Pitching, sharing, and storytelling: Getting your work in front of the right eyeballs

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Everyone loves a good story. It’s in our DNA. Humans have a long history of storytelling, yet somehow it’s only now catching on with the sciences. If you’d like to get your work out there to a larger audience, storytelling is essential. Stories resonate with people in ways that facts and figures simply do not. Furthermore, stories and metaphors are much more memorable than facts alone. Don’t just tell your audience about your work, tell them a story.

I know at first this can sound quite daunting. I’ve participated in several storytelling workshops myself, often leaving without any idea how I could possibly tell a story about my work, or our mission here at OpenChannels. But like all things creative, it’ll come to you…eventually…when you’re totally not expecting it. If I can come up with a decent story about Google alerts and literature updates, you can come up with an excellent story about saving our oceans and coasts. I have faith in you! You can do it!

There are many, many resources out there for teaching storytelling for science and sharing your story across the globe. This blog will highlight just a small fraction of them.

COMPASS and The Message Box

If you have no clue how to talk to the media about your work, approach a policymaker, or give an elevator pitch, then look no further than COMPASS. They offer trainings and workshops on just about everything you need to know for getting in the media spotlight. You can find an archive of their IMCC4 training on Storify.

Pitching journalists

No surprise that science communication was a major theme of IMCC4. I created a Storify to collate some of the best tweets on working with journalists. For those of you who are Twitter-adverse, here’s a quick summary of those tweets:

  • Suggest a catchy headline for media outlets to use in your press release.
  • Incorporate a local and/or timely “hook” that will engage your audience, and explain why your work is newsworthy.
  • Take time to research your target audience, and reach out to journalists who specialize in that group.
  • You don’t necessarily need a press release for your work to get media attention, but it certainly helps!
  • This one is all me (so don’t direct hate-mail to the IMCC4 group!): If the title of your journal article is esoteric, write a blog or press release that uses a better one. Scientists are people too. No one’s going to click on an article that sounds incredibly boring or irrelevant (if you don’t agree, let me say that our Google Analytics from the OpenChannels Literature Library greatly support this!).

Suggestions for sharing

Ever heard of the news site, The Conversation? Their tagline of “academic rigor, journalistic flair” sums it up perfectly. Their reporting is among the best on the internet. Everything there is also under a Creative Commons license, so you can re-post the content anywhere for free. And the best thing is, you can become an author and share your own stories!

Podcasts are also a great option: not only do you get to talk about your work in your own words, but your audience gets to hear you. You’re no longer just words on a page, but a real living, breathing human being. Andrew Lewin (whom many of you may know from his IMCC4 podcast training) hosts the Speak Up for Blue podcast. There are nearly 200 episodes on iTunes already. Getting interviewed is as easy as skyping Andrew and having a conversation.

If you prefer live storytelling, there’s Story Collider (which archives performances as podcasts). The project aims to share all kinds of stories about science, so this one isn’t limited to the marine and coastal realm.

Don’t forget about blogging! It’s super easy to start your own blog, which if you have a research website, you should definitely include a blog (and if you don’t have one, I’ll cover setting up your own blog soon). We here at OpenChannels have a blog that’s open to anyone. If you’re doing work on corals, the Reef Resilience network would love to hear from you. If you’re working on MPAs in California, definitely contact OceanSpaces. There are tons of discipline-specific communities of practice like these out there: reach out to them, we all love it when people come to us wanting to share their work!

Listservs are another huge asset. Whether you’re studying corals, marine litter, MPAs, MSP, or EBM, there’s a listserv for it. Chances are there’s a listserv out there for every field.

New media isn’t everything, though. Old(er) school news outlets are still utilized by millions of people. Consider writing an opinion piece for The Guardian, contact your local NPR affiliate, or newspaper. I can’t stress enough that – depending on whom your target audience is – local radio/newspapers may be your most effective outlets. Case in point: I don’t have a Facebook account (much to my mother’s dismay), nor Snapchat, nor Instagram — I solely survive off Twitter, email, and NPR. There are plenty of people you’re not going to reach with the internet and social media.

Regardless of the method of delivery for sharing your work, be sure to share it with a story. 

Editor's note: This is the fifth blog in our series on "making your marine science matter" — a recent talk MARE gave at the 4th International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC4). You may read the other blogs in this series by following the links below.