end goal. Here at frank, we don’t believe in “raising awareness” because if people have to come up with their own action, the cause will probably fail. Change is when people start doing something they aren’t doing, or stop doing something they are already are doing.

Examples of successful campaigns include the Montgomery Bus Boycott, advances in marriage equality, increases in seatbelt use and reductions in smoking. Each of these campaigns is distinguished by a singular focus on a goal and lasting policy and behavior change.

The University of Florida is building and supporting this community of changemakers in three ways:

  1. Building an undergraduate curriculum for those planning careers in this field. At the University of Florida, we now offer undergraduate coursework to help people master the skills critical to this field.
  2. Establishing a community of people who have dedicated their careers to this field. We’re doing this through the frank gathering, an annual meeting in Gainesville of the people who use communications to drive change. We are also doing this through our blog, frankology, where we feature insights from practitioners in field on the art of strategic communication
  3. Finding and sharing scholarship and best practice that helps us do our work better. We’re driving this in four ways. First, we’ve established a prize in public interest communications scholarship, where we award three prizes to research that informs the field of public interest communications. Second, we’ve created frankology, where we summarize new research from various disciplines that provide insight into effective communication practice. Third, we bring together scholars and their graduate students from multiple disciplines for an annual gathering to collaborate and set a research agenda for the growing academic discipline of public interest communications. Finally, we’re establishing an academic journal for the discipline of public interest communications.