Key steps for impactful communication

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New advances in the life sciences shouldn’t be kept in the dark. Whether you are an academic publishing a paper, a researcher with a breakthrough drug, or an entrepreneur with the next big biotech innovation, you want to reach your audience and achieve your goals. However, it can be hard to know how to go about it. So let’s break it down and examine some of the key considerations for impactful science communication.

A plethora of options

Nowadays, it is easier than ever to broadcast your story. Social media, websites, and even the ease of travel brings people closer together. This not only applies to your peers and colleagues, but also to experts in other domains: journalists, policymakers, and investors. The tricky thing is that you have to adapt your story to each one, adjusting your message to match the interests and concerns of different stakeholders. The way you reach them also needs to be considered: the best fit might be a social media post, a booth at an event, a whitepaper, an email, or any of the multitude of other options. The sheer volume of communication methods and alternatives can be overwhelming, which is why we encourage you to slow down and start with a few key considerations.

Where do I even start?

Before you jump right in, as with any decision in life sciences or business, it is best to start by asking yourself some strategic questions.

Why are you telling this story?

In short: what are you trying to achieve? Usually there is an underlying reason that is more specific than simply sharing the good news. It might be that you’re looking to grow your reputation in the industry to connect with new partners, or perhaps your company is looking for funding and wants to attract investors? Maybe you’re looking for patients to enroll in your study? Whatever the reason for your communication, it is important to determine this first, as it will affect your message and methods.

Who is my audience?

Once you’ve determined the purpose of your communications, you should consider who can help you achieve your goal. In some cases, this is fairly obvious: if your startup needs funding, then you will likely need to reach out to Venture Capitalists. In other cases, your audience may be less obvious, or there may even be multiple stakeholders who you need to win over. For each different audience, you need to determine what they care about, and adapt your message accordingly. Investors will likely want to hear about your business plan, competitors, and market size, whereas potential patients will care far more about what your innovation can do for them in terms of health. And one of the greatest challenges is choosing how much detail to include: doctors may care about your drug’s mechanism of action, for example, but a politician or regulatory agency will likely be far more interested in the expected cost to the healthcare system and impact on society, and won’t care about the nitty gritty technical information. You will also need to adapt your message depending on which methods you use to reach out.

How will I reach them?

The final key question before you start is: how will you connect with your audience? There are myriads of methods for reaching out, so before you begin you need to think about which channels will be most effective at targeting your specific audience. Can you find them on social media, or at an event? Will a web article be enough, or would it be better to write a white paper to really demonstrate you thought leadership in a field? Should you use writing, or is your message perhaps best conveyed using an explanatory infographic, key visual, or video? It’s important to think about the types of content your audience consumes: for example, members of the general public typically don’t read whitepapers and journalists will want the inside scoop via a press release before the news goes public. People consume information differently, so launching communication actions without thinking about the “how” might meant that you miss a key target group or fail to reach your audience at all.

It is only once you’ve answered these three questions that it is time to start crafting your communications!

Interested in science communication? Check out the BE.SciComm conference on December 1 in Brussels!

Creating your story

Once you’ve determined your “why, who, and how”, it’s time to get down to actual content creation. A few tips to get that ball rolling:

  • Adapt your language. Jargon and acronyms may be appropriate to use when speaking to your scientific audience but keep the language simple and relatable if trying to reach someone outside of your field. If in doubt, cut it out!
  • Keep it as concise as possible but don’t cut out the important stuff. If your audience wants to read a scientific paper, they will do that. To reach a broader audience, materials like articles, brochures, and application notes need to be much shorter. Respect your audience’s time, and only include details that help to get your message across.
  • Be clear. It is easy for a reader to lose track of the take-home message if they’re getting confused by corporate buzz terms and convoluted sentences. Use keywords to help get your message and make it obvious to the reader what you do or what you are offering.
  • Use visuals. A picture speaks a thousand words, and people are more likely to engage with communication supported by attractive images and designs. Draw the eye of the viewer to your story through colors, patterns and shapes, and key visuals.

Invest in impactful communications

Creating something outside of your comfort zone can be daunting and you may feel as though you won’t have the ability or capacity to communicate clearly. Maybe you’ve never used social media or have no idea how to distribute a press release. This can be disheartening but don’t forget:

You are in the best position to communicate about your science, your objectives, and your goals.

You have the science; you might just need some help to tell your story.

Communication is like any endeavor; it is a learned skill that gets better with practice. Sometimes, you’re better off co-creating with a professional who knows the ropes. Strategically investing in a great communication plan will make your story long-lasting. Bring your passion and your ideas to the people who can turn it into something amazing, and watch your audience grow in size and interest.

Whether you go it alone, or with the help of science communication professionals, remember to keep the most important questions in mind: what are you trying to achieve; who will help you achieve it; and how will you reach them?