Unless we are able to effectively communicate our amazing science, we are not going to be able to reach people.

So says Dr Judy Mann, who is in charge of executive strategic projects at the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation and former conservation strategist with the South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR).

Her message to environmental reporters is: “If we are going to change the needle on all the incredible problems we are facing with the environment, we need to be able to touch people’s hearts as well as their minds in order for them to take action with their hands,.

Dr Mann is particularly excited about Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). In this webinar recently produced for Roving Reporters Coastal Resilience Reporting Youtube channel, she explains how MPAs came about and the important role they play.

She speaks with enthusiasm about the role communicators can play, encouraging citizens to get involved and helping to hold the government accountable. The success of MPA’s, she says, hinges on involving local communities.

Judy Mann – South African Association for Marine Biological Research,
JUDY MANN: “Empowering local communities through job creation and other economic benefits is key to adequately managing MPAs.” (Photo: Supplied)

Useful resources

On a practical level, she also introduces journalists to MPA fact sheets (that can be downloaded at the SAAMBR website). These can be used to prepare for story interviews and in the stories themselves.

“There is nothing more frustrating than a journalist putting together an article that doesn’t have the facts right… So have a look at these fact sheets…

“Think broadly when you look at the resources you would like to use… and use those resources before you go to the scientists and ask questions,” she says.

Write simply

Judy further advises scientists and communicators writing for the lay public to:

  1. Speak a language people can understand. Write for your audience – “write for your grandmother… unless she has a PhD in Physics”;
  2. Write simply and write from the heart;
  3. Introduce emotion – not the soppy kind, but the kind that “drives action” ;
  4. Make sure you get your facts right; and
  5. Look at how you frame your stories. Ask yourself: what is going to inspire people and action? It’s often more effective to write about “love” – national pride and personal connections – than “loss”

>> Click here to watch the webinar.

This story, and series of coastal resilience reporting webinars,  forms part of an environmental investigative journalism training initiative established with the support of the Henry Nxumalo Foundation.