Telling Tales With Infographics – The Six Key Features

by Rick Austin December 5, 2011 03:00 PM

Browsing around on Beth Kanter’s blog has led me to many interesting places. This time, she sent me to Debra Askanase’s CommunityOrganizer2.0, and a treasure trove of info on infographics.


Both Shannon and I have blogged previously on the genius of effective infographics, but Debra’s post introduced me to Dave at Communication Nation’s infographics manifesto, which describes, very simply, what makes a good infographic:






·         It’s a visual explanation that helps you more easily understand, find or do something.

·         It’s visual, and when necessary, integrates words and pictures in a fluid, dynamic way.

·         It stands alone and is completely self-explanatory.

·         It reveals information that was formerly hidden or submerged.

·         It makes possible faster, more consistent understanding.

·         It’s universally understandable.


The manifesto doesn’t solve all the problems of creating a successful infographic, but it’s a good starting point for assessing whether your graphic does the job you want it to.


Why is this important? It goes back to using storytelling effectively to translate research. A good infographic can make dense data instantly comprehensible and point up its significance. Go take a look around Debra Askanase’s CommunityOrganizer2.0. It’s loaded with interesting tips.


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Culture Eats Knowledge Translation for Breakfast

by Rick Austin September 23, 2011 12:32 PM

Social media wiz Beth Kanter blogged recently about a workshop she facilitated where management consultant Peter Drucker was quoted as saying: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”


In this instance, the quote referred to instituting a social media strategy within a nonprofit foundation. Unfortunately, it’s a truism wherever two or more people are working in proximity to each other and doing things a certain way. Very quickly, “a certain way” becomes “the only way,” leading down the path to “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”


Nowhere is this truer than in academia, where sheer habit is reinforced by long-standing funding routines and professional incentives. Academic researchers have every reason, financially and professionally, to get the grant, do the work, publish the results, and MOVE ON.


How can we begin to change this academic research culture that eats up and spits out the idea of knowledge translation? There’s a clue in another Drucker quote Beth used in her workshop: “Company cultures are like country cultures. Never try to change one. Try, instead, to work with what you’ve got.”


What do you think? Can our long-standing academic culture be changed from the inside out?

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Social Media Tsunami Washing Over Knowledge Translation?

by Rick Austin May 12, 2011 11:07 AM

Alright, I’m late to the party… so sue me. I’m just now working through Beth and Allison’s The Networked Nonprofit, and a couple of chapters in, it’s already improved my Twitter practice.


A couple of days ago, thanks to Beth and Allison’s advice, I stole appropriated some useful material, re-purposed, attributed, thanked, got re-tweeted out of the thanks, re-tweeted the re-tweets, and gained several new followers. I’ve been absorbing plenty of Twitter lessons on my own through experience, but I expect just about every chapter of Networked Nonprofit will distill another common sense social media idea faster than I can teach myself.


Although I’m situated in the ivory tower, it’s part of my job to chase along after the flood of social media developments. I’m certainly not surfing the crest of the tsunami.  As one example, I hear third-hand that 4chan has attacked and successfully crashed Tumblr for appropriating memes; Tumblr says nay-nay, it was a hardware failure. Okay, that’s washing right by me. 


Looking around me in the ivory tower, I see a swarm of traditional public health, epidemiology, and occupational safety researchers who, if pressed, will admit that they’ve heard of Twitter, and who will admit that they are fascinated with their teenager’s Facebook page. The social media tsunami is swirling somewhere beneath them.


Well, I think I’ve exhausted the floodwaters metaphor. The bottom line is, the cloistered/siloed/isolated (take your pick) nature of academic research is causing us to miss out on the rich resource of social media for knowledge translation. Do you know of any examples of traditional academia successfully using social media for KT? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.


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QR Codes – Just a Marketing Gimmick, or a KT Tool?

by Rick Austin April 21, 2011 11:56 AM

QR (Quick Response) Code

Social media and social marketing blogger Beth Kanter always has something interesting to say, although not necessarily about research or knowledge translation. With this blog entry – although she doesn’t know it – she’s created some fuzzy boundaries between social marketing and knowledge translation that are worth exploring.


She’s writing about QR codes, or quick response codes, which you’ve probably started to see cropping up in some unusual places. They can be instantly scanned by smart phones with the appropriate app installed, and they take your smart phone to the associated website, PDF, image, or video.


So how does this become a knowledge translation tool? Many of you have probably already made a paper presentation or sat on an invited panel, and have been disconcerted by your entire audience looking distracted and checked out. No, they’re more engaged than ever, tweeting and critiquing your presentation as you make it.


Without diminishing the accuracy or significance of your presentation in any way, why not go where your audience has already gone, and include a QR code or codes in your handout documents, offering smart phone users additional in-depth information? Here are a couple of sites that generate QR codes for you. Tell me what you think – fad or useful tool?


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Where Can I Get Me Some Procter & Gamble Coin?

by Rick Austin September 29, 2010 04:44 PM

In his recent blog entry, Craig Lefebvre, who tweets as @chiefmaven, points to a blog by Rosabeth Moss Kanter at the Harvard business school (not to be confused with social media guru Beth Kanter), praising Procter & Gamble’s recently announced “values-based” business strategy. Kanter describes how P&G is using this strategy to create new growth opportunities both domestically and internationally. She quotes CEO Bob McDonald on P&G’s purpose: “We will provide branded products of superior quality and value that improve the lives of the world's consumers, now and for generations to come. As a result, consumers will reward us with leadership sales, profit and value creations, allowing our people, our shareholders, and the communities in which we live and work to prosper.”


I hope they truly mean it, because if they do, it’s an admirable framing of doing well by doing good. Just remember that even a soulless corporate behemoth like Walmart can give the appearance of caring. Its recession-motivated tagline “Save Money. Live Better” may not survive our eventual economic recovery, but it tapped into the zeitgeist -- this is why you buy your lawnmowers, toothpaste, milk and eggs from that store; because you're saving money so you can live better. Personally, however, I stay away from its farm-raised Chilean salmon.


Craig speaks admiringly of the sophistication of P&G’s operation, and rightly so. For many years, it has been justly feared by its competitors. Everyone sees them coming; they telegraph their every move, but in the end, it doesn't matter. When they enter your market, they will crush you. They will out-advertise you, they will out-incentivize you, they will out-distribute you, and it's all backed by their confidence in - in most cases - years of research on formulation, packaging, and pricing. Which is why I find it odd that Craig would recommend to public health practitioners in his blog that one way to become more innovative in public health is to not wait for evidence bases to develop. I hope what he meant by that was don’t fall into the earnest researcher’s trap of paralysis by analysis. (“It’s a significant correlation, but we don’t have all the evidence we need, let’s wait until we can do further research.”)


We don’t have the financial resources of P&G (estimated annual advertising budget: $8.2 billion), we don’t have the consolidated global reach, but we do have evidence on our side. While that’s certainly not enough, as any social marketer worth their salt (like Craig) will tell you, it’s the right place to start, because this is our strength; it's what we have that no one else does.


In our podcast interview with Bill Novelli*, he speaks passionately about social marketers’ need for sustainability in their programs. He points out that both basic human nature and the marketers on the other side of the fence (big tobacco, fast food, snack foods, etc.) mitigate against lasting healthy change.


The only remedies that under-funded, over-worked public health professionals can rely on for sure are evidence and sustainability.


*If you’re signed in to KTExchange, go to KT Tools, then Podcasts, and download Podcast #4 to hear Novelli.


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