Fall 2023 - CMNS 425 D100

Applied Communication for Social Issues (4)

Class Number: 1275

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 6 – Dec 5, 2023: Thu, 2:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    26 CMNS units with a minimum grade of C- or 60 units with a minimum CBPA of 2.00.



An advanced seminar in applied communication that focuses on the research and strategic design of media messages, campaigns and programs for public awareness, education, and social change. This course involves the application of theories and approaches in critical media analysis to the tasks of media design and media use for public understanding, engagement and participation around social issues.


This course examines the theories, methods, and practices of social issues communication. The work of social issues communication involves the research, design, and implementation of communication planning, programs, messages, and campaigns around urgent and critical social issues. Social issues communication is about sustained public engagement and is driven by the goal of social change. The course focuses on the strategic design and use of media. Above all, social issues communication research and design proceeds from a comprehensive and detailed understanding of the complexities, the dynamism, the qualities, and the velocity of change in current and emergent media and communication technology environments. The course explores new ways to develop social issues messages in the broader and complex commercial media environment.

CMNS 425 offers an interdisciplinary, practiced-focused (hands-on) exploration of a wide range of public engagement fields and strategies. Public engagement practices, theories and methods considered include public relations, advocacy, social marketing, strategic communication, and more. Themes and issues addressed in this course, include: communication for social change; communication as intervention; public engagement and participation; advocacy and social marketing; corporate social responsibility; social media and social change; activism and digital culture; new and emergent platforms and media design; and more. A wide range of case studies will be examined.


1. Experiential and community-based learning.
2. Connect theoretical/critical and applied/practical dimensions of communication.
3. Acquisition of skills to research, design, and implement media planning, strategies, and messages around social issues.
4. Understand communication as sustained social action.
5. Provide a learning experience that prepares students for the professional practice of communication design for social change.


  • “Real World” applied communication: problem-solving research and design toward communication solutions for selected current and controversial issues 20%
  • Class contributions 10%
  • Foundation Research presentation 30%
  • Final project/compendium 40%



Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the semester are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.