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JAMA Commentary Calls on Researchers to Use Stories Strategically

Storytelling can be defined broadly when it comes to talking about the challenges and successes of research. We recognize that there isn’t always a full narrative arc that can be told about a specific study or research topic, so examples, anecdotes and even just using “visual language” – that is, words that paint a picture in the mind’s eye – work just as well. Research has shown that people remember stories more than data, and if you think about it, you’ll find examples in your own life. Many of us learned that slow and steady wins the race from the story of the tortoise and the hare. Aesop’s fables have stuck around because stories provide a context to remember a key takeaway or lesson.

A new commentary in JAMA spells out specific ways that stories can be incorporated into the promotion of evidence-based medicine by looking at issues like the claim of a connection between autism and vaccines and recommendations on mammograms and prostate cancer screenings and why the research message was so roundly overwhelmed by stories and non-expert opinions.

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Posted by Nick Seaver in Institute Blog, JAMA, Storytelling | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Daily Show Asks, What's Science Up To?

In advance of our media training and messaging workshops we send out surveys to get a sense of what our participants want and need.  We always ask: "What is the question you'd least like to be asked by a reporter or policymaker?"  We get some really great, tough questions that we often use in workshops.  However, for a session we have coming up this week, a participant wrote in their survey that the biggest challenge she has is responding to non-scientists who are skeptics of science all together.  She referred us to an episode of The Daily Show that aired last week on Comedy Central.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Weathering Fights - Science: What's It Up To?
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

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Posted by Nick Seaver in Institute Blog, Science Communication | Permalink | Comments (0)

Memorable Messaging Matters…Ask the NIH.

Imagine I work for the National Institutes of Health and I’m talking with a reporter or policymaker, or even with my neighbor.  A natural question is, “What has the NIH done with all the funding it has received?”   Or slightly more challenging, “Are my tax dollars being spent well?”   I could say, “The NIH  invests more than $31 billion annually in medical research  to improve lives,” or instead I could say:

“Because of research accomplished by the National Institutes of Health ….

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Posted by Carol Schadelbauer in Institute Blog, Strategic Communications Counsel, Trainings and Workshops | Permalink | Comments (0)

Show me the Infographics: Making Data Digestible

The infographic business is booming and that’s a good thing. At least for those of us who want to understand multifaceted issues such as the science process of stem cells or the complexities of health care policy.

The infographic below claims hospitals are hazardous to our health using statistics and figures in a creative way. As long as you have facts and accurate numbers, why not paint a picture or tell a story in a graphic in your next power point presentation or informational handout. The media love to receive these as well to weave into their stories.

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Posted by Carol Schadelbauer in Institute Blog, Infographics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Making (Seismic) Waves with Social Media

Remember what a powerful medium social media is for promoting your work far and wide… and sometimes fast.

During the 5.9 magnitude earthquake that rocked the East Coast on August 23rd, news of the temblor in postings on Twitter and other social media outlets outpaced the seismic waves as they rippled across the Eastern seaboard and the nation from the epicenter in Mineral, Virginia.  News outlets provided constant updates and average citizens weighed in with reports: both informational and humorous.  Many of them were widely shared

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Posted by Bridget DeSimone in Institute Blog, social media | Permalink | Comments (0)

Making Health Policy Pop: An Example from the News

Gary Schwitzer, at Health News Review, points us to a Fox News report in Minneapolis on new information from the Dartmouth Atlas Project which describes variations in medical care from one city to the next.  The story is ultimately about shared decision making--a model of care that informs and includes patients in decisions about their care.  The takeaway message is clear: by informing patients, we can avoid wide variations in care and ensure that the best choices are made regardless of financial incentives that may exist for the doctor.  

The news segment is clear, visual, and engaging--something rarely seen in such a policy-focused story.  Even before the patient story, there is a great analogy (to eating at a restaurant) that makes clear the fundamental issue in this story.  Watch the piece below and think about how you can use examples, analogies and visuals to explain your work and  liven up a presentation.

Investigators: Minnesota Health Care:

Posted by Nick Seaver in Institute Blog | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ted Talks: Learning to Give Memorable Presentations

For my money, there is no better collection of compelling and memorable presentations than those appearing on the Ted Talk website. The entire premise of the Ted conferences is that they provide a forum that brings together accomplished speakers from a variety of fields and have them present “ideas worth spreading.” A quick browse of the site provides a talk for virtually any interest you might have.

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Posted by Nick Seaver in Institute Blog, presentations, Ted Talk | Permalink | Comments (0)

Artfully Answering the Wrong Questions with the Right Answers

Robin Hanson asks in a recent post on her blog Overcomingbias, “Why is modest question evasion so often tolerated in TV and radio interviews?” Her question was sparked by a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology’s April Issue that found that listeners often won’t notice discrepancies between the question that was asked and the answer that is delivered as long as it is done smoothly and confidently.

And that’s not all, some people prefer to hear a wrong answer artfully delivered rather than the right answer delivered awkwardly. Here is what the study authors, Harvard psychologists Todd Rogers and Michael Norton said:

“We propose that dodges go undetected because listeners' attention is not usually directed toward a goal of dodge detection (i.e., Is this person answering the question?) but rather toward a goal of social evaluation (i.e., Do I like this person?). Listeners were not blind to all dodge attempts, however. Dodge detection increased when listeners' attention was diverted from social goals toward determining the relevance of the speaker's answers, when speakers answered a question egregiously dissimilar to the one asked, and when listeners' attention was directed to the question asked by keeping it visible during speakers' answers…” 

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Posted by Bridget DeSimone in Institute Blog, Bridging, Controlling an Interview | Permalink | Comments (0)

Providing Context to Your Work: Pairing your Research Findings with a Compelling Message

People often confuse their research findings with a “message.”  To reach your audiences effectively, you need both. In preparation for a recent training workshop we tracked down this NPR story that was not only topical, but a perfect example of pairing a message with research.

First the research findings on the relationship between bisphosphonates, drugs like Boniva for osteoporosis, and a rare fracture of the thighbone provide the necessary news hook, an accurate and factual summary to capture immediate interest. 

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Posted by Gideon Hertz in Institute Blog, Messaging, Storytelling | Permalink | Comments (0)

You're More Interesting Than You Think

Andy Goodman’s latest article in Free-Range Thinking (PDF) discusses one of the main ways leaders are successful – and that’s by telling stories.  The first story he says leaders must tell is the “story of self.”  It seems in our experiences working with some of the nation’s top scientists and non-profit leaders that telling stories about themselves is really tough.   They don’t think they have one to tell.  But when we ask them, “Why do you care about what you do?” or “What led you to become so passionate about this field of work?” in many cases, what we heard  silenced the room.  Even made those in the room hold their breath for just a minute.  They are truly memorable. 

Once I asked a pain expert, “why do you care about pain treatment so much?”  The story that followed – about a dying girl writhing in pain who changed the course of his medical career - silenced the room.  And then It became the lead to an opinion editorial he published soon after in Toronto’s Globe and Mail. More leaders need to open up and share what drives them day in and day out.  

You can read Dr. Finley's op-ed after the jump or at The Globe and Mail (subscription required).

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Posted by Carol Schadelbauer in Institute Blog, Storytelling | Permalink | Comments (0)