The blog of Burness Institute

Francis Collins, How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways.

I’d like to take a moment to pay homage to an expert communicator whose clear explanation and skilled delivery makes my heart skip a beat every time I see him interviewed. I am talking about Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health.  Take note – if you do half as well as Dr. Collins on staying on message, you’ll likely nail your interview. 

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Sound Smart...Mean Nothing

My eyes glazed over and I wanted to turn off the television when I heard an interview with the Lieutenant Governor of California Gavin Newsom.   His new book “Citizenville,” about how Americans can transform their government in the digital age, is certainly an interesting topic.  But his messaging and delivery in an interview on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report was not.

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

Local Meteorologist Delivers More Than a 10 Day Forecast: Educating on Climate Change

Politicians aren’t trusted as a source for information on climate change, reported NPR on Tuesday.  Also – unsurprisingly – scientists are the number one trusted source for climate change research.  

What caught my ear during this Morning Edition story, however, was the second most trusted source: local TV weathercasters.  

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

Emotions Dominate the State of the Union

What’s the difference between and good speech and one you’ll never forget?  Emotion.

Chances are if you read or watched the news coverage today about last night’s State of the Union address, you know it’s hard to pin down any one message.  From the economy and Afghanistan to immigration reform and early childhood education, the speech was chock-full of second-term agenda goals.  If there was a common theme, it was to convey the sense of urgency for action—“now is our best chance,” “we need to finish the job,” “let’s get it done.”

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Posted by Dionne Dougall-Bass in Institute Blog, Being Memorable, Storytelling | Permalink | Comments (0)

Reflecting on the Importance of Impact

I feel more thankful this holiday season than in years past.  This realization came to me last week during a media and advocacy training with Baltimore community leaders who are fighting for the rights, health and safety of children, mothers, and families in East Baltimore.  I’m thankful, because these advocates are having impact, and they have told us that our work with them has been part of what led them to success.

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

Reading betwen the Ad-Libs

One of our pieces of parting advice as we close out training workshops is for participants to become “students of the media.”  Read the news and take note of what quotations or messages resonate.  Ask yourself why something breaks through and sticks with you.

In the same vein, you can learn a lot from watching gifted speakers and trying to pick up their best practices.  It’s not easy, but it’s valuable. 

Former President Bill Clinton – however you feel about his policies or politics – is one of those speakers who can command an audience.  Throughout his speech at the Democratic National Convention, journalists on Twitter noted that he was “off-prompter” – that is, he was ad-libbing or riffing off of his prepared remarks.  Some of his most effective and memorable lines were not in his prepared remarks.

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

Mars, it’s the Journey not the Destination

What could be more compelling than landing on Mars?  It’s the stuff of Hollywood. But what we find truly remarkable is that the country is captivated by more than the images being sent back by the Curiosity Rover; we are as excited by the science of its journey and treacherous decent.

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

Words Imitating Art

Today marks the second anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, and next week the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of the law. In this election season, we’re bound to hear references about how monumental—or detrimental—health care reform has been. But no matter what side of the political aisle you sit, it’s hard to argue the effectiveness of this compelling animated video by the Center for American Progress.

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Posted by Dionne Dougall-Bass in Institute Blog, Video | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tinkering with Analogies

Tinker Toys

A clever analogy can be the best tool for communicating your important research findings to the public.  Take a look at how abstract scientific concepts were translated into a more understandable language for a general audience in this article posted recently on about research that uncovered a potentially new and easier way to deliver drugs into the human body. The study is complexly-titled: "Metal-adeninate vertices for the construction of an exceptionally porous metal-organic framework," but the lead researcher breaks it down into clear, simple terms virtually everyone can relate to - Tinker Toys. 

“Think of this the way you imagine Tinkertoys,” says Nathaniel Rosi, assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh and principal investigator of the study, published in Nature Communications. “The metal clusters are your joints, and the organic molecules are your linkers. In order to build a highly open structure with lots of empty space, you can increase the linker length or you can increase the size of the joint…Essentially, we’re like architects. We first make a blueprint for a target material, and we then select our building blocks for construction…”

Photo courtesy of Ninahale 

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