3 thoughts on communication and advocacy to avoid being fake news

We live in a world of constant communication. Each day there are numerous outlets where we can consume new information about the world. Google, Twitter, Facebook, television, radio, audiobooks, podcasts, emailed newsletters. The list could go on for days. But this also leads to the perpetuation of misinformation. Fake News as President Trump has coined it.

Aside from going to Snopes to check every statement, there are things we can be aware of to improve our communication skills when it comes to being advocates for our passions.

What’s your bias?

This video is a good illustration of how significantly our bias can impact our perspective. We see this often in agriculture, food and fitness communities, which often results in heated, emotional exchanges. Being aware of our own bias can be a start to having more productive conversations with others who have different perspectives.

Communication of science is hard

Drs. Jude Capper (BoviDiva) and Janeal Yancey (Mom at the Meat Counter) are both well-respected for their ability to communicate research in animal and meat science, both as scientists and mothers. In this blog, the two joined forces and shared some important steps that can lead toward better communication of science in food and agriculture.

How Do Our Conventional Scientific Messages and Behaviors Contrast with Those Needed for Effective Communication with the Consumer? Drs. Capper and Yancey aren’t sure of the perfect answer. They do know that our communities need to seek an answer to better communicate complicated scientific information in a society with a very short attention span.

As Brooke from Rural Gone Urban put it during a panel discussion last fall, consumers are looking for bite-sized answers for very scientific questions. Communicating science is hard and we need to find a way to break it down into terms people can understand and trust.

If you’re up for a deeper dive, the book The Communication Scarcity in Agriculture is a read I’d recommend.
consumer science communication

Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt

Why is it so easy to believe our food is toxic? For the last few years, we have been told to fear our food. Bloggers, authors, journalists, activists, and even television shows like Dr. Oz have something say. A recurring theme seems to be these people always have a solution to sell, which usually results with money in their pockets.

How are these people successful in convincing us to fear our food supply and buy-in to free-from food crazes? How are we convinced that our food is contaminated with dangerous chemicals, hormones, and GMOs and that large corporations are out to bankrupt and kill us?

Science writer, Beth Skwarecki, illustrates how this all boils down to the tactic of instilling Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD), a strategy used for sales, marketing, and propaganda campaigns for decades. “By spreading questionable information about the drawbacks of less well-known products, an established company can discourage decision-makers from choosing those products over its own, regardless of the relative technical merits.” I really encourage you to check out Skwarecki’s article.

food fear uncertainty and doubt
The recent film, What The Health, is a good example of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. Many of the statements were easily discredited and filmmakers were trying to scare viewers into going vegan.

What do you think?

These are a few things that caught my eye recently in the world of communication. The agriculture, food and fitness communities may often seem miles apart. But I find we’re all trying to find ways to be better, stronger and more successful. It’s hard to know what to believe. Hopefully, these tips might help us be one step closer to improving our own communication skills in heated and emotional topics.

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