Building your own Message Box
Now that you have a deeper understanding of better communication strategies, you are ready to build on your own. Using the guidance from Nancy’s book, please prepare two Message Boxes for your own science messaging. At the following link, you’ll find a blank version of the Message Box form.
Why two Message Boxes? Because, contrary to conventional wisdom, there is no such thing as the general public. Instead, there are multiple potential audiences. What is compelling (and what is unintelligible jargon) might vary tremendously from one audience to another. For this exercise, here’s how to prepare the two Message Boxes.
- Prepare one Message Box to prep for an interview with a journalist working for a magazine that is intensely read by the audience you selected in the Week One exercise. This journalist will be asking questions based on the interests and concerns of your audience (and will only be interested in your science message to the extent that it connects with the audience’s interests and concerns).
- Prepare a Message Box for one of the three following journalists (pick one that is speaking to a very different audience than your Week One target audience):
- a local journalist in your area (intensely interested in the local angle to your research).
- a science journalist for the New York Times (very interested in the broader implications to your work, both nationally and internationally).
- a journalist working for a magazine published by an interest group, such as an environmental organization, industry trade association, or political group (very interested in how your research affects the interests of the group that the journalist is writing for).
Practicing with the Message Box
The Message Box is a technique that you can use for many situations. As such your message box will constantly evolve to meet the needs of your topic, audience, and content. It will also depend on the response you get when you use the message box in conversation.
Because of this, our Message Boxes will be much better if we can bounce them off a real live human. So, this week, we’ll each be pairing off to practice using our Message Boxes to direct a conversation. In our live online class, we have class participants partner with each other to practice. In your case, we strongly suggest that you partner with a friend or colleague. In the exercise, you will take the role of the Scientist and your partner will take the role of the Journalist interviewing you for a story. Your partner should interview you twice (once for each Message Box) and each interview should take about 10 minutes.
For this to work, you will need to have completed your Message Boxes prior to the conversation. Don’t share your Message Box with your partner! Only tell him or her the general issue and the audience you are addressing. The Journalist should initiate the interview and say that he or she would like to write a story involving the Scientist’s issue. The Journalist should be sure to ask lots of questions, coming from the perspective of the audience being addressed. If the Journalist doesn’t think something the Scientists says makes sense (for the particular audience), he or she should immediately (but politely) speak up. Keep an eye out for jargon and double-meaning language.