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Embracing Storytelling in Technical Communications

Updated: May 20

woman in NASA suit

In engineering, we often trend towards purely factual, straightforward communications. While that type of communication is important, a lot of the humanity and passion behind a project can be lost in jargon-filled documents and pitches.

Engineering is an art just as much as it is a science. It involves teamwork, brainstorming, problem-solving, and creating something brand-new. In these creative processes, there are many stories to be found. There are stories of innovation, discovery, and humanity. Telling these stories can help gain buy-in from everyone from management to the customer to the general public. It can even increase perceptions of transparency and trust of your organization.

This was one of the main reasons I founded STEAM Power Media this year. My goal is to make Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) more accessible and impactful using digital storytelling, expert science communication, and Art (STEAM). Our projects range from creating science social media content for STEM TV shows to consulting with technical marketing teams on strategies for better sharing their product.

Although my degree is in mechanical engineering, I have found my passion in using that technical background to serve as a translator between technical teams and the public. My first job after graduating was as a science and technology journalist at MIT Technology Review. I covered stories of innovation in the workplace and on the manufacturing floor. After that, I spent nearly four years at NASA as a science communicator for the International Space Station program. There I worked with scientists and engineers from around the globe launching their experiments to space and publishing results from more than two decades of research. On the side, I did freelance science communication work and built my own brand as a maker and science communicator on social media as well.

The more I am immersed in different science and engineering organizations, the more I see the importance of good science communication be reinforced. Poor writing or presentation skills can truly limit someone’s professional career and the success of the projects they work on. Good communication can bring in positive media coverage, grants for their work, and more sales of their product.

But I would also emphasize, everyone in an organization does not have to be perfect at every type of communication. Some people and companies can learn to excel at writing. Others are fantastic at speaking and can leverage in-person events. Others find their niche in front of the camera. You need to use the tools that make you feel most comfortable and best fit the story you are trying to tell.

I have often heard from technical organizations that their product is hard to relate to or market. It just looks like a silver box or a complex mechanical part. While lacking easy impactful visuals that can present a challenge, every product is making a unique impact and has a passionate team behind it. Digging in and finding the relatable stories, and even the art, of your engineering project can help elevate your business.

By: Erin Winick Anthony

Connect with Erin on LinkedIn.

Check out this article and others like it in our Empowering Women in Industry Digital Magazine.

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