“What services do science institutions really need from a science communication company?”

In collating the replies I’ve allowed some duplication to provide different ways of expressing an idea. I leave one brief yet relevant and guiding reply as the last word.

Some services are specific to science communication companies while others could be provided by general communication and marketing companies. Expect some overlap.

A science communication company can help science institutions to:

  • identify their various audiences and the needs of each audience
  • prepare a communications strategy that involves feedback from their audience (e.g. regular phone surveys; product review, other evaluation methods)
  • provide creative, well-informed help with ways to explain difficult science and science-related concepts to particular audiences (e.g. risk, climate change, uncertainty)
  • develop and deliver the messages and media suited for each audience (e.g. design and content of media releases, websites, social media, exhibitions, all print material, multimedia, public and educational programs, radio, etc)
  • help train scientists to communicate their work, empowering them with the skills and tools needed to engage audiences and key stakeholders
  • edit (e.g. putting together the Strategic Plan and proofing)
  • prepare a communications plan and collateral for a specific event (e.g. science conferences, workshops)

Thanks to Sarah Lau (ASC National Secretary and Media and Communications Coordinator, ChemCentre), Clare Mullen (Industry Liaison and Communication Manager, Climate and Water Division, Bureau of Meteorology) and Carrie Bengston (Communication Manager, Mathematics, Informatics and Statistics, CSIRO for contributing to the above.

Thanks also to Jenni Metcalfe (Director, Econnect Communication) for pointing me to http://www.econnect.com.au/services.htm for her list of science communication services. Here is my summary of Econnect’s services:

Engaging the community – designing, implementing, analysing and evaluating community and specialised engagement programs

Research – into target audiences trends, issues and recent relevant research

Planning your communication – review, determine and test communication strategies

Building collaborative teams and networks

Training in communication skills – dealing with media, giving presentations or speeches, skills in engaging communities

Writing and publishing – writing stories that reflect the interests and information needs of your audience for various media

Writing for the web – is different to writing for print. Sci-comm staff can join research or field expeditions to write feature articles.

Editing – substantive edit (content, coherence, flow, structure, and suitability of language) or copy edit (correcting errors)

Interpreting science, and natural and cultural attractions – developing exhibitions and interactive displays, visitor centres, walking trails and signage

Managing the media – conference media management, organise and/or promote events, develop and implement media strategies

The last word goes to Julian Cribb (Principal of Julian Cribb & Associates):

“You might add “not waste the public’s money” (by producing science which nobody wants to adopt)”. In reply to my follow-up question, “Do you think many scientific organisations would appreciate and adopt such advice?”, Julian answered, “The ones that care about getting re-funded do!”

Jesse Shore
National President