Communicating research

By Sarah Keen 7 December 2010 2 minute read

Bright and early yesterday morning, NPC hosted the last in our series of breakfast seminars exploring issues raised by the government’s Big Society agenda. The event focused on how charities can communicate their impact and showcased the experiences of three charities. Emma Donne from Fairbridge, Hugh Rayment-Pickard from IntoUniversity and Sarah Hall from Safe Ground all gave thoughtful presentations about what they have learned about talking about the difference their charities make to people’s lives.

One of the most interesting threads of the discussion, and one that Sue—our head of communications—and I were chatting about after the seminar, was whether a tension exists when deciding how to express impact. Is it a case of the research team fighting for all the caveats of the study to included, and the communications team battling for a headline-grabbing statistic? Sometimes. But we concluded that actually it can be a useful tension, and different perspectives can definitely improve how research is communicated.

Yes, there is sometimes a bit of back-and-forth, but this can be constructive in working out what is really important. In designing the report for our well-being measure, for example, we had lots of discussions about how to present the results, and ended up with something that we hope is easy to understand without sacrificing the detail of the analysis and statistical best practice.

At the seminar, the panellists were asked how, practically, they ensured that research was communicated well—a clear, persuasive message, but one that accurately conveys the substance of the research. Emma said shes explains to the communications team what the numbers actually mean, and which ones are the most impressive in context, rather than simply giving them a list of statistics. Sarah mentioned that she writes a crib sheet for other member of staff, so that key findings from evaluations are known and communicated consistently. Hugh said that it’s important to keep it personal. Putting case studies and numbers together can be incredibly powerful.’

At NPC, we try to involve the communications team in the research process, speaking to each other early on to ensure we’re thinking about key messages right from the beginning. We hope this means that our research is communicated clearly, although perhaps I should ask Sue to read over this blog…