Content creation for consumers
Why create consumer content about your research?
Publicising research used to depend on coverage in the media. However, it is more difficult than ever before to generate media interest in public health research. There are fewer journalists and fewer traditional media outlets. In addition, more people are accessing content online such as from social media (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter), as well as online reviews, Google searches, company websites and forum threads.
For these reasons, many organisations self-publish their own content. Writing and publishing your own media-type articles, and disseminating them among your networks, provides a variety of effective ways of disseminating your research. Articles can be published on your website, shared through social media or to targeted audiences, and sometimes offered to mainstream media for publication.
While traditional media outlets generally write for members of the public, remember that our key audiences are consumers too. Policy makers, other researchers, funders and politicians all consume media, and may be attracted and/or influenced by different ways of imparting knowledge beyond traditional academic output.
Types of content
Below are examples of different content types that may appeal to a consumer (public) audience.
A communication to the media about breaking news. It can be sent to a broad range of media outlets but can also be targeted at specific journalists. Aims to generate interest in a subject so that the journalist produces their own story about it.
When you have a significant research finding that you wish to publicise; to boost your organisation’s profile; to advocate on a news issue or attract media attention.
The aim of a media release is to summarise succinctly the finding that you wish to promote and encourage journalists to contact you to discuss further and write their own story.
Media releases also raise an organisation’s or researcher’s profile as a trusted commentator on a certain issue.
- The headline should summarise the key message you wish to convey in an eye-catching, compelling way.
- Include the date and location of the media release.
- The first paragraph should again summarise the key message. Do not assume a journalist will read anything other than the headline and possibly the first paragraph.
- Include the name of your organisation in the first paragraph.
- Include direct quotes from the researchers in the body of the media release. Journalists will often use these word-for-word in their story. Make sure people’s names and titles are correct. The quotes should encapsulate your key messages. Generally two to three quotes is sufficient.
- An ideal length for a media release is around 400 words. No more than 600 words. (One page is ideal, two pages at the most).
- Include links to research if you like but references are not necessary.
For examples of media releases, visit your university’s media pages or look at the Prevention Centre’s media releases.
A short story (usually 400-600 words) conveying essential information about a finding or development. It is written in the third person and contains different points of view.
Useful for your website or newsletters, to keep partners engaged or showcase your work.
A news story is a short-form summary of something newsworthy. To be newsworthy it must be a new finding, take the debate further than before, or be something quirky and unusual.
The news story must answer each of these questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
- A news story has an inverted pyramid structure. The top contains the most newsworthy information, followed by important details, followed by general and background information.
- First think of the angle for the story, the ‘hook’. A news story only has one angle (or message). Do not try to encapsulate all your messages into one news story.
- Summarise the angle in the first paragraph – in roughly 30 words.
- Expand on the angle in the next two paragraphs (one sentence only per paragraph).
- Include a direct quote from the researcher/s involved in the findings.
- Provide context for this research finding – why is it important right now?
- Flesh out the findings in the rest of the story, with more quotes where appropriate. You can bring in a range of voices.
- Media outlets will canvas a range of conflicting viewpoints in a news story in order to provide balance. If you are describing a research finding, consider including quotes to demonstrate the impact of this research (e.g. from an end-user).
- If the story is running online, for example, on a news website or industry blog, include hyperlinks where relevant.
- References are not necessary.
Opinion article (oped)
An oped (Opposite the Editorial page in a broadsheet newspaper) is an article of around 800 words that presents an opinion. It can be informed by research, but its primary purpose is to make an argument for something rather than convey research findings.
An opinion article builds an argument. It is not a report about research – but an informed opinion about the implications of research for action.
- Start with an engaging first paragraph that will grab the reader’s interest. It can be a short statement of fact.
- Early on, explain the context – what is this article adding to the debate, why should readers continue?
- Answer the essential questions of who, what, where, when, why (and how).
- Make sure there is a call to action – what you would like people to do, how they should act or what should they change as a result of your research?
- Though the structure need not be as rigid as that of a news story, put the important information first.
- Write in a conversational tone. Do not use jargon or academic language – ever.
- Reference contentious statements (you can use inline links).
- Finish strongly – summarise or reiterate the point made in the opening paragraph.
A feature is a long-form print article, generally around 1200-1500 words (but can be longer). It canvases a range of voices and different evidence sources.
A feature can be more emotive than a news story; it presents research in a narrative form. Great writing and structure are important to encourage the reader to continue to the end.
A feature allows the audience to understand an issue or finding in more depth. It contains a range of views and angles, but it still focuses on one central idea or theme.
- Plot the narrative – background, complication, resolution.
- The first few paragraphs should be compelling – a case study or story works well here.
- After a few paragraphs, include a ‘nub par’ – the nub or summary of what is at the heart of this feature.
- Use short paragraphs.
- Include direct quotes from a range of different sources.
- Support statements with evidence in the form of a direct quote (expert opinion is evidence), statistics, case studies.
- The tone can be informal and personal. Use descriptive or emotive language.
- Other language techniques you can use include rhetorical questions, anecdotes and imagery.
- You can use the second person (‘you’) to build a relationship with the reader.
- In the conclusion, summarise the feature and include a call to action.
A short article or a few paragraphs that humanises an aspect of a story, such as a situation or development.
There is no set structure for a case study – it can be in any of the other forms described here.
For researchers, case studies can be a powerful way of evoking an emotional response by showing impact in the real world.
- Think of a compelling human story that illustrates the point you are trying to make (See our separate resource about Storytelling). Tell the story of the research through their eyes.
- Make sure the case study is relatable for the target audience.
- Structure the case study like a story:
- Beginning (what is the situation – the problem to be solved?)
- Middle (what happened to disrupt that situation – or what would the solution be to this situation?)
- End (how is the world better as a result?)
- Include enough details for the reader to feel empathy for the protagonist.
- Include direct quotes from the protagonist – so the reader can hear their voice.
- When discussing the disruption/solution, include as much detail as possible.
A case study might describe:
- a person who has given up smoking due to plain packaging laws, or
- someone who does not exercise because there are no walking paths in their area.
A depiction of data or information in visual form.
Infographics are good for conveying key messages quickly and effectively. Most readers look at the infographic on a page before they read the text.
You can create your own infographic using a platform such as Canva, Adobe or DesignCap – there are many more. The other option is to engage a professional designer to create your infographic. This is often the best choice as a designer will know the best design techniques to convey information.
- As with a news story or media release, identify your key messages.
- Now write these down using as few words as possible. One very brief sentence per key message.
- Order the messages so they tell a story. e.g. What was the problem, what you did, what was the outcome? Infographics are particularly effective to demonstrate trends and movement.
- Is there any data that you can take from the research that could be presented visually?
- Do not try to cover too much ground. Infographics with too much information are overwhelming.
- If you can’t convey the message in just a few words, then perhaps an infographic is not the correct product.
- Alcohol factsheet, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
- Creating healthy liveable neighbourhoods findings brief, The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre
- Healthy public policy to support healthy and equitable eating findings brief, The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre
- Infographics for Men’s Health Week 2019, Australian Men’s Health Forum
- McCrindle, for example The Healthy Futures Report 2016
A long-form audio file, often in the form of a discussion.
The audience for podcasts is growing. They can be an effective way of communicating information to busy people. They can also personalise information, create connections, and provide insights in an engaging way.
To create a professional podcast, you need the right recording equipment. It may be best to engage professional support for this. However, it is also impossible to create a podcast on your phone or using free downloaded software.
- Find a theme for the podcast series. Why are you doing it, and who is it for? Think of a catchy title.
- Choose the angle for each episode. Don’t try to cover all elements of research – make sure you have an angle and structure the podcast around that.
- Choose the talent. The person delivering the podcast should be passionate about their work and be able to talk about it in a conversational way. Make sure they avoid all jargon.
- Podcasts work well as a conversation or interview format. Scripted podcasts can sound very stilted unless they are presented by a professional.
- Record the podcast in a quiet place. Position recording equipment correctly.
- Use editing software. Editing can be as simple as removing mistakes and distracting sounds, or completely re-ordering the content to tell a story.
- Save the file and export as an MP3.
- Upload to a platform such as Spotify, Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts.
Video is becoming an increasingly important communications tool. There are many different forms – someone speaking to camera, a professional voiceover, an interview, an animation…
TV and radio outlets do not generally take material generated by external organisations. However, they are always looking for case studies, footage, pre-recorded audio, and experts to quote.
Anyone can create a video with a smartphone and some editing software, but the results will be far superior if you engage a professional.
When organising information for a video script:
- Identify audience and purpose
- Define the key messages – keep these brief and to the point
- Decide on the type of video you want.
- Choose talent – someone who can talk casually and engagingly, without looking as if they are reading a script. Results may be better if you engage a professional.
- Think of imagery that supports the key messages – can be file footage, slides, infographics, a talking head.
- Write the script and determine which visual elements go with each part of the script.
- Keep the script short. Most videos should not be longer than two or three minutes at most. People speak about two to three words per second.
- Make sure the main message is in the first 30 seconds.
- Ensure there is a balance between words and images. In a video, visual imagery as important if not more important than the words.
- Add subtitles to aid understanding or reinforce messages.
More from the CERI User Guide
This chapter of the User Guide is one in a series available from The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre website. It was prepared by members of the Collaboration for Enhanced Research Impact (CERI) Coordinating Group to provide practical tips on knowledge mobilisation and science communication for researchers working in the prevention of chronic disease.
Thank you to Dr Meghan Finch from the National Centre of Implementation Science (NCOIS) for her input.
The Collaboration for Enhanced Research Impact (CERI) is a joint initiative between the Prevention Centre and several NHMRC Centres of Research Excellence, established in June 2020 to enhance the profile and impact of chronic disease prevention in Australia. We are working together to find alignment in the policy and practice implications of our work and to develop shared communications across our various projects and participating centres.