Communicating science & scientific facts

Communicators who are associated with organisations that are based on the fundamentals of science (chemicals, pharmaceuticals, etc.) will associate when I say that, more often than not, telling science based stories in a lucid and simple way is a challenge. Converting scientific terminology in a language that is easily understood is a skill that needs practice along with an understanding of the subject. If science was your favorite subject in school, then I am absolutely certain it is because of the way the teacher communicated those lessons to you.

Communication of science to your stakeholders is of paramount importance. How do we crack this one then? We are all born story tellers. Remember as a kid the number of stories that you would tell your friends, siblings and even parents? Most of those stories were full of curiosity, innocence, told matter-of-fact and most importantly, were simple to narrate. They touched a chord. You as a listener related to them. These are the fundamentals of just about every story that we as communicators share and speak of today. The same principles apply when talking of science and scientific facts. 

Here is what I have picked up from my experiences:

  • Keep the audience in front of you

Today’s audience has access to news from varied sources. The challenge is to have them believe your news, your scientific fact minus the jargon that would otherwise perplex them. Develop your narrative in a way that is simple and easy to understand. Tell it as a story. Begin with the “Once upon a time” phrase…try it…you will be amazed how science based facts can be narrated thus.

  • Go local

It always pays to speak your stories in the local language. Customise your science story and sprinkle them with local fables wherever you can. For 11 years I took basic First Aid classes in Hindi. My initial attempts were a struggle. Until I learnt the trick of mixing the narrative with situations and local stories of accidents and incidents that required First Aid.

  • The ‘demonstration’ effect

Refresh your memory – what did you enjoy most about your science class? The experiments in the lab, right? Demonstrations of scientific pathways up to discovery of a new chemical/medicine/product create strong connects in the minds of the audience. Organising media familiarisation trips to your manufacturing plant or the R&D center or a Forward Farm is the most effective way to tell your story in an authentic and transparent manner.

  • Bring the ‘lab’ to the audience

Why restrict your stakeholder to the media? Diversify your outreach and connect with school children and colleges. Invest in a mobile lab that can reach out to audiences far and wide. Make learning science fun. Concentrate on the younger generation and imbibe in them the love of science. They are your future advocates. Do not ever forget that.

  • Put the spotlight on ‘STEM’ activities

How about focusing a core of your organisation’s CSR budget to promote ‘STEM’ (science, technology, engineering & mathematics) activities? Communicators need to look at these activities holistically and see how they can be strategically aligned with the core business of their respective organisation. Data shows that STEM activities enhance various capabilities in students ranging from curiosity, logical reasoning, independent thinking, strong communication, problem solving and creativity. STEM learning is the foundation for students to succeed at school and beyond.

  • Do not forget the ‘infographic’!

Visual aids like infographics is an easy tool to tell a compelling story. In fact, scientific narratives when translated pictorially have the potential of being easily recalled and remembered. Once again, go back to your school science textbooks…the pictures told the story!

  • Share the emotions

Every innovation, every discovery is a story of science. These stories need not be cut and dry. Since science touches us in just about every way, communicators must marry the emotions associated with innovations in their stories. For example, patient recovery stories resonate with people and can be effectively integrated into the brand story of a medicine.

If you have your own unique way of narrating a science story, I would love to know of it. Let us collectively build on the knowledge.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Country Group Head CSR at Bayer - South Asia
Sarita Bahl leads the Corporate Social Responsibility function for Bayer South Asia and is also the Director – Bayer Prayas Association. Prior to this, she successfully oversaw the communications and public affairs function for Bayer South Asia. Over her three decades of professional experience, Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, public sector, trade associations, MNCs and the Not-for-profit sector. An alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Science and the Swedish Institute of Management Program, Sarita specializes in stakeholder engagement, sustainability and communications. She is passionate about animals (is mother to a female cat), books and movies.

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