Burness Institute

Messaging and Training

For us, this is the question: How can you be memorable? In an increasingly “connected” society in which we are bombarded by print, broadcast and online news, tweets, texting, status updates and online banter, how can you influence people to not only listen, but motivate them to act?  It takes message development and practice to help you find your voice, one that will be effective with media and policymakers.

The goal of our media and messaging workshops is to teach what to say and how to say it so that, ultimately, you can educate, secure funding, move policy or be part of creating social change.  We train with personal and intensive in-person exercises and coaching. 

This focus on the personal connections between trainers and participants is reflected in how we view webinar trainings.  We don’t see webinars as a platform to broadcast our workshops; rather, we see them as a tool to hold small and interactive sessions with participants who can’t be together.  We use webinars as continuing education following an in-person session or as a series of short trainings with “homework” and expectation of active participation.

Our workshops are led by senior level trainers who have content expertise in issues related to health, science, the environment, education and social justice issues broadly, and aim to teach how to be persuasive and remain in control and on message – even when facing a tough interviewer or skeptical policymaker.

Click here to see sample agendas and learn about the Institute.  

Individual Coaching

In addition to our workshops, which equip non-profit leaders and researchers with the tools to become advocates on their own, we also offer “coaching” services.  Trainees can execute what they’ve learned in our workshops with the support and ongoing guidance of a coach based on a strategic plan developed between coach and expert.    


The Burness Institute has developed a fellowship model that has been replicated successfully domestically and internationally.  A fellowship is a proven strategy used to train and engage dozens of spokespeople to create momentum – usually with razor sharp focus - toward a shared goal.    

The Burness team manages the entire fellowship process, identifies an expert committee to nominate and select candidates for the program, and trains and coaches fellows.

Our flagship fellowship is with the Mayday Pain & Society Fellowship , developed in 2004.  Once fellows are selected, we start with a four-day, highly interactive session in Washington, DC, followed by five months of coaching.  We provide ongoing counsel and assistance through in-person meetings and conference calls with the Fellows, providing writing, editing, and messaging assistance.  Fellows are paired one-on-one with a coach.  After the five month coaching period, one Mayday Fellow told us, simply, “I wish I could do this full time.”

We duplicated the model in Africa for the Malaria Vaccine Advocacy Fellowship, training researchers engaged in the groundbreaking work on malaria vaccine research.