Agriculture Communication


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Tell a Story to Capture Your Audience’s Attention

As scientists – and journalists – we’re trained to focus on facts. The data should speak for itself.

However, stories often can capture your audience’s attention and get the point across even better.

Compare these two news release leads:

Procuring feed for cattle can lead to some unintended consequences. Weed seeds can be present in some feeds, for example grain screenings.

Cattle, sheep and goat producers need to be on the lookout to make sure Palmer amaranth, leafy spurge and other invasive weed seeds don't sneak in with feed. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture determined that Palmer amaranth found its way into a soybean field through cattle manure. The cattle had been fed screenings from contaminated sunflower seed.

The second example might make a producer say to herself, “Wow, this can happen – and so easily – and right next door. I better make sure it doesn’t happen on our operation.”


A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report finds that as of 2015, 30.3 million Americans – 9.4 percent of the U.S. population –have diabetes. Another 84.1 million have prediabetes, a condition that if not treated often leads to type 2 diabetes within five years.

Susan read an NDSU article about prediabetes symptoms. Increased thirst. Frequent urination. Fatigue. Blurred vision. Was she dreaming, or was she experiencing those more often? A doctor’s visit confirmed she had prediabetes, but after taking NDSU Extension’s Dining with Diabetes class and making some lifestyle changes, she’s confident she won’t develop diabetes.

Again, your target audience can see – and hopefully, apply – themselves better with a story rather than only with statistics.

Photos also should tell a story. Which of these tells a better story about NDSU’s work?

staff figleafRobinson in field





What’s one of the many reasons people like social media? People trust their friends – sometimes more than they trust the science. That’s why we should try to get people who are practicing the science to share – at your meetings and conferences, on social media, in news releases, etc. Their stories can impact the decisions others make.

Of course, stories aren’t appropriate for all written materials or oral presentations, but try to incorporate people’s stories when you can.

, Ag Communication Director, 701-231-7875, 4/30/19

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