Frank-ly, We Need More Satire in Communications Work

I recently had the privilege of attending the frank2015 conference in Gainesville, Florida, which brings together public interest communicators to discuss the field, share best practices, and generally get inspired. While pretending to be a Gators fan for the week (the conference was at the University of Florida), I also picked up lots of useful tips and information.

Even weeks after the conference though, there’s one thought that has stuck with me. A few presenters touched on the helpfulness of satire in communicating information on social good and political issues – especially with millennials. Yes, we need more of The Onion, Jon Stewart, and “truthiness”. Studies show that people who get news from these types of outlets learn just as much as those who only watch “hard” news.

One of the best examples in recent years of satire teaching the American public about policy issues?


(Tina Fey as Sarah Palin)

We as public interest communicators can often get stuck in the idea that only serious, deep information will get our clients’ stories told. But which are you more likely to remember – a 50-page, jargon-filled policy report, or a joke-filled Jon Stewart segment on the same topic? It is definitely the latter for me.

Moving more towards satire and humor in communications work doesn’t take away the intellectual value of the work we do. If anything, it shows that we are even more creative and clever – capable of communicating really important stories and ideas to a larger audience. It does, however, require that communicators remain highly sensitive and appropriate in handling these sometimes delicate issues.

Are you currently doing using satire to educate on policy issues? Do you have any favorite examples of a campaign that covered a heavy topic with humor and satire? One of the pieces discussed at the conference was this great piece from The Grist. We’d love to chat if you have other favorites.