Knowledge and Adoption Toolkit

This toolkit is for program coordinators, program managers, principal investigators and researchers in Natural Resource Management. It provides guidance, templates, examples and case studies to help you improve your knowledge and adoption. It was originally created for use by Land & Water Australia, an Australian Government Research and Development Corporation. LWA was closed in 2009.

Getting Started

This toolkit will help you complete a Knowledge & Adoption plan.

What do we mean by knowledge?

Land & Water Australia defines knowledge broadly, encompassing tacit knowledge - in people's heads, and explicit knowledge - in research reports, databases and technologies. When we use the term knowledge we also include information.

Philosophically speaking, knowledge (and information generally) usually emerges from data, which is why we do research. The correct application of knowledge can produce wisdom.

Natural resource management and agriculture demands credible, high quality scientific knowledge. We place strong emphasis on making this happen. At the same time we embrace other ways of knowing, including the practical landscape knowledge of farmers and indigenous peoples.

We recognise that knowledge can take many forms, including technologies, systems understanding and new insights.

Translating knowledge into practice requires highly skilled processes in its own right.

External Resources

The European Guide to Good Practice in Knowledge Management

What is knowledge and adoption?

We use the term knowledge and adoption to describe how we manage information and knowledge throughout the lifecycle of research to improve adoption of the research outcomes. In other words, we manage knowledge for improved adoption. The lifecycle of a research program includes planning, implementation and legacy.

This means more than doing technology transfer when the research is complete, more than communicating outcomes in glossy brochures, and more than investing research dollars without determining your stakeholder needs.

Adoption

Adoption is the uptake of research outputs in the community. It is also sometimes called Uptake.

What is a Knowledge and Adoption Plan?

A Knowledge & Adoption plan will increase the uptake and impact of your research. This toolkit will help you complete your K&A plan and includes resources to conduct your K&A activities.

Developing a K&A plan early in the project helps you and us to manage knowledge uptake throughout the implementation of your project and once your project is completed (its legacy).

A K&A plan should answer:

  1. Who is involved in, affected by or interested in your project?
  2. How are they to be informed and/or engaged?
  3. When will the activities occur?
  4. How will you measure the effectiveness of your planned activities (monitoring and evaluation)?
  5. How will your project legacy continue?


A K&A plan should aim to be more than just a communication plan.

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K&A plan template.doc41 KB
Example of a completed KA plan (43kb).pdf42.87 KB

Planning

Your K&A plan is a critical component in turning knowledge into practice.

You need to complete a K&A plan as part of your early project milestones. Activities listed in the K&A plan will need to be reported against milestone reports. The K&A plan is considered an iterative document which may change over time, once submitted.

It is expected that the research team will undertake the majority of the work to implement a K&A plan and that activities undertaken will be funded from the project budget.

The programme in which your project sits will be responsible for the broader K&A work including synthesis work across projects, to which you might contribute.

The extent of your K&A plan and implementation will depend upon a number of considerations including:

Support is available from Land & Water Australia's Knowledge and Adoption Officers and Program Coordinators.

K&A plan template guidelines

The K&A plan template guidelines and the template are designed as a guide, not a rulebook. These guidelines will help you with writing your K&A plan.

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K&A_plan_template.doc41 KB
Example_of_a_completed_KA_plan_V1.pdf42.87 KB

Understanding target groups and individuals

Understanding target groups and individuals

This step is often forgotten! To implement an effective K&A plan, it is important to have a good understanding of the perceptions, needs and concerns of your stakeholders.

Key questions to ask yourself

To better understand priority groups and individuals, make sure you can answer the following questions about each target group/individual:

  • Perceptions
    • What do they already know and understand about the project?
    • Do they have any misconceptions?
  • Concerns
    • What are their concerns about the project?
  • Communication needs
    • What do they want to know?
    • How do they want to be communicated with, consulted, engaged?
    • How do they want to interact with the project team?
    • What help do they need to be informed and involved?

Identifying perceptions, concerns and communication needs

Listed below are tactics for identifying what is already known about people’s perceptions, concerns and communication needs. Results from surveys and questionnaires are useful for finding out about perceptions while the results of qualitative methods of research are useful for finding out about concerns and communication needs. Surveys are the only approach that yields statistically significant data. Other approaches, including those listed below, do provide a ‘snapshot’ of each target group/individual, but, because they may not give the full picture, they should be seen as preliminary assessments rather than final analyses. If you use 2 or more of these approaches and the information seems consistent, your ‘snapshot’ is more likely to be an accurate reflection of the full picture.

  • Review newspaper clippings featuring a relevant issue and/or target groups/individuals - This is a good way to get a quick overview.
  • Discuss target groups and individuals with colleagues - who have dealt with similar target groups/individuals and their issues. Consider including those in other states. This can give you a sense of the concerns that have arisen in similar situations.
  • Meet informally with target groups/individuals - Informal meetings or telephone contacts can give you a first-hand idea of both substantive concerns and the feelings about those concerns.
  • Send a personal letter/email to individuals asking them to send you a list of their questions and concerns about the project - This can be a useful way to start a dialogue with a greater number of people.
  • Review relevant survey results - Ask people who often run surveys, such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resource Economics.
  • Review any other relevant research - into the natural resource issues or target groups/individuals. For example results of focus groups.
  • Brainstorm questions and concerns - at the beginning or end of a scheduled meeting with groups/individuals. Ask people to write their questions on index cards that you distribute and collect. Often you will want to know their concerns in advance of a meeting, but this approach can be very useful for making sure that you meet their concerns and for showing them that you are doing so.
  • Consult pre-existing or specially formed advisory committees - To be useful, advisory committees must be representative of the target groups and individuals you will be communicating with.
  • Search the internet for relevant names/organisations.
  • Get target groups and individuals involved in the K&A planning process - Ask them how they want to be involved.

How do you know who to communicate with?

How do you know who to communicate with?

Identifying target groups and individuals is largely a process of thinking through, as specifically as possible, who you want to reach or influence through the project. You also need to identify the method(s) by which you want to reach them:

  • providing information - making information available for those who seek it out
  • communicating - targeting information at users directly or indirectly
  • engaging - designing research questions with potential users who are involved in the research

Consider too the sort of relationship you have, or want to have, with each group/individual. Is it an impersonal ‘informing’ one-way relationship or a strong interactive ‘engaging’ relationship? The stronger the relationship, the higher the priority of the group/individual.

The table below shows that, for your high-priority target groups/individuals (those you want to engage with), you should use all methods of communication.

 Type of relationship
Priority of groups/individualsInformingTargeted one-wayTargeted two-wayEngaging
High-priority (engaging)HighHighHighHigh
Medium-high priority(communicating)HighMediumMediumLow
Low-medium priority (providing information)HighHighLowLow
Low priority (providing information)HighLowLowLow

Answering the following questions will help you identify the groups/individuals you need to reach. Those groups/individuals that appear in more than one response are particularly important for you to reach.

High-priority groups/individuals (engaging)

Which groups/individuals:

  • are currently involved in your project's activities?
  • are likely to be affected directly by your research outcomes?
  • are likely to be marginalised if they are not consulted or communicated with about the project?

Medium-high priority groups/individuals (communicating)

Which groups/individuals:

  • within your own organisation make decisions about the project?
  • would be helpful for you to communicate with because they might have important information, ideas or opinions?
  • should you involve to make sure that you have a balanced range of opinions?

Low-medium priority groups/individuals (providing information)

Which groups/individuals:

  • may not especially want to have input, but need to know what is happening?
  • belong to networks - particularly local ones - that you need to communicate with?
  • have previously been involved with the project or a related project?

Low priority groups/individuals (providing information)

Which groups/individuals:

  • are interested in the project’s research?

Reality check

Natural resource management projects generally have 3 major types of user—policy makers, planners and practitioners. The wider community may also be interested in the project. The priority you assign to groups/individuals will depend on your project. For example, if farmers are involved through participatory action research, they will be a high-priority group for you to engage with.

Use the checklist provided to help you identify your target groups/individuals.

Then, take a reality check on your list of target groups/individuals by considering the following four questions:

  1. Have you included everyone who is likely to benefit from the research?
  2. Have you included everyone who could ‘lose’ from the research outcomes/recommendations?
  3. Have you included people who could provide relevant expertise and information to the research process?
  4. Have you included people who are important for cooperation in or funding of the research activities?

Checklist: Who to include in your K&A plan

Policy makers

Natural resource use regulators or policy makers – those with a responsibility for either regulating the resource, developing strategies or policies about the resource, or developing legislation:

  • Federal government departments/agencies/committees involved in regulation/policy/legislation
  • State government departments/agencies/committees involved in regulation/policy/legislation
  • Local government/municipal authorities/committees involved in regulation/policy/legislation
  • Regional natural resource management agencies (e.g. Catchment Management Authorities)
  • Inter-agency or issues-based statutory committees whose findings or deliberations impact on the quality of the resource or people’s use of the resource
  • Other

Planners

Natural resource managers – those who directly manage the resource related to the research issue and need information for their planning:

  • Special user groups (e.g. Landcare, integrated catchment groups, indigenous groups)
  • Federal government departments/agencies/committees who directly manage the resource
  • State government departments/agencies/committees who directly manage the resource
  • Local government/municipal authorities/committees who directly manage the resource
  • Quasi-government agencies overseeing specific functions (e.g. water authorities, regional planning commissions, environmental commissions)
  • Other

Practitioners

Natural resource users – those who directly use the natural resources that are being researched:

  • Individuals who use land, water or other natural resources
  • Local council authorities with direct responsibility for the resource (but who may not manage the resource)
  • Regional natural resource management agencies (e.g. Catchment Management Authorities)
  • Industry associations or bodies that may be subject to (a) regulation, (b) modification to access to, or (c) subject to charge for resource use
  • Other

Natural resource use advisors – including both private and government advisors about impacts on or use of the natural resource

  • Local businesses (including agribusiness and banks) that provide advice about the resource
  • Consultants
  • Extension personnel from state government agencies, Landcare and Catchment Management Groups etc
  • Research organisations (e.g. Cooperative Research Centres, state government departments, universities, CSIRO)
  • Trade associations (e.g. Commercial Fisheries Association)
  • Professional scientific/technical associations (e.g. Ecological Society of Australia)
  • Other

Natural resource use funders – those who fund your project

  • Research and development funding organisations (e.g. Land & Water Australia)
  • Government funding arrangements/bodies (e.g. Natural Heritage Trust)
  • Other

Community

The broader Australian community – those with an in interest in the natural resource issue through either their general interest in environmental/sustainability issues and/or their involvement in recreation, tourism or using the products of the resources (food and fibre):

Local residents/community groups

  • Country Women's Association
  • Associations such as Lions, Rotary
  • Associations of senior citizens
  • Indigenous groups
  • Ethnic groups
  • Other organisations or individuals who have stature in the community and can influence opinion

Conservation groups

  • Local conservation groups
  • National conservation groups (e.g. Australian Conservation Foundation, Greenpeace)
  • State-wide conservation groups (e.g. Queensland Conservation Council)
  • Groups related to specific issues (e.g. rainforest protection, biodiversity, limnology)
  • Other

Business groups

  • Manufacturing industries (e.g. food processing)
  • Export agents/companies
  • Real estate agencies
  • Chambers of Commerce
  • Industrial groups
  • Other

Education

  • Colleges and universities
  • Primary schools and high schools
  • Other

Media representatives

  • Local
  • State/national
  • Special media (e.g. rural)
  • Other

Internal

Internal – those within your organisation or in collaborating organisations who may need to be involved in the communication

Internal

  • Project staff
  • Links with other projects in your organisation
  • Management

Advisory committees

  • Organisational
  • Community reference groups/panels

Target Audiences

 The key audience segments which Land & Water Australia and its programs address represent areas of LWA’s market that use different channels and require different messages. 

Each Segment comprises sub-groups, and some programs may only address a subset of the groups in each segment. Nonetheless, the segments are homogenous enough that a communication for one sub-group will usually be appropriate for another in that segment. There is a small amount of cross-over in some segments, where sub-groups may belong to more than one audience.

It should be noted that this analysis assumes a second variable (subject of interest) is also considered when planning activities, however in most cases this is defined by the program (i.e. NPSI deals with Irrigation issues).

Segment: Agricultural Extension

Who?

  1. Public Extension Agents
  2. Agribusiness advisers
  3. NGOs dealing with Agriculture (such as Landcare)

What?

Accurate information packaged to serve their clients (the Farmers and Landholders segment)

Relevant LWA subjects include: Irrigation, Climate Variability, Weed management, Soil, Mixed farming, Salinity, River and Waterway management.

Potential Methods of Engagement

  • Presentations
  • eNewsletters
  • Workshops
  • Guides and tools.
  • Demonstrations of NRM Tools
  • At Industry-related events 

Segment: Community Engagement

This group is organisations and individuals who are involved in community engagement of NRM issues, in the same way NRM facilitators might engage agencies and organisations.

Who?

  1. Community groups
  2. Landcare etc.
  3. Community engagement staff in Regional bodies
  4. NGOs

What?

Increasing awareness and participation in local or regional NRM issues. Support community and other stakeholder involvement in NRM.

They generally use research findings for education and practical management of NRM issues and sustainable resource use.

Potential Methods of Engagement

  • Individual consultations
  • web and email information
  • workshops
  • forums and conferences

Potential benefits

Outcomes in this segment could be linked to the Community skills, knowledge and engagement Priority Area of the Caring for our Country program.

 

Segment: Farmers and Landholders

Who?

  1. Farmers including growers, graziers and mixed farming
  2. Non-farming Landholders

What?

Farmers and landholders require practical, on-the-ground approaches to sustainable land management. They do not use research findings specifically, but the knowledge or tools derived from that research.

Irrigation, Climate Variability, Weed management, Soil, Mixed farming, Salinity, River and Waterway management

Potential Methods of Engagement

  • Demonstration Sites and Field Days
  • Workshops
  • Rural Press & Regional Radio
  • LWA Web Portal for Landholders & Farmers
  • Landcare and Production Groups
  • Industry bodies (e.g. National Farmers Federation)
  • Participatory research

Notes

Communicating with this group is likely to be difficult, compared with most other segments, and it is worth considering whether another channel is more efficient, such as Agricultural Extension or Community Engagement.

 

Segment: Influencers and Decision Makers

Who?

Managers, politicians and other decision makers and leaders. This group tends to be quite similar across sectors.

What?

Their role is predominantly decision making/guiding/finding resources/spending money. They rely on the subject specialists in their team to come up with the answers to the problems their organisations have to manage. They require sufficient information to know when their subject specialists are doing the right thing.

This group will also often working at a high-level thinking/strategy level, however they may be unable to consider this activity in their day-to-day work. The strategy and thinking will often be done at specific times of the year, facilitated through special sessions or discussion (including conferences, strategy workshops etc).

How?

They are time-poor and increasingly turn to the internet to get fast, subject-specific information to support decision making processes. They are likely to take the advice of their staff on important issues, and often their own specialist subject is “institutional knowledge”, or how their own organisation works.

They will reference internal policy and guidelines, summary briefs (both internally generated and from news or specialist sources), daily newspapers and magazines.

They are increasingly unlikely to use libraries and information repositories, corporate magazines, scientific journals and annual reports, or other information-heavy documents.

Potential Methods of Engagement

  • eNewsletters
  • Conferences
  • Events specifically targeted at the executive level

 

Segment: NRM Facilitation

Who?

  1. Caring for our Country NRM Facilitators
  2. Public Extension Agents

What?

Communicate Government policies and initiatives and provide opportunities for direct community feedback on NRM issues to Government. Engage Local Government in NRM at the regional scale; promote and disseminate information about Australian Government NRM policies and programs, and assist Local Government with the development of NRM policies

Potential Methods of Engagement

  • Presentations (in-person and online)
  • eNewsletters
  • Consultations
  • Workshops
  • Guides and tools.
  • Demonstration of NRM Tools

 

Segment: Policy and Regulation

Who?

  1. Policymakers in State and Federal Governments
  2. Regulators (especially water regulators)
  3. Lobbyists & NGOs

What?

Determining priorities, legislation, allocation and development opportunities; guiding policies and frameworks (Federal); structures for on-ground and local/regional planning (State). Sustainability of state resources. Benchmarking.

Uses research findings to develop, evidence and influence policy and regulation decisions.

Social, Institutional, Governance Issues; Water regulation and irrigation, Climate issues,

Potential Methods of Engagement

  • Policy Fact sheets
  • LWA Web Channel – Policy
  • Program Websites
  • Conferences and seminars

Segment: Resource Management

Who?

  1. Local resource management specialists
  2. State planning and resource management staff
  3. State service providers
  4. Water regulators
  5. State agencies, statutory authorities, regional NRM bodies and CMAs
  6. Conservation bodies

Individuals in this group are likely to stretch from Environmental Science through to Engineering backgrounds, so there will be some variance in the types of messages constructed for this group. However, they are likely to be fairly similar within a given subject area.

What?

Resource planning (for specific regions), water planning and environmental flows, operational data, compliance, flood and drought response, conservation, environmental and ecosystem services.

Uses research for planning and practical delivery of NRM outcomes. Also sometimes called “on-the-ground”.

Service provider are also likely to be interested in: Operational, compliance data, annual water accounts, and environmental flows

Potential Methods of Engagement

  • Presentations (in-person and online)
  • Newsletters
  • Consultations
  • Workshops
  • Guides and tools.
  • Demonstration of NRM Tools
  • Conferences and seminars

Segment: Science and Research

This group is different from other audiences, as it represents individuals with whom LWA conducts a business relationship with (contracting research), rather than and Adoption relationship. Consequently, it should be treated differently.

Uses research findings to influence and guide new research, research priorities, or through synthesis.

Because information about research is quite different from the adoptable learning’s resulting from research, this group should be communicated with separately from other groups.

Who?

  1. Private researchers and consultants
  2. Government and academic researchers
  3. Government data agencies
  4. Land & Water Australia researchers (current, past, potential)
  5. Tertiary and Postgraduate students

What?

Usually, research and funding news relating to a specific program or subject area, but also research strategy, calls for funding and other administrative material.

Potential Methods of Engagement

  • eNewsletters
  • RSS Feeds
  • Conferences
  • Scientific Journals
  • “For Researchers” Portal on LWA Websites
  • Program Websites

 

Participatory Research

What is Participatory Action Research?

Participatory action research (PAR) is an approach to research in which a community or other group takes on the role of researcher or co-researcher i.e. they own the research and are responsible for putting the results of the research into action. If professional researchers are also involved, they are equal participants with the community or group doing the research. PAR requires that all research participants:

  • recognise the value of local knowledge
  • accept and own research results
  • are willing to be involved in all stages of the research
  • are willing to include a wide range of participants
  • choose research methods that suit the situation, and that communities or groups can learn to use without outside help

PAR is designed to break down the barriers between researchers and the users of their research. It makes the research immediately relevant and applicable to the local need. It is particularly useful when long-term change is needed and in situations where community groups can gradually apply the research methods to create change.

PAR is an iterative process with 4 phases:

  1. Reflection – participants decide what needs to be researched
  2. Planning – participants plan how to carry out the research
  3. Action – participants implement the plan
  4. Observation – participants collect information

After each of the 4 phases, it is important that participants reflect on what has happened and decide whether they can practically apply the collected information and/or whether more research is required. In this way, PAR is a continuing process of change.

Closely related terms

PAR resembles other types of research, such as action research, participant observation, participatory research, collaborative inquiry, emancipatory research, action learning, and contextual action research. But only PAR embraces all of the following five principles (Grundy 1982):

  • participation
  • collaboration
  • empowerment
  • knowledge
  • social change

Why use PAR?

When you use PAR, you gain access to the knowledge and expertise of the people who are most affected by your research problem. As a result, PAR:

  • gives you an increased depth and understanding of the issues, making your research more relevant
  • increases the chances of the community adopting practices and outcomes of your research
  • reduces logistical barriers to research, which can improve efficiency and reduce frustration for everyone
  • gives you access to observe behaviour as it is happening, increasing the efficiency of your data collection
  • minimises the risk of misinterpretation and misunderstanding because of the close relationship that you develop with the community

PAR also has some disadvantages compared to traditional research methods:

  • it can be more time consuming if participants get caught up in details
  • it can be susceptible to researcher bias because the researcher is involved
  • it is not as well recognised as quantitative research methods
  • it can produce large amounts of information that are difficult to manage

When is it appropriate to use PAR? PAR is particularly useful for:

  • building partnerships and trust
  • developing action plans for solving problems
  • empowering the community and developing community capacity
  • identifying community issues and relevant research
  • engaging the community
  • planning for, and increasing awareness of, upcoming change
  • accessing specialised local knowledge

PAR is not useful in the following situations (Whyte 1989):

  • where the community group is interested in the results, but not in developing the topic or design of the research
  • where the problem does not seem important to the community group
  • where the research methods and types of data being collected do not appear credible to the community group
  • where the research has had considerable theoretical development and needs testing

Who can participate?

Anyone who is connected to the research topic! Representatives of schools, organisations, businesses, industry, government agencies, farmers/landholders, community groups and research institutions can all participate. However, this does not mean that everyone who is connected to the topic needs to participate.

Where is PAR being used?

PAR is used extensively in health care and education research, and its popularity is increasing in other fields including rural research and development, on-farm client-oriented research, and urban community development.

Examples of PAR in research

Kimberley locals know their fish

Murdoch University’s David Morgan and Mark Allen embarked on a project to survey the fish of the Kimberley’s Fitzroy River. Consulting with the Kimberley Language Resource Centre and a large number of local people, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, they developed a series of brochures illustrating the fish of the river system.

In the brochures, they provided English common names for the fish, scientific names, and Indigenous names in 5 of the 6 language groups of the west Kimberley—Bunuba, Gooniyandi, Ngarinyin, Nyikina and Walmajarri.

Three of the freshwater fish species discovered had Indigenous names but had never been previously described or given English or scientific names.

The research inspired an LWA-funded project to look at the cultural significance of the fish of the Kimberley’s King Edward River. By using PAR, the researchers gained access to expert knowledge that they might otherwise have missed. Reflecting on their project gave them a new perspective on the significance of fish in other river systems.

I want to find out more: Centre for Fish and Fisheries Research

Estuarine health in Little Swanport

Oyster farmers in Little Swanport on the east coast of Tasmania are playing an integral role in research that is looking at how their estuary responds to changed freshwater inflows.

The project started when a concerned farmer organised a meeting between key representatives and funding agencies. Now, the project is funded by LWA and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, and is a joint effort of the community and local researchers.

Jeff Ross from the University of Tasmania says, ‘[the farmers] get directly involved in the science at all levels, including preparing chlorophyll samples and sorting phytoplankton samples’. But their participation includes much more than field support. They provide access to their boat ramp and storage facilities, and they donate oysters and water samples of different qualities for experiments, among other activities.

‘They have worked in the estuary on a daily basis for over 20 years and have an incredible wealth of knowledge and insight about how the estuary operates. This knowledge is invaluable to us as scientists given the short-term nature of our project.’

‘You could say that we are collecting quantitative data to help prove or disprove some of their anecdotal observations, such as how important freshwater inflow is to oyster production.’

The Little Swanport catchment has a history of involving various target groups, including the community, in developing catchment management plans.

‘Without their participation, much of what we are doing in Little Swanport would be difficult or impossible.’


I want to find out more: Rip Rap magazine no 29

More PAR information:

K&A plan template guidelines

Intended impact of your project (objectives):

The intended impact of your project essentially links back to your project's objectives. In undertaking your research, you intend to provide some new knowledge which would improve the management of natural resources. What is this impact? The following prompts may assist you in determining your intended impact:

  1. Is the project seeking to influence on-ground practice, NRM policy or NRM planning? At what stage in the project's life?
  2. Who are you trying to reach/influence through this project?
  3. Is there more than one target group? (Define each group precisely.)
  4. Why would the target group want to be involved with the project or the uptake of this research?
  5. What is the best way of reaching the target group?

Examples of intended impacts:

  • to inform policy
  • to build capacity amongst planners
  • to improve decision making processes
  • to inform an emerging scientific field.

Who (Target)

Who is involved in, affected by or interested in your project research in natural resource management can contribute to a range of activities. In the strategy we categorise them into 3 areas:

  • Policy - The Australian and State governments
  • Planning - e.g. 56 regional NRM groups (CMAs) and local governments
  • Practitioner - e.g. land managers, extension staff and networks, and agencies or organisations that manage land assets.

Note: These are a guide only - some individuals and organisations sit in more than one category.

Your project may be relevant to some or all of these sectors. Understanding their attitudes and practices concerning the research and/or the issue the research addresses will assist you in reaching them more effectively.

A comprehensive contact list for your target participants and audiences is fundamental to undertaking engagement and communication activities. It also assists in monitoring and evaluation.

I want to find out more:
 

  • Examples of target audiences

Type of engagement/how (Method)

How are they to be engaged (method)

There is a broad range of methods to manage knowledge for adoption, from direct engagement or collaborative research through to tailored communication products and, finally, indirect information provision.

Selection of your methods depends on the content, target audience, required outcomes and resources available for implementation or delivery. Not all of the methods will be applicable to all projects.

The method may often be influenced by the ‘adoptability’ of the research e.g. relevance, trialability, skills required and cost implications.

I want to find out more:

  • Examples of methods

Monitoring and Evaluation (engagement & impact) (Measure)

Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) at the project level links to program and corporate monitoring and evaluation. The monitoring and evaluation column refers to each individual line item that you have identified a target and method against – it does not refer to evaluating your entire project. It shouldn’t duplicate any other M&E work or project work that you do either.

It is useful to consider measuring how you have undertaken these activities as well as the outputs and outcomes. For example, feedback on how a steering committee or workshop has been run can be useful for making immediate improvements while the project is still underway. Measuring outputs is the easiest step – e.g. how many events have been run and how many people attended. Capturing outcomes can be more difficult in the lifespan of a project, particularly adoption outcomes. These are more likely to be measured at a program or corporate level with techniques such as Return on Investment.

I want to find out more:
 

  • Examples of monitoring and evaluation techniques
     
  • Monitoring and Evaluation

Legacy

A K&A project plan should consider methods for project implementation and methods for project legacy when the research project is completed.

Your project may have important outcomes for adoption beyond the lifecycle of your project. A legacy plan ensures the research outcomes are not forgotten upon completion of your project. Managing the project’s legacy may be undertaken as part of the program.

I want to find out more:
 

  • Examples of legacy activities 
  • Legacy
     

Advice regarding media and branding

Before preparing a publication, presentation or media release contact Land & Water Australia to check any style, branding or media guidelines you should be using.

Formatting, style and branding issues are best handled early in production to minimise angst and cost.

AttachmentSize
K&A_plan_template.doc41 KB
Example_of_a_completed_KA_plan_V1.pdf42.87 KB

Examples of methods

Engagement:

  • Participatory action research
  • grower or user initiated research
  • research advisory committees
  • citizens’ juries
  • public hearings
  • web-based meetings
  • grower field sites

Communication:

  • policy briefings
  • tailored workshops
  • targeted issues papers
  • information centres and field offices
  • one-to-one surveys and response sheets
  • focus groups

Information Provision:

  • general publications
    • fact sheets
    • newsletters
    • project reports
    • journal articles
  • websites
  • general media
    • newspapers
    • television
    • press releases
    • advertisements

Examples of monitoring and evaluation techniques

Engagement:

  • most significant change
  • ex-poste adoption survey
  • feedback on effectiveness and appropriateness of engagement processes
  • surveys on likelihood of uptake and barriers to uptake

Communication/information provision:

  • longitudinal survey of attitudes
  • feedback on usefulness, structure and content of events
  • downloads from a website
  • numbers at a seminar
  • feedback on publications

Monitoring and Evaluation

Monitoring and evaluating (M&E) your project's K&A activity, such as a workshop, gives you information to assess that activity. M&E provides an opportunity to learn and improve as you go, feeding the results back into research and employing adaptive management.

Knowing how, where and by whom your research is being heard about, tested, or applied can also:

  • confirm some of your assessments with evidence,
  • guide your allocation of resources, and
  • provide information for future papers and publications.

I want to find out more:

  • Monitoring & Evaluation questions
  • How to measure your impact
  • Define your performance indicators
  • Select your methods
  • Feedback on your Monitoring & Evaluation
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Define your performance indicators

As with research, developing the most relevant objectives, performance indicators, questions and methods is usually well worth the time invested.

For example: if your knowledge and adoption objectives are to increase farmers’ awareness and adoption of native grasses for grazing in Newhaven:

  • One of your performance indicators may be that 'After six months from the start of the project, 40% of farmers in the Newhaven area will have heard about the value of native grasses for grazing in Newhaven.'

Your evaluation methods for this performance indicator may include polling farmers at a community meeting, conducting short phone interviews with a sample of local farmers, discussing with the key leaders in the farming community and/or advisers.

One of your performance indicators may be:

  • the number of farmers actually using/planting native grasses over the lifetime of your project, and whether this number increases over time
  • whether relevant farming groups and agricultural advisers are incorporating the value of native grasses for grazing in Newhaven in their information and advice
  • whether a workshop or webcast on native grasses for grazing in Newhaven was a success, and who for
  • whether new publications on the value of native grasses for grazing were received by the target audiences and seen as useful
  • the media and web pick-up on your research/issues

Feedback on your Monitoring & Evaluation

Discuss your survey questions with a sample of researchers and/or natural resource managers you know, and ask them for their feedback:

  • Are the evaluation questions hitting the mark?
  • Are your evaluation methods and questions going to give you information that you can use to improve your knowledge and adoption?
  • Can they see any gaps in your evaluation, or make any suggestions?

 

How to measure your impact

Research that contributes to different areas will need different approach

If your research contributes to government policy then the stakeholders, knowledge and adoption approaches, and performance indicators you use may be different to those you would use for a collaborative industry project that contributes to on-ground practice.

The two main types of monitoring and evaluation methods are qualitative and quantitative.

Qualitative evaluation methods

Allow stakeholders to explore issues and provide feedback in more depth and complexity, unbiased by set questions. They can give details of evidence, examples, problems and ideas, but can be more difficult and costly to analyse and report.

Qualitative evaluation methods include:

  • focus groups
  • individual in-depth interviews
  • written comments
  • most significant change
  • quick polling face to face

Quantitative evaluation methods

These are relatively easy to analyse and report, but don’t tell you ‘why’ results are as they are.

Quantitative evaluation methods include:

  • survey questionnaires
  • special instruments such as 360 degree surveys
  • electronic surveying
  • card sorts
  • quick voting

Quantitative evaluation methods allow you to:

  • get precise measurements
  • track progress over time
  • measure strengths and weaknesses
  • compare to benchmarks

Some quantitative evaluation questions:

  • Was a draft report submitted to X Committee by a specified date?
  • How many people attended a public meeting?
  • What was the increase in the number of requests to be put on the electronic newsletter list?

Monitoring & Evaluation questions

Think about your research project:

  • Do your stakeholders feel informed about developments in your project, and to what degree?
  • Do your stakeholders know more about an issue or practice after a period of time?
  • Which communication activities were effective, and for which audiences?
  • Does web traffic increase to local Landcare and regional NRM agency websites following the establishment of an online discussion group about an issue or practice?
  • Can visitors to your trial sites apply the principles of what they had learnt?
  • Can visitors see any barriers to adoption and what could encourage them to adopt related practices?
  • What are the key points that the field day participants had learnt?
  • Are there any unanswered questions, if so, what are they?

Select your methods

Knowledge and adoption outcomes can be measured in a variety of ways, from short electronic surveys to in-depth case studies. A combination of evaluation methods is often the best way to go.

  • Check that the evaluation methods will answer the evaluation questions, and that they relate back to your project's objectives.
  • Consider the cost, time, resources and skills available when choosing methods.
  • Consider the ethics of your monitoring and evaluation – the people who are using your research are probably busy, and many producers and regional groups are over-surveyed.

Implementation

Engagement

Why is it important to know who you should communicate with?

The success of any knowledge and adoption plan hinges on early identification of target groups and individuals. Target groups and individuals are not just people who might want to hear what you want to say - they are also people who want to tell you things.

As one of the first steps of your K&A plan, consider who is involved in, affected by or interested in your project. It is particularly useful to consider who is important in the methods, for providing information through to engagement, for encouraging uptake of research findings.

I want to find out more:

Communications information sheets

Legacy

Legacy refers to what we leave behind when a research project or program is completed, such as people, social infrastructure and technical information. The work may have developed important products, experience and skills that can be further adopted and used beyond the lifespan of the R&D contract, including by people and organisations not involved in the study.

The legacy component within a Knowledge and Adoption plan ensures the research outputs and outcomes are not forgotten or lost upon completion of the work and that their adoption does not cease.

I want to find out more:

resources »
 

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What forms can ‘legacy’ take?

The legacy of a research project or program can take many different forms. Traditionally, we tend to focus on the publications or products developed as a result of the research investment, however, there are many other ways that a project or program can leave a legacy from its work.

For example, will the project or program effect change in:

People

By building capacity for NRM through:

  • raising people’s awareness
  • changing attitudes
  • increasing willingness to act
  • improving confidence
  • developing skills
  • generating knowledge
  • establishing relationships.

Who are the people and organisations that could increase their capacity for NRM in this way?

Social infrastructure

By leaving behind new processes or organisations to support NRM (e.g. to enable negotiation between competing interests), learning about change over time through oral histories, developing knowledge about community sociology, learning and sharing ideas about sense of place.

Technical information

By developing information:

  • storage banks
  • data libraries
  • collating data
  • establishing interpretation services
  • producing publications
  • electronic databases
  • time series photographs or maps
  • publications in refereed journals

It is important to think about the different forms that legacy can take so that you can work out which ones you will invest the most resources in. Remember, legacy is not something you do at the end of the work, it is usually far too late then and you have lost opportunities to engage with the people or to establish the products and structures that will drive your legacy. Legacy must be planned for at the start of the research and undertaken during the course of it.

Planning for Legacy

How do I go about planning for legacy?

The first few steps in planning for legacy are the things you will need to do to develop your Knowledge and Adoption plan, so the legacy part is usually just an additional component.

You will have identified the intended outputs of your project or program, your primary audiences, and the ‘delivery’ methods you are going to use. Having done this for the K&A plan, you now need to think about what is going to happen at the end of the work. Will everything just stop, or can you leave behind forms of legacy that will ensure people continue to make use of what your work has achieved?

If you have already identified the audiences and delivery methods, it should not be hard to see what you can do during the course of the research to help make sure that new awareness, skills, knowledge or tools continue to be used after the contracted work is completed - some examples of how others have done this are given below.

Once you have thought about the different forms legacy can take and which ones are likely to be most effective for your research, it is important to include the legacy activities as part of your study and to allocate resources to it within your project or program budget. The term resources is used here in its broadest sense and may include staff time to establish and maintain relationships with key people throughout the research project and afterwards.

As a general rule, we recommend allocating 5% of the overall project or program budget to legacy related activities (for example a ‘harvest year’ to complete communication outputs). This can be scaled over the life of the program so that it increases the closer the research is to completion, for example, 2% year 1, 3% year 3, 5% year 5 etc).

There are many different activities that can be used for ensuring legacy is covered, for example, a single research project may require just making sure the data are fully analysed and published or communicated to specific audiences in a form that they can readily make use of. For a large R&D project, funds may need to be allocated to building skills and capacity in key organisations or individuals during the course of the work or to fund a ‘harvest year’ after the completion of research to disseminate findings, consolidate relationships, ensure skills are passed to those remaining in the project region or beyond it, and develop products to support ongoing adoption.

The key questions to ask yourself are:

  • What things need to be in place to ensure that ongoing support and dissemination of research findings will occur?
  • How much will they cost?
  • Which are likely to be the most effective and to provide value-for-money?
  • Which will I include as part of my K&A plan?

Who needs to help me plan for legacy?

It is a good idea to discuss the issue of legacy with the people who are going to be involved in the project or program including the research team, the funding organisation and representatives of the local community or other audiences that you might be working during the research. These discussions are often enlightening as a range of perspectives generally exist about what the goal(s) of the project or program are, and where its impact and, hence, legacy will be.

Sometimes it is useful to have a facilitator guide these discussions. This information then enables you to analyse the socio-economic factors that are likely to impact on whether or not your project will ‘succeed’ in meeting its goals in particular communities.

By involving the range of people who are the intended beneficiaries or audiences for your project, you are also identifying others who can fill in some of the Knowledge and Adoption (including legacy) gaps that you may not be able to cover with your resources either during the work or once the project or program has been completed. This is useful, as it highlights during the planning stage organisations and people who may be able to assist in implementing your K&A plan - including your legacy component. It also helps to ensure at the beginning rather than the end of the project or program that its impact will continue despite the research component being completed.

What does a legacy plan look like?

Planning for legacy is not an arduous task, rather, it is just one component of your overall Knowledge and Adoption Plan. It may be just one page or one paragraph within the context of the overall K&A Plan. The case studies demonstrate how the issue of legacy has been handled at both project and programme levels.

If you need help, Contact a Knowledge & Adoption Officer

Case Studies

Project Case Studies

Case Study A

Rangelands R&D Program project in the Western Division of NSW

Case Study B

A Rangelands R&D Program project in the Central Highlands of Queensland

Case Study C

Research on the re-introduction of large pieces of wood into streams

Program Case Studies

Case Study D

The National Riparian Lands R&D Program

Case Study E

Land Water & Wool

Case Study F

National Dryland Salinity Program

A Rangelands R&D Program project in the Central Highlands of Queensland

Case Study B

This project was based around an action learning approach to test how improved access to NRM information, combined with improved institutional structures and facilitated negotiation processes, could enable a regional community to improve natural resource use and more-effectively interact with government policy and program development. The project outputs were of necessity long-term, so ensuring legacy was a crucial part of the work from its planning phase.

The project team collated a wide range of existing NRM data and, together with regional organisations, developed the Central Highlands Resource Information System (CHRIS). Not only was CHRIS made widely available throughout the region to all groups or individuals who wished to access its data, it also included technical support and interpretation as well as a system of auditing of regional resource use. This was a key resource left in the region at the conclusion of the project.

The project team also established, following wide regional consultation, a series of Regional Sector Groups whose function was to enable discussion within particular groups of stakeholders (for example local government, agriculture, mining, conservation, human services) of issues important to that sector in use of natural resources (for example water) and the development of action plans to deal with perceived sustainability issues. Sectoral views were then raised and negotiated across sectors in a Regional Coordination Committee to develop consensus and integrated NRM plans for which the region could then seek external support for their implementation. These institutional structures, combined with discussion and negotiation processes were also a crucial part of the project legacy left within the region. The many local people involved in the project who both contributed and gained new knowledge and skills (including regional and group facilitators) were another vital component of the legacy.

The third function of the project was the recording and evaluation of the processes used in it, identification of the critical success and failure points, and advice on options to further improve regional resource use planning. This knowledge was disseminated through papers and presentations during the course of the work and as part of the project legacy at completion.

By Phil Price, former Program Manager

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Land Water & Wool

Case Study E

Land, Water & Wool was the most comprehensive natural resource management (NRM) research and development program ever undertaken by the Australian wool industry. It was a five-year collaboration between Australian Wool Innovation Limited (AWI), Land & Water Australia and 39 other research, educational and extension partners.

The Land, Water & Wool program developed more than 50 research-based information products to assist woolgrowers and their advisors interpret and apply the key findings emerging from the program in a commercial wool production environment. The program targeted Australian woolgrowers with research and information resources for high priority NRM issues to drive awareness and adoption of improved management practices at the farm and regional scale.

Given the research has the potential to impact on more than one quarter of the Australian landscape, including ecological assets of high significance that are privately managed by Australian woolgrowers, legacy was an important aspect of the program’s communication process.

Synthesis

A major synthesis process was undertaken in the final year of the program (2006-07), and forming part of this process was the development of a ‘Communication Program Handover Strategy’ by the Land, Water & Wool Communication Coordinator (Currie Communications). This strategy aimed to facilitate the effective ‘handover’ of appropriate and relevant program communication activities, information resources and intellectual property to ensure such resources were appropriately archived for fast, secure and long-term access.

Strategy

The overarching Land, Water & Wool Communication Strategy had 3 key areas of investment:

  • External Stakeholders
  • Internal Stakeholders
  • Corporate Affairs

Each dealt broadly with elements including knowledge development and management, motivation and awareness, advocacy, products and services, monitoring and evaluation and risk management.

Following extensive consultation with Land, Water & Wool investment partners, the following parameters were identified as being essential elements required by the Handover Strategy:

  • Audit of knowledge and information resources (e.g. Product Summary)
  • History of communications relationships and associated risks
  • Log of ‘go to’ people for future reference; relationships map – who has the knowledge and is considered the custodian of the knowledge in the long-term?
  • Determination of the on-going role of woolgrower/advisor networks associated with the program (and linkages to AWI’s new NRM Strategy)
  • What do current intellectual property agreements mean for future use?
  • A clear understanding of the ‘operating costs’ and benefits of continuing to manage Land, Water & Wool information; potentially including scoping out potential future expected demand and develop forecasts of costs for warehousing, postage, distribution, etc for administration and budgeting purposes
  • Lifecycle planning (up to 5 years for some ‘high success’ products)
  • Linkages to the program’s Monitoring and Evaluation strategy to evaluate awareness/demand as well as any likely future adoption or practice change initiated by the information resources.

Other elements of the Handover process considered by Currie, Australian Wool Innovation Ltd and Land & Water Australia, included:

  • determining the future of the Land, Water & Wool ‘brand’ as an effective, future ‘trademark’ for AWI
  • ensuring ‘significant’ products and services were secure in master format for future updating, reference or replication
  • developing a separate handover process for on-line resources Land Water & Wool website and determining the appropriate ‘host’ agency and custodians for such resources if it was not to be the core program partners.

By Kim Mitchell, Currie Communications

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National Dryland Salinity Program

Australia’s National Dryland Salinity Program (NDSP) was a decade-long program run over 2 phases by Land & Water Australia and comprised 12 investment partners. A major knowledge and adoption legacy activity for the NDSP was to initiate an enhanced communication year between 2004-05 to help distill the key findings from the program and develop resources to help put the research outcomes directly into the hands of land and water resource managers facing a salinity issue.

The NDSP Enhanced Communication Year involved the establishment of a writing team (one for each key audience) and a networks team (which was responsible for delivery and marketing activities).

Supporting this approach was a Monitoring and Evaluation team, which worked with a number of consultancies to finalise a final review of all program activities, as well as the Land & Water Australia communication team. This provided significant support for on-line resources and stakeholder liaison. The NDSP Program Manager and the National Communication Coordinator (Currie Communications) facilitated the interaction and integration between all of these people and external suppliers (designers, etc).

Crucial to the success of such an ambitious undertaking was securing the support (financial and in-kind) of existing investment partners as well as attracting the attention of new partners.

Legacy outcomes

The resulting legacy outcomes included:

  • a series of nationally-focused management resources (Managing Dryland Salinity in Australia) designed for policy, catchment management and farming audiences (marketed as the ‘salinity survival kit’)
  • a comprehensive on-line resource (www.ndsp.gov.au) and other electronic materials
  • continuation of most NDSP knowledge and adoption activities by the CRC for Plant-based Management of Dryland Salinity beyond the NDSP Enhanced Communication Year

The relationship formed with the Cooperative Research Centre for Salinity was particularly important from a long-term communication perspective, with the CRC Salinity employing 4 of the 5 former State-based NDSP Communication Coordinators post NDSP and assuming ownership of the NDSP’s flagship publications ‘SALT Magazine’, ‘Focus on Salt’ newsletter, the email-based discussion forum SALTLIST, and numerous other program information resources which continue to be utilised to this day.

The NDSP ‘Managing Dryland Salinity in Australia’ information resources ‘sold out’ within a period of 15 months of launch, significantly assisted by a series of regionally-based ‘sell in’ activities with key stakeholders, a major launch and media campaign and via marketing through NDSP and partner networks and targeted major events.

A completely revised and updated CD of the full resource kit, together with a further 110 papers and other salinity management information resources, was published in October 2006, while a review of the success of the NDSP ‘Managing Dryland Salinity in Australia’ resource and the outcomes of the NDSP Enhanced Communication Year was finalised in December 2006.

Website: National Dryland Salinity Program

By Kim Mitchell, Currie Communications

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Rangelands R&D Program project in the Western Division of NSW

Case Study A

There had been many reviews and enquiries into the use and management of the land and water resources of the Western Division of NSW, going back to the 1920s and even earlier. The project team were well aware that their R&D was on its own not going to deal with all the NRM issues, and that its outputs would be just one of many sources of information. From the outset, the project team thought about what they were going to leave behind at the completion of the project, and how to make sure it was both useful to, and used by, a wide range of organisations, groups and individuals with responsibilities and/or interests in the Western Division.

Their starting point was to identify as many of those organisations, groups and individuals as they could and define their responsibilities and interests. They also prepared maps of the key types and sources of information relevant to land use and NRM in the Division, including the interactions between them. This enabled the team to see who the key players were in effecting change, and how their project’s data and outputs needed to be fitted with other knowledge in order to deliver coherent and consistent information that would be used by land managers, policy makers, agribusiness, politicians, conservation interests and the general community.

As part of their actions to ensure project legacy, the project team put a lot of effort into engaging with organisations and people both within and external to (for example State government policy makers) the Western Division.

Time was taken to explain the purpose of the project, how the outputs could assist the different groups to meet their own objectives, and to build trust and confidence.

Project outputs and knowledge were packaged and delivered in quite different ways to suit the differing needs of the range of target audiences; this was reflected in the different types of products available at project completion.

The project team integrated their work into the West 2000 Strategy being managed through the NSW Government, and helped to develop awareness and increase the skills of key players by involving them in the research process itself. Workshops and visits within the Western Division helped those living there to consider the many issues involved in sustainable land use and management, and to understand where data and knowledge on this topic could be obtained.

These actions to achieve legacy helped to ensure that even though the speed of the political process far outstripped that of the R&D and of the community’s ability to process new information and reach decisions, the R&D project left behind a lasting benefit through increased awareness and understanding, new information and better access to it, and a willingness by different interest groups to engage with each other.

By Phil Price, former Program Manager

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Research on the Re-introduction of large pieces of wood into streams

Case Study C

Over a period of 10 years LWA supported work on this topic by the same scientist, initially as a postgraduate research project identifying the key principles, then through a large research and demonstration project that aimed to test and evaluate re-introduction techniques in real life on two high-energy streams. At the commencement of the work little thought was given to project legacy, but with the success of the second study this became an important issue as there was increasing interest in wood re-introduction but few, if any, evaluations of past on-ground works.

Three approaches were adopted to build legacy. The first was to engage the relevant State agency in the re-introduction work so that its staff (initially skeptical) could see for themselves the construction methods and how the replaced wood withstood large flood events. Winning over the staff and the local community, and allaying their fears that re-introduced wood would be washed downstream and threaten valuable infrastructure such as bridges, was a crucial step in getting wood re-introduction to be taken seriously.

The next step was to publicise the work to river and catchment managers, community groups and engineers. This was done through articles in RipRap, a magazine focusing on river and riparian research, as well as presentations and discussion at a series of workshops on different aspects of riparian management held in all States and Territories so that people could talk to the researcher direct. These workshops were run across the country and included a field component so that the researcher could show in ‘real life’ how the theory could be put into practice.

The final step for legacy was to provide the details of the re-introduction methods, and the evaluation of the LWA-funded demonstration project, in a 'Design Guideline for Reintroducing wood into Australian Streams’ that enables others to plan, implement and evaluate their own wood re-introduction project. These next steps were supported by LWA well after the research had been completed, but in order to make sure the legacy from the initial investments was maintained.

By Phil Price, Technical Adviser

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The National Riparian Lands R&D Program

Case Study D

The National Riparian Lands R&D Program undertook thirteen years of research into how riparian areas function, how they can be better managed, and how to engage local communities in protecting, maintaining and rehabilitating these important parts of the landscape. The program had a strong focus on knowledge and adoption activities. Publications were developed for audiences at a range of levels, as well as innovative CDs, web-based products and magazines like RipRap.

Planning for the legacy of the program began half way through its second phase (2004) when a series of activities were developed to signal to stakeholders that the program was ending, but that all the information it had produced was available in a variety of different forms suitable for different audiences (technical and non-technical).

Key activities

Working with industry to translate science for different commodity groups

Different agricultural industries across Australia have different cultures, norms and ways of doing things. This was recognised by the National Riparian Lands R&D Program when it worked with the sugar, cotton, dairy and wool industries to tailor information for their stakeholders. It became apparent that a sugar grower would not read anything written for a wool grower and visa versa. This meant that considerable effort was made to ‘get inside’ each of these agricultural industries to ensure that the information produced was relevant and meaningful to that particular audience.

Colloquial language was used to describe local river and riparian management issues so that it was easily understood and could slot into day to day production of the particular commodity being focused upon. Case studies were used widely to show how the science that was being recommended could be put into practice.

Oral histories showing how families over generations had managed their rivers and streams were used to foster community spirit and demonstrate the importance of waterways to the region’s history.

Out of this work has come a series of guidelines, CDs and oral histories that are valued by the industry concerned because they were written for them, with considerable input from them to ensure that they ‘hit the mark’. The ongoing legacy is that these guidelines are now drawn upon in the sugar, cotton, dairy and wool industries for recommended codes of practice and environmental accreditation processes.

Taking researchers into the regions

National series of workshops

At the end of both phases of the Riparian Program (2000 and 2005-06) workshops were run in each State and Territory. Researchers who had undertaken work on the program presented their research findings to people invited by the hosts of the workshop to attend.

Demand for these workshops was very high, with the 2005-06 series resulting in all States and Territories visited requesting more be organised. Each workshop had between 25-35 participants, drawn from government NRM departments or Catchment Management Authorities and equivalents. Workbooks and a CD that had all the presentations on it were provided so that people could refresh their memories when they returned back to their offices. Land & Water Australia facilitated and managed the workshops, as well as paying for the researchers to attend. The host State and Territory organised participants, venue and catering.

Qualitative responses highlighted the value participants place on being able to talk directly to the researchers who did the work, as well as the professionalism and organisation of the workshops. As a model of knowledge and adoption, taking researchers out to the regions is clearly a good approach as people feel they can access science but have it placed within their local context.

Principles of Riparian Land Management

Synthesis publication

At the end of Phase One of the National Riparian Lands R&D Program a two volume publication was produced called the ‘Riparian Lands Management Technical Guidelines’. This document brought together all the science that had been undertaken into a handy reference document. As the second phase of the National Riparian Lands R&D Program came to an end an updated scientific publication was produced to provide people with access to the current thinking and literature on various riparian lands management processes.

Principles for Riparian Lands Management had chapters written by all of the scientists that worked on the program, as well as others who were involved in riparian research. This made the publication an excellent reference document for those involved in river and riparian management and who want to understand in detail the science behind recommended management practices.

National Riparian Lands R&D Program

Legacy CD

This CD brought together all of the research, publications, tools and key scientific references from thirteen years of work in the program onto one handy, easy to access product. The material is organised against eight management issues for those users that want to understand a particular riparian issue and how the science that has been undertaken supports the recommended practical guidelines. For those users that don’t want to access the information by management issue, alternatives are provided so that the CD also works like a website, containing all the information produced by the program.

Tier 1 Important management issues

Tier 1 focuses on management issues identified by landholders and catchment management groups as being important. It provides a practical introduction to the topic with a PowerPoint presentation that can be modified and used to present applied management information for landholders to use on-farm.

Tier 2 User access to publications & tools

Tier 2 enables the user to access those publications and tools that provide the scientific data and principles that underpin the recommended management practices for each objective. It has a complete set of all the publications and CDs produced by the program, with some broken up into easy to use smaller ‘chunks’ of information.

Tier 3 User access to scientific papers

Tier 3 takes the user to the relevant scientific papers published in refereed journals and books, providing confidence that the recommended management actions are underpinned by high quality, peer-reviewed science.

The idea behind the CD was to enable end-users to access the information from the Program at a number of different levels and to continue disseminating findings to audiences across Australia. Putting the research into the hands of those who will use it and continue to build on and develop better ways of managing riparian lands has always been important to this Program, the legacy CD is a good example of how this can be done even after the Program has finished.

Establishing, valuing and maintaining relationships

The National Riparian Lands R&D Program has placed a high value on taking time to establish and maintain relationships between researchers, stakeholders, people working on the program, and the general public. This has required, above all, taking the time to listen to people and understand what it is that they need in terms of information about riparian lands management.

The RipRap magazine has been used to keep everyone in touch with the latest findings in river and riparian management, as well as being a vehicle for others to feature their work and activities. Workshops have meant that people can get together with the scientists and talk about issues affecting their riparian management. Informal BBQs and dinners, celebrating achievements, and generally having a good time have kept the research team close knit and happily working together.

Allocating resources for relationships is fundamentally important to any successful project or program - it is important to make people feel valued and special. This is what makes people feel good about the work they are doing and want to pass on what is learnt to others even when the project or program has finished.

Program website

To view the work of the program, including the range of publications, visit the River Landscapes website.

By Siwan Lovett, Program Coordinator

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Resources

How to organise events

Whether you are organising a field day, a workshop, a policy briefing or a meeting, some forward planning can make all the difference to its success. Making sure you have well-briefed facilitators, chairs and presenters will also help ensure the success of your event. Use the event checklist at the end of this sheet or develop your own checklist to help you stay focused on the detail of the event.

Planning your event

Firstly, get an event plan down on paper which:

  • clearly defines the roles/tasks for everyone involved in the event and keeps a check on their progress
  • pinpoints your target audience/attendees and what you want them to get out of the event
  • creates something different and interesting

Avoid holding public events during big news times, for example:

  • when budgets are being handed down
  • special holidays
  • sports grand finals

Promote public events using:

  • community bulletin boards in suburban papers
  • community radio announcements (both FM and AM run these as free services and will often post them on their websites as well)
  • school newsletters
  • email networks
  • media alerts and editorials

Make contingency plans—have backup speakers and plan for bad weather. Hold your event where there is mobile phone service so that people don’t have to leave the venue to communicate with others.

Organising a field day

Field days take more time and effort to organise than the people involved ever imagine. Here are some tips for organising a field day:

  1. Start planning early - everything takes longer than you think.
  2. Focus energy on doing a few big events really well rather than many events of a lower standard.
  3. Collaborate with as many partners as possible - to expand the reach of the event. Look for regional partners and support regional activities where possible.
  4. Look at what else is happening around the time - How can you fit in with existing programs or events rather than creating your own event? How can they fit in with you?
  5. Use the strengths of your organisation - contacts, expertise etc.
  6. Call in expertise where needed - if you have never contacted a group in the region before, talk to others who have, rather than starting from scratch.
  7. Involve other people and organisations such as community and industry groups - Use seed funding to build better relationships and leverage more for a field day using combined resources and strengths.
  8. Be open to new ideas and new partners - talk to as many people as possible and keep a contact list.
  9. Offer a prize to encourage excellence in the field.
  10. Make available an experienced, proactive person to answer enquiries about the field day’s activities as soon as people come in - Give them the time and resources they need.
  11. Hand out freebies — it guarantees a good response from attendees.
  12. Don’t reinvent the wheel - Take note of the number of attendees, media coverage, what worked, what didn’t, and feedback from anyone involved. These notes are useful for the organisation to build on the profile of the event.

Organising a workshop

Workshops provide a structured space for people to work together to create desired outputs or pursue shared objectives. Workshops are useful for:

  • discussing criteria or analysing alternatives allowing two-way information
  • fostering small group or one-on-one communication
  • offering a choice of team members to answer difficult questions
  • building ownership and credibility for the outcomes
  • maximising feedback obtained from participants
  • achieving a group product/outcome
  • exploring issues/solutions/ways forward
  • discussing criteria or analysing alternatives
  • drawing on other team members to answer difficult questions
  • building credibility
  • fostering public ownership in solving the problem
  • developing community capacity and action plans
  • communicating an issue
  • building alliances, consensus

A workshop must be well designed to meet its objectives. Hostile participants may resist what they may perceive as the 'divide and conquer' strategy of breaking into small groups. Choosing a good facilitator is crucial to good planning. The facilitator must be experienced in keeping the focus on the objectives and be able to evaluate the quality and quantity of their delivery. They need to know how they will use the public input before they begin the workshop and in some cases several facilitators are needed for small group discussions. The number of tools that you can use in a workshop to raise the relevant issues and stimulate creativity and thought are limited only to your imagination.

5 things to consider when planning a workshop

  1. Shaping objectives/desired outputs - Work out the purpose of the workshop and what you want the workshop to achieve, and make this very clear to participants before the workshop begins. You may also wish to discuss and clarify this at the beginning.
  2. The participants - You can select participants based on their knowledge, closeness to the issue, expertise or by selecting a cross-section of views. Alternatively, you can target particular groups.
  3. Design process and tools to meet the objectives - The facilitator must be experienced in the processes required, such as designing messages, chairing sessions and resolving conflict. Consider the materials or workbooks you need to help meet the objectives.
  4. Workshop environment - Once you have identified the objectives and process, focus on the workshop environment to ensure that the workshop runs smoothly. Environmental considerations may include hiring a venue, catering, staffing, engaging experts, recorders, gophers and artists/photographer. Audiovisual requirements can be a major hurdle to a well-run workshop. Check the recording equipment and amplification, overhead projectors, data projectors, video and slide projector/screen, and props for working in groups (pens, paper, pins, etc.). Check that the furniture is arranged so that all participants can see each other and there is no hierarchy. A square arrangement works best.
  5. Feedback - Give each participant a feedback form (see sample workshop evaluation form at end) and a copy of everything produced from the workshop.

Organising a policy briefing to politicians

12 tips for briefing your politician

  1. Ask your politician how much time they have to spend with you.
  2. Be prepared to spend five minutes or 45 minutes with them.
  3. Introduce yourself, explain what you do and what you want out of the meeting e.g. raise their interest in the area, engender more support, or supply contacts. Ask them to do something concrete.
  4. Make sure you can cover this information in one minute as it may be all you get.
  5. Be honest and friendly.
  6. Research your MP and make your work or issue as relevant to them as you can so they understand why you are meeting with them. Do they have a research or education facility in their electorate? Are they on a committee that deals with your issue? Do they have a personal interest in the area?
  7. Give good examples. How much money can be saved? What are the social benefits for individuals or groups?
  8. Tell them stories - they will remember them.
  9. Provide solutions to problems rather than just problems—they hear enough problems.
  10. Let your research outcomes guide the direction of policy, not the detail - this is better left to the parliamentarians.
  11. Try to link with current issues. Read the paper and listen to the news. Make your project or issue relevant to general community concerns.
  12. Maintain as much contact as you can. Leave them with some written information, write to them thanking them for meeting with you, invite them to visit you, and keep them updated on your progress.

Running an effective meeting

Meetings are useful for gathering a diversity of opinions, honing goals, reaching agreement on decisions that must be made and taking action on issues—but they can really slow up a productive working day.

8 tips for organising an effective meeting

  1. Realise the purpose of the meeting - if it is for disseminating information perhaps this can be done in written form.
  2. Ensure all the right people (i.e. those that need to be consulted) attend so that additional meetings can be avoided.
  3. Provide enough information for people to be able to make decisions during the meeting.
  4. Provide a good meeting agenda so everyone knows what the meeting is about—give it an appropriate title, describe the meeting content in a short paragraph, and disseminate the agenda three days before the meeting.
  5. Choose a good chairperson who will keep to time and direct the agenda appropriately.
  6. Schedule meetings in the morning while everyone is fresh.
  7. Consider alternative settings, such as garden settings, where participants can feel relaxed or at least less focused on other matters.
  8. Participants may need time just to interact informally with others. To avoid interruptions during the meeting, create time for these interactions by scheduling lunch with the group for after the meeting, or by organising a field trip.

Event checklist

The following checklist can help you make sure you have covered all your bases. Some of the items won’t be relevant for events, but it does provide a useful guide.

Planning

  • set up planning team
  • decide on event theme
  • write budget
  • prepare written strategy – who, what, why, when, how?
  • plan evaluation strategy

Guest speakers

  • confirm MC
  • confirm guest speaker(s)
  • brief speakers
  • brief chairs
  • provide speech notes if required
  • provide copy of running order
  • get mobile phone contact numbers of speakers

Invitations

  • design invitation
  • prepare guest list
  • organise RSVP arrangements
  • print invitations
  • mail out invitations
  • finalise guest list and numbers
  • prepare name tags if required

Prizes and donations

  • prepare letter to send to potential sponsors
  • allocate team of people to follow up
  • collect prizes
  • record names of businesses and individuals who make financial or in-kind contributions
  • prepare auction or raffle procedures
  • allocate staff duties at event

Venue

  • choose and book venue
  • organise catering
  • confirm menu (and service times)
  • finalise table layout
  • prepare seating arrangements
  • organise registration table
  • confirm VIP car parking
  • determine car parking facilities for other guests
  • organise water for guest speakers
  • book photographer/video
  • check sound and AV equipment
  • check toilet facilities
  • organise power to site

Signage

  • prepare stage display
  • organise lectern sign
  • prepare foyer display
  • arrange other display material
  • finalise directional signage
  • create street signage

Media

  • write media release
  • prepare media kit
  • send media release for approval
  • send media release to media outlets and arrange photo and interview times

At event

  • prepare running sheet
  • distribute running sheet to organising team, guest speakers, venue manager and caterer
  • prepare biography of guest speakers and provide to MC
  • allocate roles and responsibilities for team:
    • registration table
    • prizes and/or gifts
    • display area
    • meet and greet
    • collecting money
    • VIP meet and greet
  • allocate seating for VIP and guest speakers
  • acknowledge sponsors

Information materials

  • organise table numbers
  • print place cards
  • organise table display or information
  • finalise show bags or other giveaway material

Follow up

  • prepare thankyou letters – guest speakers, VIPs, sponsors and venue
  • send thankyou letters
  • write up notes from event (what worked and what didn’t work) and analyse feedback
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How to give a media interview

When giving a media interview, you need to remain in control of the interview - if not, you may fail to get your message across or, worse again, you may get the wrong message across.

Be on the front foot before you start

  1. Objective – Be clear about why you want to use the media or why you have agreed to do the interview.
  2. Audience – Who do you want to reach with your message? Always know who the media audience is before the interview starts.
  3. Message – What do you want to get across to the audience? Consider your objective, what the audience might want to know (which generally shapes an interviewer’s questions) and what the audience (or interviewer) might get wrong unless you stress the correct information. Get your main points across first.
  4. Written – Always give journalists something in writing before the interview; offer to email or fax it to them.
  5. Preparation – Think about $ figures, statistics and any background information that might be useful in your interview. Prepare for the interview by thinking of simple everyday explanations and/or examples and by focusing on the main points of your message.
  6. Rehearsal – Practice with someone who can play the role of the journalist—try your family or friends; colleagues know too much.
  7. Interview – When you meet the journalist, walk them through the main 2-3 points of your story before they start the interview

Control the agenda

  1. Try to ensure the FIRST answer you give to a question encapsulates your most important point. For most interview situations, this will direct the sorts of questions journalists will ask you.
  2. Stick to your 2-3 key points (which may mean turning questions around). Back up key points with examples or colourful analogies. Repeat your key points two or three times using different words.
  3. Use the PREP method of answering questions:
    • Make the Point you want to make.
    • Back that point up with a Reason (give an explanation).
    • Provide an Example to illustrate your point.
    • Restate your main Point again to make it really clear.
  4. Keep your answers short and interesting. Be enthusiastic and lively.
  5. In pre-recorded interviews, you rarely hear the question. So avoid yes/no answers and pronouns, and give an answer that is complete and can stand alone.
  6. See questions as opportunities to say what you want, rather than something you need to accurately answer in detail.
  7. Check with the journalist at the end of the interview that they understood your key points.

Consider the different roles of researchers and journalists. Researchers work with accuracy, detail, prudence, incremental developments, robust methodologies and peer review. On the other side of the microphone, most journalists work with breaking news, quick grabs, key points and catchy and/or controversial comments - they work under constant time pressure and tight deadlines.

Be prepared to turn questions around

Most journalists are not out to trick you. They just haven’t time to do a lot of research and so they don’t know the right questions to ask you. If you keep answering their questions, you’ll both go merrily down the garden path and you may not get your message out.

Be prepared to turn the interview around and point it in the right direction. This does not mean you completely ignore the question. Rather, you see the question as an opportunity to convey your key points. Here are some phrases that might help:

  • ‘The point of the whole issue is simply this…’
  • ‘The really exciting thing about our work is…’
  • ‘Let me answer your question by simply pointing out that in the last...months we have...’
  • ‘I think that your question is best directed to...but what I can say is...’
  • ‘To appreciate our position on that issue it is important that you first realise...’
  • ‘Let's look at that issue from another viewpoint...’
  • ‘Well, that's an interesting point but the key thing I want to say is...’

Don’t want to answer a particular question?

Never say ‘No comment’. It makes you look guilty. Always give a reason why you can’t answer a question. Be honest. Some examples are:

  • ‘It’s too early to answer that question…’ or
  • ‘I can't talk about … because I'm not the person working on it...’ or
  • ‘…because it's commercial in confidence…’, or
  • ‘...because the full results aren't in yet…’.
  • Then add, ’but what I can say is ...’ and return to the main message you have prepared.

Dealing with difficult interviews

Most research stories are ‘good news’ stories—announcements or releases issued on behalf of researchers and accepted by an uncritical media. The agenda and timing is determined by the research organisation.

You should carefully plan and release ‘bad news’ stories about difficult or contentious subjects in the same way as ‘good news’ stories. Draft a media release, discuss it with the people concerned, nominate a spokesperson, work out the main message, put it in simple terms, anticipate the questions, rehearse and organise an interview or event. Take extra care with all of these steps. Respond to the issue quickly and credibly.

This is a time when you have to be careful what you say, and how you say it. Learn to control the agenda so your message gets out, not the journalist's ideas or preconceptions. Work out what you want to say, and keep saying it—pleasantly, patiently and firmly.

10 tips for dealing with controversial interviews

  1. Find out as much as you can about the agenda of the media. Why are they doing the interview? What are the related issues? Who else will they be talking to?
  2. Find out the media audience for the interview; this will shape the interviewer’s questions and agenda.
  3. For TV: Where will the interview be held? How will the location affect your image and that of your organisation? Take control of this.
  4. Do lots of preparation and work out what you want to talk about, and what you DO NOT want to talk about. Draw a very clear boundary around your story.
  5. Prepare positive explanations of the research that will ensure you stay on the front foot during the interview. Never become defensive.
  6. Be careful with analogies and explanation of risk—they can backfire. If you want to use analogies, make sure they make sense for the media audience you will be talking to.
  7. Acknowledge the concerns of others as valid, even if they do not have a rational basis to them. Don’t be arrogant.
  8. If appropriate, rehearse with a freelance or ex-journalist who can ask you difficult questions.
  9. During the interview stick to the key points that you want to get across. Remember, a question equals an opportunity to say what you want. It does not equal an answer.
  10. Remain cool, calm and polite during the interview. If the interviewer becomes aggressive, they are the one to lose out, not you
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How to understand your audience

Understanding your audience is the key to tailoring all of your communication more effectively. Your message may seem clear and obvious to you, but what you put in doesn’t always get processed the way you expect it to. Your perceptions are true for you but may be very different for someone else, even someone who is close. For example, they may have completely different memories of a past incident that you shared. This reality is true for them even though it’s not for you.

What do we know about audiences?

Communication is not only about conveying information - it is also about developing relationships and building trust with your audience. Audience members:

  • would rather hear from people who are in the same group as themselves or who understand their perceptions, concerns and needs
  • tend to conform to the values and behaviours of the groups to which they belong
  • are often mistrustful of people from other groups, particularly those they perceive as posing a threat to their stability or livelihood
  • will seek out information from credible sources but are more likely to go with known and immediate or local sources when available

Developing more effective relationships and trust with your audience takes time and resources, but some key tips can help improve the effectiveness of your communication. All the good work that has gone into a piece of writing can be wasted by one word in the first paragraph that the audience does not understand or that puts them off. To avoid this, you can:

  • find out what they already understand and what they are inspired by
  • employ a competent person who deals with the community you want to reach to explain your messages
  • go out and talk to the people you are communicating with as often as you can so that you really get a feel for their interests and concerns

Spend time trying to understand your audience

Spend time finding out the key group/individuals that you need to engage right from the beginning, and at particular points along the way.

  • Don’t assume you have the correct knowledge about others - empathy is gained through genuine understanding, it is not an inherited trait.
  • Don’t just rely on stakeholder lists from the agencies - these are just the beginning.

Research what is already known about past perceptions, concerns and needs of other people. Look at surveys, reports, and newspaper clippings. Explore group networks, ask who else should be involved, and continue to do this all through the project. Identify the communication methods that are best suited to the groups you are working with and use them in preference to other methods of communication that may be easier for you to deal with. Actively listen to people’s concerns and needs. This means they do far more of the talking than you do. A good listener asks short sharp questions and clarifies that they have understood.

Ask for information

Be clear about the group or organisation that you are representing and be open and honest about your motivations in wanting information from your audience. Don’t get defensive - keep an open mind.

When asking for input or information from partners, structure your meetings so that like-minded people can work together. Partners are more likely to participate if they feel they can be heard. Don’t mix groups with various agendas unless you have a very real reason for doing so - and then do this in a very structured way with clear objectives, process and outcomes. Have them tell their story in active first person to get their direct perspective rather than including it as quotes in a narrative.

Pre-test messages

It is useful to test how clear your messages are before finalising a communication strategy or tactic. One way to do this is to pre-test the message with a sample of the audience. For example, before finalising a fact sheet, send a draft to a few people requesting their feedback, or present a draft strategy to a focus group and ask them about the messages. The following questions are useful for pre-testing a document (or presentation, video clip etc).

  1. What is the main idea this document is trying to get across to you?
  2. What does this document ask you to do?
  3. What action, if any, is the document recommending that people take?
  4. In your opinion, is there anything in the document that is confusing?
  5. Which of these phrases best describes the document? [Easy to understand/Hard to understand]
  6. In your opinion, is there anything in particular worth remembering about the document?
  7. What, if anything, do you particularly like about the document?
  8. Is there anything in the document that you particularly dislike or that bothers you? If yes, what?
  9. In your opinion, is there anything in the document that is hard to believe? If yes, what?
  10. In your opinion, what type of person is this document talking to? [Someone like me/Someone different to me]

Give feedback

At key points, especially in the final stages of a project, give feedback to those involved. Don’t just give written feedback - it’s the cheapest and easiest, but not necessarily the most effective. When people have actively participated in a project, they are more likely to come to a reporting/information session than to read a report.

Watch the timeframes

The timeframes of an agency/consultant are usually much tighter than those of the community. Recognise this in regard to generating participation, and manage it so that projects can be completed cost effectively and efficiently.

It’s all about them!

Don’t give up - it can take a concerted effort to truly understand another’s point of view…if that’s ever really possible. Remember, their point of view is all about them - not you!

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How to manage risk and uncertainty when communicating

Risk and uncertainty is inherent in most research projects. Much of the information generated by research is not absolute and may change as new information emerges. This makes it difficult for researchers to communicate with people other than their peers and colleagues. This is especially true when communicating with government decision makers about controversial issues. Researchers want to give fool-proof information to maintain their credibility, while others need to make decisions on the best available information. So it’s important to plan how you communicate risk and uncertainty. It requires you to carefully design messages and develop an open and transparent process.

Why it’s hard to communicate uncertainty

Technical data can be complex

Research related to areas such as risk assessment is often complex and difficult to express in simple language. For example, it often involves probabilities or management options that are hard to interpret in terms of risk.

Science does not progress without ‘disagreements’

When there is scientific uncertainty or ‘risk’, there is usually also scientific disagreement about the level of risk or the interpretation of the data. The problem is compounded by the general perception of people that science is ‘always right’.

The peer review process takes time

The traditional process of peer review means that scientists are generally unwilling to communicate their research without the data being accepted by accredited colleagues. This can delay the communication of important data and increase the level of concern and conflict for those affected by, involved or interested in the issue.

7 tips for communicating ‘uncertain’ technical information

  1. Find out what people want to know - What you think is important and what others think is important may differ greatly. While it is important to communicate information you consider critical, you need to consider the concerns of people who are in involved in, affected by or interested in your research.
  2. Acknowledge uncertainties - This will help your long-term credibility and help to educate people about the nature of scientific research.
  3. Put information into perspective - It is important not to raise expectations beyond what can be delivered and to not minimise risks. People need enough information to feel confident in making their own decisions.
  4. Release information early - Delays in releasing critical information can lead to:
    • uninformed decision making by affected groups/individuals
    • cover-up claims and subsequent loss of credibility
    • the build up of prejudiced attitudes or emotions
    • reactive communication strategies
  5. Take care when simplifying information - Maintain a fine balance between providing too much complex information and too little.
  6. LISTEN - It is as important to listen to target groups and understand their perceptions, concerns and needs as it is to inform them.
  7. Interact - Avoiding interaction with interested or affected individuals/groups is a recipe for trouble. Involve them early and consult them regularly.

Principles of risk communication

  • Involve people early

Early involvement shows your commitment to the needs and concerns of people involved in the issue. It demonstrates that research is relevant to them. Be proactive in your communication efforts.

  • Group those you want to communicate with

Divide into groups those who are involved in, affected by or interested in the issue. This makes it easier for you to understand particular needs and concerns while identifying specific communication channels to each group.

  • Clarify roles at the beginning

Do not promise people the opportunity to provide input and then ask them to ratify your proposals/research results. Clearly define roles together with those you are communicating with.

  • Clarify involvement preferences

Find out what type of involvement people prefer. Work with them to develop a process for their participation which they are comfortable with.

  • Plan carefully

To integrate participation with organizational timelines, you need a comprehensive strategy, a detailed plan and clear timelines.

  1. Deal with internal concerns - Participation programs can lead to increased tension with internal political sensitivities. Deal with internal organizational/project concerns before they become a major stumbling block to the process.
  2. Personal contacts - Develop personal contacts and use face-to-face communication tactics - they are essential to the success of any participation program.
  3. Use the expertise and knowledge of others - Encourage and actively use community/industry advisory groups. Bring them into the decision-making process. Focus on people with special expertise. For example, a local educator may help develop an educational plan for the community.
  4. Develop a team approach - No one individual or group can manage all the aspects of an issue/problem. Recognise and encourage input from all sectors.
  5. Keep processes open - Secret decisions or research can create negative feelings and lead to loss of credibility. Make every effort to create an ‘us’ and ‘our’ approach to research and policy development and avoid a ‘them’ and ‘us’ division. Be honest.
  6. Use consensus approaches - Consensus groups work on the principle that all viewpoints are considered. They avoid compromise decisions in favour of a shared vision and are particularly powerful when:
    • local groups/communities are involved
    • there is shared commitment
    • an external facilitator is used to start the process
    • all the groups/individuals involved are willing and able to commit a large amount of time to the process
  7. Use conflict as a tool - Resist trying to reach consensus on all issues. Conflict can open up dialogue and raise the profile of an important issue.
  8. Recognise values and feelings - Recognise that people's values and feelings are a legitimate aspect of any issue, and may convey valuable information, such as:
    • what is important to people
    • technical aspects of the issue
    • creative approaches for resolving the issue
  9. Use surveys - You can use surveys as both a research and participation tool. They help practitioners to:
    • actively seek input
    • find out about public opinion
    • explain decisions (based on survey results) to special interest groups
    • explain decisions (based on survey results) to the public through the mass media
  10. Use monitoring efforts - You can effectively involve groups in research and monitoring efforts.
  11. Be less bureaucratic - Informal meetings and simply-written materials will help to convey a sense of openness that will help the participation process.
  12. Respond to input - If you solicit input, be prepared to respond to that input and to explain your response.
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How to write an e-newsletter

 An Important Note

LWA has specific requirements about using email newsletters in ways that are accessible, privacy compliant, and do not create Spam. It is important that you discuss any e-newsletter component with the LWA eBusiness team BEFORE you commence planning your communication. The eBusiness team is available at webadmin@lwa.gov.au, or by calling Land & Water Australia on 02 6263 6000.

 An electronic newsletter, or e-newsletter, can be an effective way of communicating what your project is doing and keeping your stakeholders informed. You can also use it as a marketing tool, providing useful information to the reader while indirectly promoting your services. The content you select and how you structure it is crucial to the e-newsletter’s success.

7 Tips for a great e-newsletter

7 top tips for a great e-newsletter

  1. Put in the time and energy to avoid an irregular e-newsletter that stops after a few issues.
  2. Keep the content concise, relevant and timely with one theme for each edition.
  3. Include information that your readers will value and pass on to others. Avoid offending anyone by publishing controversial topics or views.
  4. Write for the reader - not for you or your organisation.
  5. Develop a unique voice with a friendly, informal tone. Use humour - people like to have fun.
  6. Allow articles to be reproduced, as long as your organisation is acknowledged as the source.
  7. Keep an ideas file - so you don’t run out.

Make it easy to read

If you don’t, they won’t bother. Usability guru Jakob Nielsen shows that 51 seconds is all we usually spend scanning an e-newsletter. Most people won’t read past the first 3 items on your list, so make them the important ones!

  • Include the edition and/or volume number in the email - some readers may want to file them away and reference them later.
  • Avoid a lengthy intro - most people won’t read it.
  • Limit your colours and watch for bad contrast. Bright colours like yellow don’t show up well on a white background.
  • Avoid flashy, distracting graphics. Not only do they increase the size of the file you are sending, they don’t always work on all computers.
  • Use lots of white space to draw the eye to the text.
  • Use numbered or bulleted lists.
  • Keep your articles short - provide a link to your website for those who want to read more.
  • Keep your sentences and paragraphs shorter than you would in a written document.
  • Keep ideas simple and clear.
  • Use plain language and check your grammar and spelling.
  • Keep the entire length to no more than a few screens (or about 15cm).
  • Include a table of contents at the top of the e-newsletter so readers can decide what to read. Create hyperlinks on the entries in the table of contents to the articles for quick navigation, but don’t let this take away from your main items.
  • Give articles meaningful names.

Subscribing and unsubscribing — give them the option

Receiving and reading your e-newsletter is purely optional. Make your reader feel like they are in control. LWA requires the following:

  • Make it easy to subscribe and unsubscribe. Frustrated subscribers are not likely to return. There must be a simple Unsubscribe link.
  • Offer the newsletter in html and text.
  • The email must clearly state the sending organisation and why it was sent.
  • Ask for feedback. Provide a contact email address at the bottom of the e-newsletter.

Be reliable

The professional image of your organisation depends on it.

  • Choose a simple style and stick to it.
  • Be consistent with your frequency. If it is a weekly publication, make sure you send it once a week and on the same day of the week.

Content ideas

  • Choose a friendly voice.
  • Titbits like quotes, links to interesting websites, and jokes can make the e-newsletter fun, but are also more likely to get forwarded to friends and colleagues.
  • Provide tips and short how-to articles.
  • Interview someone your audience would be interested in.
  • Include a short book review.
  • Include articles from the audience or other contributors, keeping in mind that the content must be relevant to the reader.
  • Recycle and refresh an old article, or provide an update. Some topics are timeless and worth the reminder.

Distributing your e-newsletter

Land & Water uses Campaign Monitor to manage its mailing lists, subscriber and mailing functions, and can make this facility available to you. Other services are also available, including Mailchimp, Mailbuild and vision6. The LWA eBusiness team can provide you with more information about distribution.

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How to write a media release

Yours will be one of hundreds of media releases that newsrooms get every day. Most of them end up in the bin. To give your media release every chance of being picked up by the media, you need to crystallise your main message, find an angle, structure the release in such a way that it immediately grabs attention, include all important details in plain language, and consider the timing and distribution method.

The advantages of a media release

Preparing a media release can be a lot of work and, if a number of partners are involved, can take time. But a good one has a lot of value.

  • It saves time for you and the journalist. You can reach a number of media outlets at the same time.
  • It makes you think about how you will explain the work in simple terms.
  • It helps journalists get the details correct.
  • It is a source of quotes, and may be used word-for-word by smaller papers.
  • It forces you, your colleagues, your collaborators, your supervisor and your media liaison officer to think through and clarify what you want to say, to condense it, and to check that you are all saying the same thing.
  • You can clear it with your organisation and collaborating organisations.

Who should write the media release?

Writing a good media release is not easy and is best done by a communication professional skilled in writing for the media. They are not as close as you are to your work, and can more easily identify what the story is and what will appeal to different media outlets.

A communication professional will also have established networks with the media and will be able to personalise the delivery and follow up of your media release.

If you can, work with a communication professional to write your media release.

Designing the main message

Think about your aims before you start:

  • Why are you issuing this release?
  • What are the main points you want to get across? This is particularly important for sensitive issues.
  • Why should the media care?
  • What do they want to know or need to know about this work? They are much less interested in the clever science than the impact the science might have on the person in the street.
  • What could the media get wrong? List the most likely things they could misunderstand or get wrong unless you stress the correct information and explain any potential misunderstanding.

Finding the angle

Once you’ve designed your main message, the art of writing a good media release lies in finding the hook—the angle for your story. Usually, journalists will be interested if the work is going to affect the lives of their readers and viewers. A quirky story—for example, the greenhouse effect of methane emissions from cows—can also grab attention.

Journalists like newness, action, change, conflict, local relevance, rarity and personal stories.

To test whether your story will be of interest to the media, ask yourself the ‘so what?’ question.

The inverted pyramid

Media releases are written in the inverted pyramid style—the most important parts come first, followed by supporting information in descending order of importance.

The headline needs to be catchy. Think of it as a red flag for waving down a train. Yours will be one of hundreds of media releases that newsrooms get every day and, often, all they read is the headline and the first sentence.

Begin with an attention-grabbing ‘lead’ sentence that also covers the basic message. The entire release should be bright, direct and simple, but especially so in your first sentence.

Who, what, when, where, why and how

Journalists are trained to cover the six basic questions: who, what, when, where, why and how. You should answer all these questions in the first few sentences. For a science story, What and Why are key (not so much How).

  • Who said it? Who is this about? Who will this affect?
  • What happened? What does this mean for people? What is so important? This paragraph could contain a quote from your spokesperson.
  • When will it happen? When did it happen? When will it be available?
  • Where did it happen? Where will this be applicable?
  • Why is this so important? Why is this research being done?
  • How was the research done? Is there anything unusual/quirky about this? And how does this make you feel?

10 tips for telling your story

  1. The media likes ‘new’ - write about a new report or announce new findings.
  2. If the story will affect people in a certain area, the local media in that area is more likely to run the story.
  3. Use simple and direct language. A 12-year-old should be able to read and understand the story.
  4. The media likes the tangible, not the abstract - use colourful examples from everyday life.
  5. If possible, include costs or benefits in dollars.
  6. Use real people in the story. Include some direct quotes. Stories can often be told in people terms.
  7. If it’s a first, say so. First in Australia is good, but first in the world is better!
  8. If the story is about your own work, be cautious. It’s easy to assume the reader knows more about the situation than they actually do. Try the story out on someone not connected to the work, and see what interests them and what they don’t know.
  9. A media release should fit on a single page. Keep the paragraphs to one or two sentences and keep sentences to less than 20 words.
  10. Mention available photographs, photo opportunities and website details.

Contact details

Include contact details for everyone who is quoted and for media assistance contacts. Wherever possible, include mobile or home contact details - the media may want to contact you outside of normal working hours. And don’t go on an overseas trip the day you issue the release. Contact persons must be just that - easily contactable.

Timing the issue of a media release

Early in the week is best as it tends to be a quiet news time. Weekends can also be good for Sunday night TV and Monday’s papers. Avoid Friday - it’s a big news day and there is too much competition.

You can place an embargo on your story - a request to the media not to use it before the stated date/time. Embargos are almost always honoured and can give journalists time to research and plan their coverage.

Distributing the media release

You can distribute media releases to established commercial media contact lists (fax and email) or you can develop your own personal contact lists.

If you are emailing the media release to journalists, include it in the body of your email as plain text and avoid document and jpeg attachments unless they have been specifically requested by the journalist.

Print journalists may request photos, and usually prefer them emailed as jpeg files with a resolution of at least 300 dpi.

Always follow up a media release with a phone call to half a dozen key journalists to make sure they received the release and know what is happening. Mid-morning is a good time to do this.

Communication professionals are the best people to help you distribute and follow up on your media release.

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How to write for the reader

If you fail to tailor your writing for your reader, you run the risk of frustrating them, alienating them, boring them, confusing them or losing them before they receive the message you are trying to get across.

4 key steps to writing for your reader

  1. Know who your reader is.
  2. Identify your message.
  3. Tailor content, style, structure and visuals to your reader.
  4. Master the basics of good writing.

Know who your reader is

Your reader is the most important part of your writing. Are you writing for scientists and researchers, senior managers, farmers, natural resource managers or the general public? If it is some or all of these, figure out who your primary reader is and keep them foremost in your mind throughout the following steps.

Identify your message

Your message should incorporate your intent and the aims and the needs of your reader. Spend some time answering the three questions below before preparing your message.

What do I want to get across?

Know your intent. What is your reason for writing to this reader? What is their benefit in reading? Do you want to inform or persuade?

If you want to inform, give the reader a take-home message.

Example: For proven economic gain, the bottom line for control of soil erosion is cover, cover, cover! Contact your local Department of Agriculture to get your free guide: Cost effective erosion control on-farm.

If you want to persuade, include a call for action that encourages the reader to act in some way.

Example: Share in $15,000 and help us celebrate our 15 year anniversary. Send in your photos that capture the sense and spirit of Australia's landscapes, livelihoods and lifestyles.

What does my reader want to know?

Work out what benefit or outcome your reader would respond to and how you can best deliver it to them while still meeting your own needs.

What could the reader get wrong if my message is not clear?

Try to avoid misunderstanding by pre-empting what your reader could get wrong and stressing the correct information.

Example: If you’re writing a fact sheet about a consultation process, your reader may think they have more power then they actually do. You need to stress what role they do have in decision-making. The government has already committed to constructing this dam. This consultation process will not change this fact. However, it will give you an opportunity to influence decisions about compensation.

Tailor content, style, structure and visuals to your reader

Reader: Scientists, researchers
ContentStyle and structureVisuals
  • New information
  • Relevance to their work
  • Opportunities for collaboration/linkages
  • How it fits in the ‘big picture’
  • Formal; detailed; show process
  • Some jargon OK but avoid specialist jargon
  • Typical structure:
    • Hypothesis
    • Aims
    • Methods
    • Results
    • Conclusion
  • Some visuals e.g. graphs with technical details
  • Diagrams, photos
Reader: Senior managers
ContentStyle and structureVisuals
  • The bottom-line
  • Relevance to their business
  • What you want them to do
  • Benefits, costs ($)
  • Opportunities
  • How it fits with strategic directions
  • Specific examples
  • Formal; outcomes, not process
  • Succinct – two page executive summary
  • Jargon-free
  • Describe the most important benefits of the work first
  • Append details of the process
  • Graphs showing trends only
  • Statistics to support their needs
  • Pie charts, flow diagrams
  • Photos
Reader: Farmers, natural resource managers, general public
ContentStyle and structureVisuals
  • Benefits
  • Options for involvement
  • Local relevance
  • Local examples
  • Outcomes, not process
  • Jargon-free
  • Broadbrush photos, diagrams

Knowing your reader’s reading style will help you structure your writing. Some readers will read only the summary. Many will also read the introduction and the conclusion. Others may be interested in part of the detail and will scan for signposts to their area of interest. Include a table of contents and use headings to help the reader to easily find what they are looking for.

The summary may be your only opportunity to engage the busy reader and is therefore all important. It should contain your key messages, key benefit and a linking statement that encourages the reader to read on. It should be snappy and appealing.

Your conclusion will depend on your aim in writing—to inform or persuade. Many scientists think they should write only to inform. We encourage you to write to PERSUADE!

Writing to persuade

To write persuasively, use one or more of three rhetorical devices that have been used for thousands of years:

  1. Project credibility - sound authoritative or have someone authoritative back up your claims (ethos).
  2. Make an emotional appeal to the reader’s needs, desires or fears (pathos).
  3. Appeal to logical reasoning based on principles and evidence (logos).

Think of an advertisement for toothpaste presented by a person in a white coat. The white coat indicates credibility (ethos); the sparkling teeth are what we all want (pathos); and the toothpaste appears to have effective cleaning properties (logos).

Master the basics of good writing

If you are not clear, concise and correct, you may lose your reader early.

  • Write as if you are face-to-face with your reader.
  • Keep your sentences short (try 20 words) and/or well structured.
  • Use active voice and bring your writing to life (‘we monitored the results…’, not ‘…the results were monitored).
  • Use concrete, everyday words. Avoid jargon, unexplained technical terms, acronyms, redundant words and archaic words (whilst, hence).
  • Get someone else to check your writing.
  • Read good writing - how will you recognise it if you’ve never seen it?
  • And remember:

‘There is no event, however abstract, that cannot be translated into human terms’. Arthur Christianson, newspaper editor, London Daily Express, 1950s - 60s

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How to tailor a presentation to the audience

For your presentation to be effective, you must get your point across while also having a benefit to your audience for listening. To do this, you tailor the content, the structure and, most importantly, your delivery style to your audience.

Prepare content, style and visuals to suit the audience

Know your audience

The most important part of your presentation is your audience. You should consider them first. Before you start compiling your presentation, think about why you are giving the talk and what you want to get out of it. At the same time, consider why the audience is there and what they want to get out of it. Use the following questions to help you better understand your audience.

  1. Who will be there? – age, occupation, field, education, experiences, preconceptions, background
  2. Why are they there and do they really want to be there – their motivations?
  3. What are they expecting? What benefit will they get from listening to you?
  4. What do they know already about your subject?
  5. Are they likely to understand technical terms and expressions?
  6. What has gone on before your presentation? (the fourth paper that morning?)
  7. At what time of day is the presentation?
  8. What questions are they likely to ask?
  9. How many people will be in the audience?
  10. What do you want to get from giving the presentation? (your objective)
  11. What do they want to get from your presentation? (their benefit from attending)

Questions 10 and 11 are the most important. Both your objective in giving the presentation and the audience’s benefit from listening need to be clear in your introduction.

Have a clear objective

Why did you agree or decide to give this presentation? What key points do you want to get across to this audience? Examples of objectives:

  • to present new information to research collaborators
  • to inform landholders, farmers, advisers and consultants about your research, the results and implications, trials, and/or new farming practices
  • to inform and help landholders, farmers, advisers and consultants to make decisions about new farming practices, land management and NRM
  • to explore with policy advisers new policy options for natural resource management
  • to update an advisory committee on the progress of your research before getting their feedback

What’s in it for them?

It is important to consider carefully why your audience members will decide to attend your presentation. What benefit are they hoping to get out of attending? Some may have been told by their supervisors that they should attend, but would rather be somewhere else. Consider how you can bring these people on board and how can you make your talk relevant to them.

Even at research conferences, it is important to consider what your audience may want to get out of attending your presentation. Will your peers attend because they want to learn about your work, find new information, check out the possibilities of collaborating with you, or for some other reason?

Tailoring content, style and visuals

Different audiences will respond to different approaches. A scientific audience may be more interested in the detail and appreciate graphs and diagrams. Business, management and policy audiences may want concise presentations that focus on the implications and the triple bottom line (economic, social and environmental costs/benefits). Industry audiences may prefer plenty of examples and opportunities to ask questions. Decide in advance the content, style and visuals that will best connect with your audience.

Content

Effective messages focus on the audience. Think about your message.

  • What do you want to get across to this audience? Your answer should link to your objective in giving the talk.
  • What does this audience want to know about your topic? What is the benefit to them in listening?
  • What could this audience get wrong unless you stress the correct information? This will help you to avoid misunderstanding.

Style

Your style - the way you deliver your presentation - is more important to the audience than the content or visual aids. Audience research indicates that people will initially judge you on:

  • how you look - 65%
  • how you speak - 30%
  • content - only about 5%

This does not mean you have to be a model - it does mean you need to engage the audience with your style. It doesn’t mean content is not important - it is crucially important - but the audience is more likely to listen if you first engage them. When preparing your talk, think about what style will be appropriate to your audience.

  • What style of language will your audience relate best to? (for example, colloquial, technical, business)
  • What degree of formality will connect you with your audience?
  • Will your audience respond to a high level of interaction, or is the occasion best suited to limited or no interaction?
  • What sort of humour will connect you with your audience without offending anyone?
  • How should you dress? Consider what you’d like to convey about yourself.

Visual aids

Use visual aids that add impact or help you to explain something. Consider visual aids other than PowerPoint slides, such as enlarged photos, objects, examples, equipment and demonstrations. If you must use PowerPoint, it should be for the audience’s benefit, rather than acting as your speech notes. As a general rule, keep text to concise main points only. Some audiences, especially those with a different first language to you, may appreciate more extensive written slides. Ask yourself the following three questions for each slide or visual aid:

  1. Does it add impact with this audience?
  2. Does it help to explain an idea?
  3. Does it help an audience whose primary language is different to yours? (for example, where you are an English speaker talking to a largely Chinese audience)

If you answer ‘no’ to all three, consider omitting that visual aid from your presentation.

What does your audience want?

Peers (scientists)
ContentStyleVisuals
  • New information
  • Relevance to their work
  • Opportunities for collaboration/linkages
  • How it fits in the ‘big picture’
  • Formal in a conference; less so in a smaller meeting
  • Some jargon ok, but avoid specialist jargon
  • Rhetorical questions work well
  • Appropriate humour
  • Some visuals e.g. graphs with error bars
  • Diagrams, pictures
  • Some text
Senior managers/business executives
ContentStyleVisuals
  • The bottom line
  • What you want them to do
  • The decision you want them to make
  • Benefits, costs
  • Opportunities
  • Fit with strategic directions
  • Specific examples
  • Formal
  • Succinct
  • Jargon-free
  • Get the most important information out first
  • Graphs showing trends
  • Clearly presented numbers
  • Few or no text slides
Farmers/fishers
ContentStyleVisuals
  • Benefits, especially in $$$ terms
  • Options
  • Local relevance
  • Details of what they need to do
  • Local examples
  • Aim to build trust
  • Casual, but professional
  • Colloquial language
  • Jargon-free
  • Interactive
  • Actual objects
  • Pictures, diagrams
  • Limited text slides
  • Handouts
  • Clearly presented numbers
Community group/general public
ContentStyleVisuals
  • Big picture
  • Local relevance
  • Interesting facts/quirky details
  • Personal stories
  • Examples
  • Casual, but professional
  • Appropriate humour
  • Colloquial language
  • Jargon-free
  • Interactive, where possible
  • Pictures
  • Objects
  • Limited text slides
  • Clearly presented numbers
Hostile/controversial audience
ContentStyleVisuals
  • Set your context in the issue
  • Acknowledge their concerns as valid
  • Acknowledge divergent views
  • Prepare key points
  • Anticipate the questions they are likely to raise
  • Avoid being defensive
  • Be firm
  • Plan the meeting carefully
  • Stay calm, relaxed and polite
  • Clear facts
  • Diagrams
  • Clearly presented numbers
  • Handouts

Structuring your presentation

The following structure is useful for organising your thoughts. Many speakers battle with clarity versus detail versus time. Often clarity or time loses out. Be strict with yourself - cut down on detail. Using the 5-box talk is a good way to do this.

The 5-box talk

Introduction

  • ‘Shake hands’ with your audience—use an anecdote, quote, strong statement or question.
  • Tell your audience why they will benefit from listening.
  • Give an outline of your presentation.

Use a linking phrase e.g. ‘Let me turn to my first point…’

Body section 1 heading

Organise your information within the 3 boxes of the body of your talk to

  • make a Point
  • give a Reason for making that point
  • back this up with an Example

Then, restate the point (which could become part of your linking phrase). Use a linking phrase. Remember to do something different here—pause, turn off visual aids, move to another part of the room etc.

Body section 2 heading

Use snappy headings for each section of your talk e.g. past, present, future; problem, research, solution. Use a linking phrase.

Body section 3 heading

Use a linking phrase.

Conclusion

  • Summarise your talk.
  • Remind your audience of the relevance of the talk to them.
  • Use a strong exit line.

 

Delivering with style and confidence

10 tips for delivering technical information

  1. The best presenters are always enthusiastic about their topic.
  2. The most important element of your presentation is your audience - consider them first.
  3. Your style (the way you deliver your presentation) is more important to the audience than the content or visual aids - think about how you will engage the audience.
  4. To win the battle between clarity, detail and time, cut back on the detail and build in time for pauses.
  5. ‘Super-prepare’ your introduction to give you a confident start.
  6. Prepare a strong exit line for your conclusion.
  7. Signpost your presentation so your audience knows where you’re taking them.
  8. Use visual aids that add impact or help you to explain something.
  9. Rehearse and time your presentation. Make sure you’re comfortable with the venue - do you know how to use the equipment?
  10. Check again that your information will meet the likely expectations and needs of your audience. What benefit will they get from listening to you?

Tips for managing nerves

  • Take deep breaths before getting up to speak; breathe from your abdomen.
  • Breathe throughout your talk, take pauses, have a sip of water.
  • Talk to someone out loud before getting up to speak - otherwise your voice might break or sound thin and reedy.
  • Do some simple exercises beforehand to shake out any excess energy.
  • Prepare - especially the first minute of your talk.
  • Look at the audience - they are there to hear what you will say.
  • Use an anecdote or something humorous to start your talk - once you have the audience and yourself smiling, you can all relax.
  • Have a single page of dot point notes or a series of palm cards to hand.
  • Memorise your opening and closing sentences.
  • If you lose your way, pause, look at your notes, find a place to restart your talk (it doesn’t matter if you miss a bit or repeat a bit), look at the audience and start again.
  • Check out the venue in advance and check your visual aids on the venue’s equipment.
  • Rehearse your talk.
  • You can’t know everything. If you are asked a question that you don’t know how to answer, that’s fine. Respond that you don’t have the answer to hand right now, but could look into it and let them know.
  • Focus on the audience and the benefit to them from listening—it is all about them!
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How to write for the web

Your website is only as good as its content. Your content should be clear, concise, easy to read and grammatically flawless or your reader may never return.

Many websites do not work because they are written in the same style as print media. There is no point in publishing your standard print publications or articles as-is on your website. On the web, you are communicating with a completely different and unforgiving audience.

The key is to understand how a web reader reads and to adjust your writing accordingly.

About web readers

Most web readers do not ‘read’ - they scan. They want information and they want it fast. Eye-tracking studies show that web readers generally read in an F-shaped pattern - two horizontal stripes followed by a vertical stripe. The reader’s eye travels from headline to captions to introductory paragraphs - not to pictures or graphics. So your content needs to be well structured, written in plain language, concise and to the point, with the most important information at the top.

Website structure

Break your content into small blocks. Arrange the blocks hierarchically, with the most important information up the top. Use hyperlinks to drill down for more depth.

Unlike printed publications, the web reader can read your web pages in any order. So make sure that each page can stand alone—it may be the first page they read.

Page structure

Limit each page to one concept. Web readers do not want to be confronted with huge wads of text. Keep paragraphs short and vary the length of your sentences. At the page level, use the journalistic ‘inverted pyramid’ structure—state the most important information in the first two sentences (or short paragraphs).

Consistency

Web readers like consistency—it reduces distractions. Be consistent throughout your site with writing style, especially capitalisation, punctuation, tense, person and tone.

Use navigation labels and visual cues consistently. Readers like to know that they have arrived at the destination they selected - inconsistent wording can cause confusion.

Credibility

A simple spelling error can destroy your credibility. It plants the seed of doubt about your organization’s professionalism and credibility. To build and maintain credibility, make sure all content is written to an in-house editorial style sheet, and get a professional to edit and proofread all content.

  • Try not to write in an overly promotional style - marketing repels web readers.
  • Get personal - this is a one-to-one medium. Use ‘you’ and ‘we’
  • Check for broken links regularly
  • Include references where appropriate
  • Be discerning in the websites that you offer links to
  • Schedule regular reviews to check that all content is current. Put a date-stamp at the bottom of each page to indicate when it was last updated/reviewed.

Writing for scan-ability

  • Write half the amount you would write for a printed publication.
  • Put the most important information first (summary or conclusion).
  • Keep your paragraphs and sentences short.
  • Write in plain language using everyday words.
  • Use bulleted or numbered lists.
  • Use bolding to make a word or phrase stand out. Don’t use underlining - web readers expect underlined words to be hyperlinks.
  • Avoid italics - they are hard to read on-screen.
  • Use short, meaningful labels—headings, page titles, navigation terms. Avoid ‘cute’ headings and puns - they are not universally understood.

Hyperlinks

Take advantage of hyperlinks when structuring your content. Not everyone wants all the detail. Put more in-depth information on a separate page and link to it.

  • Never say, ‘click here for more about native vegetation. Instead, say, for example, ‘Read more about native vegetation’.
  • Don’t say, ‘more information is available at http://www.lwa.gov.au/nativevegetation/Publications/Thinking_Bush/index.....
  • Instead, say, ‘more information is available in edition 4 of Thinking Bush’.
  • Avoid peppering your text with too many links, which can be distracting. You might instead have a ‘related information’ section where you list the links.
  • Test all links, broken links erode your credibility.

Repurposing print documents for the web

Consider repurposing print documents to make them more suitable for web readers. Convert the document to HTML, splitting it into different sections (pages) and adding a hyperlinked table of contents. Provide a print-friendly version.

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How to get media to your event

Journalists are always on the look out for a good story. Conferences, symposiums and other events usually have at least one newsworthy story or speaker. Briefing journalists in advance of the event and working with them during the event, you can maximise the opportunities for media coverage of your research and/or your organisation.

Before the event

Assigning a media liaison officer

Include a media liaison officer on your event organising committee right from the start. They can identify key topics, speakers and events that may be of interest to the media.
If you want media coverage of your event, get professional help!

Selecting the relevant media

Consider the audience you would like to reach via the media, e.g.

  • the general public
  • landholders
  • community groups
  • advisers
  • potential investors
  • government representatives

Use the media most suited to your audience:

  • consider specialist writers (e.g. science, environment, rural, resources writers), newspaper and magazine editors, and television and radio news directors - local and national
  • include relevant news services and trade publications
  • be sure to include the local bureau of Australian Associated Press and local correspondents of out-of-town newspapers and magazines

Notifying the media

The media is a crowded space - most metropolitan journalists receive hundreds of news items each day. Your event will be competing for consideration. Advance notice helps the media plan around your event. Inform the news media of your event several months in advance. Magazines and feature length TV require this much notice. Email the media representatives initially and follow up by phoning or visiting key journalists. Provide details of location, dates and purposes. Ask media representatives to indicate whether they plan to attend and whether they want a media kit.

Identifying interesting topics, speakers and events

Once you have established a program, the media liaison officer should read the titles and/or abstracts of the papers to be presented and select those that appear to be most newsworthy. They may need advice from the program or event committee. Journalists will often ask for new research that has not been reported prior to the event. Try to identify research or policy news to announce to the media. The media liaison officer should then contact keynote speakers and authors of promising papers, explain the media interest, and ask for advance texts or abstracts. This is most important if the media liaison officer is to do their job well.

Preparing media kits

Some media liaison officers make up media kits to send to journalists in advance of the event, and/or make available at the event. You can send an electronic version of the media kit as an Adobe Acrobat PDF file, but only to journalists who have specifically requested it (avoid clogging up their email or being rejected by their server). If you do, mark all materials with a release time such as ‘For immediate use’ or ‘Embargoed until…’. The media kit could include:

  • a concise list of story ideas
  • embargoed media releases
  • media briefs that summarise the most interesting stories in 2-3 short paragraphs
  • a copy of the program showing the names of principal speakers, subjects, and major events (including social events)
  • details of meeting times, exhibit/display hours
  • location of the media room (and a map if necessary)
  • accommodation arrangements for out-of-town media
  • telephone numbers and names of the media liaison staff

Setting up the media room

When you invite media to a conference, you need a media room or you may just need a space where journalists can interview speakers or see a demonstration. If you do need a media room, reserve it at the same time that rooms for other sessions are being reserved. If possible, reserve a second room nearby where television and radio representatives and photographers can hold filmed or taped interviews and take photos.

The room should:

  • be relatively immune to outside noise interference
  • have enough power outlets
  • have the option to turn off air conditioners or other noise sources inside the room.

For media conferences, you may need a third room furnished with enough chairs. However, the radio/television interview room may be adequate to serve this purpose.

Staff the media room at all times with the media liaison officer or an assistant. It is also good to have a member of the host organisation or other expert on call to answer technical questions and to find people for interviews. You can get volunteers (trainee journalists or science communicators) to help out.

  • Register and issue media badges to journalists as they enter the media room.
  • Keep a list of their names and mobile phones/emails/hotel rooms so you can contact them if important news breaks.

Offer registration to communication officers from speakers' institutions, professional societies, and other groups. They can provide background on their people, arrange interviews, and offer other assistance to media covering the meeting.

The media room should be operational on the afternoon of the day before the conference opening. Some journalists will begin arriving and working then. You can also expect some journalists to want to use the media room facilities until late in the evening at times during the conference.

Media room requirements for major events

For major events such as large conferences, consider equipping the main news room with:

  • telephone jacks for computer modems
  • at least 1 telephone, but preferably 2 or 3 more for very large events
  • broadband internet access with cables for around six computers
  • a computer with a modem and a printer
  • sufficient power outlets for around 6 computers
  • a fax machine
  • a photocopier
  • work tables and chairs
  • tables for displaying paper texts, releases and other handouts
  • a bulletin board or blackboard for notices
  • relevant publications on the aims, purposes, history and structure of the sponsoring organisation
  • copies of local telephone directories
  • plenty of copies of the official program

If you are expecting significant TV or radio interest, make sure your plenary conference venue and your media conference room are each equipped with a splitter box.

During the conference

Running the media room

A smooth-running media room is the key to producing news. Here, the media liaison officer performs the most vital function.

Based on the number of media people you expect to attend, make copies of media releases, papers, abstracts etc. Arrange them on tables, chronologically by release times. Keep a master copy of each document in the media room in case you need to make more copies. Make biographical information on the speakers available, either on the tables or on file. If possible, also make available a contact directory of key spokespeople.

One of the key aims of the media liaison officer should be to get as many journalists as possible interacting with interesting researchers or spokespeople during the event. Journalists can then identify their own stories. In some ways, the media liaison officer acts like a ‘perfect match’ bureau - bringing researchers and journalists together. The text or abstract of a paper often provides only the framework for a story. The journalist may need to interview the speaker to amplify, to answer questions raised by the paper, or to make sure they fully and accurately understand the research.

The media liaison officer may arrange media conferences or interviews with one speaker or a panel of speakers. Schedule a convenient time for the speakers and the media before the paper is to be delivered.

Scheduling and running media conferences

The number of media conferences that can be scheduled during a research conference depends on:

  • the genuine news potential
  • the time available to journalists
  • the variety of reporter interests represented

Two media conferences are usual; 4 is about the limit. You may have to play it by ear. If there are many speakers of national or international importance, you probably should schedule more media conferences. If in doubt, ask around among the science writers present; if they're interested in more, they'll say so.

Start the media conference on time, even if some journalists arrive late. The spokesperson should first sum up (in about 3 minutes) what they want to say. If they have appropriate props, videotape, photographs, slides, or charts, they should show these before questioning begins. Most questions should come from the journalists, but the media liaison officer may ask a pertinent question to bring out a key point.

If the media conference is with a panel, the chairperson should start by summing up the panel's position. Each member of the panel may then add a few points, followed by questioning.

Most media conferences run for 20-30 minutes. Journalists will usually want to follow up with their own individual interviews after the media conference, so make sure the speakers are free for an extra 10-20 minutes after the media conference.

Courtesies to the media

Journalists welcome coffee, tea, soft drinks and snacks in the media room. They should not be asked to pay registration fees for conferences, symposiums or other events. It is also a good idea to offer complimentary tickets to conference dinners and social events - this offers journalists and researchers the opportunity to mix with each other on an informal basis.

Media normally expect to pay their own hotel and travel costs. You may want to offer travel assistance to a key journalist to attend a conference. If they accept, you can’t demand coverage from them - it’s up to them to decide what is newsworthy.

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