Engaging audiences with your research: principles for effective communication

09 August, 2023

Kay Jenkinson

Reading time: 3 minutes

Kay Jenkinson reflects on a climate storytelling workshop for researchers on how to share their ideas with the public, investors and the media.

I recently attended a climate storytelling workshop run by the Planet Positive LabOpens in a new tab, aimed at offering guidance to researchers on how to share their climate-saving ideas to the public, investors and the media.

I was on the hunt for new insights into improving the way research engages its audiences, so that we can build the case for evidence-based climate action. CREDS has a developed a solid process for taking research findings, making them accessible and sharing them with both existing and new stakeholders, but there’s always room for new ideas.

I wasn’t sure what I’d learn, but with speakers from digital and print media, and an enthusiastic community of young research entrepreneurs, fizzing with enthusiasm for the positive impact they could have on tackling climate change, it proved to be an interesting morning.

By the end of the session, what was clear was that the well-established principles that CREDS applies remain as relevant as ever, but it was also a really useful reminder that there are a host of approaches to deploy. I took away a commitment to re-visit the whole impact ‘toolbox’; to avoid over-reliance on the tried-and-tested, and to be prepared to risk more innovative strategies.

Here I focus on just a few of the main takeaways, and highlight some related CREDS resources.

  • For impact, stories need to be conveyed via a good narrative arc (problem > hero > resolution (of sorts)), preferably shared with passion by someone with credibility. For a non-specialist audience, a good rule of thumb is “Would my mum / dad / friend / neighbour be interested?”, and don’t assume prior knowledge. Josh Ettinger’s presentation to CREDS explores this concept in greater detail.
  • Killer facts and stats are particularly good for a climate-related story: these should be clear, delivered early and relevant.
  • Avoid jargon, vague/generic terms, technical language and acronyms. Use (evidence-based) examples and anecdotes to explain your story.  For example, CREDS’ researcher Llinos Brown’s blog reflects on knowledge exchange and the value of placing your audience at the centre of engagement.
  • Really cool images can help to your story to stand out, as will quirky storylines!

But whether you are focused on changing policies, tweaking professional standards, or looking for start-up funding, it’s clear that there are some valuable shared approaches to apply.

If you want to dig in a little more, there are plenty of online resources, and, closer to home, CREDS has produced guidance for researchers on the journey to impact.

Banner photo credit: Perry Merrity on Unsplash