About

The Center for Public Interest Communications, the first of its kind in the nation, is designed to study, test and apply the science of strategic communication for social change.
The Center assists organizations, wanting to create change, discover how behavioral, cognitive and social science can show them how people think, make decisions and behave. Through use of science, systems thinking and human-centered design, the Center helps organizations create and implement powerful communication strategies.

The Center is dedicated to the goals of the Frank Karel endowment:

  • to develop adoptable curricula and guide students who plan to build careers in the field of public interest communications;
  • identify connections with other fields and support community among those who practice, fund and study public interest communications;
  • and build a community of scholars who use research to advance the discipline of public interest communications.
In support of science-based communication, the Center provides training to government agencies, universities, foundations, public interest communications agencies and nonprofits.
The Center develops workshops to share research with social change leaders and scientists to help them develop better communication strategies, and it houses frank: an annual conference dedicated to public interest communications.

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 it 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. We don’t believe in “raising awareness” because if people have to come up with their own action to create change, the cause will probably fail. Change is when people start doing something they aren’t doing, or stop doing something they are already doing. See Ann Christiano, Director of the Center for Public Interest Communications, discuss how words change lives.
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.