Telling the Right Story, for the Right People, at the Right Time

January 8-March 11, 2017

Trying to set priorities for communicating your sites’ work? Or developing your first professional profile as you search for a job? Building a global reputation or breaking into a new area of research?

In 2017, the LTER Network Communications Office offered an interactive online training in effective science communication.

Establishing communications goals, making careful choices about audience, and developing a compelling story arc are fundamental to effective communication—no matter the medium. The purpose of this interactive online class is to help participants develop strategic frameworks for science communication that address these universal elements so that they can coordinate outreach efforts and maximize their impact.

Ecologist Julian Hadley Speaks To NPR Reporter About Carbon Sequestration. Credit: Harvard Forest LTER

Specific outreach methods, such as public presentations, video, blogging, and social media were touched on throughout the course, but were not be covered in depth. The priorities that emerged from this course are helping to guide future NCO training efforts.

This online class stretched over eight weeks and consisted of four two-week modules, specifically designed to encourage interaction between course participants. The expected time commitment was five to eight hours per module.

Course modules, developed for LTER in collaboration with SciFund Challenge, included:

  • Understanding your audience. Participants identify the goals of their outreach efforts, select a target audience, and investigate their interests and concerns. (January 8-28, 2017)
  • Developing your central message. By crafting a message that is specific to their audience’s interests, participants improve their ability to capture and hold the attention of that audience. (January 29-February 11, 2017)
  • Creating your story arc. Stories provide context for science and make the core message more memorable and engaging. In this module, we will explore the established tools of narrative: character, setting, action, suspense, and resolution and apply them to the central message developed in the second module. (February 12-25, 2017)
  • Honing your outreach strategy. In this module, participants will develop an outreach plan that is strategic, sustainable, and measurable. (February 26-March 11, 2017)

In the course of each module, participants:

  • Reviewed written resources the course web site (days 1-5).
  • Completed specific exercises related to their own communications goals and plans (days 3-10).
  • Reviewed and offered feedback to colleagues within a private online community (days 7-12)
  • Discussed and received feedback on plan elements with instructors and a small groups of participants via videoconference (days 10-14).