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My colleagues at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) do important work and it is my job to make sure that others know about it. When I started my Knauss fellowship in NOAA’s Technology Partnerships Office, I was excited to be the first person in my office to focus on outreach and communications. On my first day, I met with my supervisor on a video call and he sent a link in the chat box: www.noaa.gov. With a smile, he said, “Let’s see how many stories you can publish here.”
I’m still not sure if he was joking. My office had never published an article on the agency’s homepage before, and I did not know where to start or who to even ask! But I felt motivated and inspired. With the help of some networking, I gradually learned a bit more about the world of communications at NOAA. Finally, it was time to write.
In celebration of National Ocean Month, I chose to write about five technologies that help save our ocean. I tried to be very mindful in choosing a suite of examples that was representative of the wide diversity of technology partnerships that my colleagues and I help facilitate at my office. I also wanted the chosen examples to be reflective of the variety of ways that innovative technology benefits ocean ecosystems, coastal communities, and blue economies. I organized the story as a numbered list, or “listicle,” because that type of story tends to be more accessible for a broad audience and therefore more likely to be published on a high-traffic public-facing website. It was very important that each technology also had one high-quality photo to accompany the text, so for each image that I chose, I contacted the photographer to ask for their permission to publish their photo as part of my web story, with attribution.
After submitting my draft, I was surprised that the editing process was extremely collaborative.
I had the privilege of working with professionals in the NOAA Office of Communications, as well as in the Office of Public and Constituent Affairs within NOAA. I learned so much from my conversations with them and from lurking on the shared Google Docs file while their team edited my work. Together, we transformed my original draft into a polished piece.
It was a bit surreal to see my story online–sandwiched between big-time announcements about NOAA’s freshly-appointed administrator, the newest national marine sanctuary, and the recently-released budget! My colleagues in the Technology Partnerships Office were thrilled to see their work featured for the first time.
Writing the article and working with NOAA communicators reminded me that there is always more to learn about communicating science effectively. Here are 10 of the communicators’ tips for sharing science stories with a broad audience:
Bonus tip: Remember that writing is only the first part of sharing science; it is also important that people actually read your work! Ask your contacts to promote the article across different online and social media platforms so that different audiences will see the story.
Photo, upper left: My article as it was featured on NOAA’s homepage. Photo credit: Screen capture from NOAA website