As part of RD day and the RD day blogfest, each of the International Food Information Council Foundation’s RDs is highlighting a key message and also what we’ve learned about messaging as communicators. Visit our main blog page for all 5 posts and see below for links to other blogfest participants.
By: Marianne Smith-Edge, MS, RD Date: 3/9/10
My message for RDs is: To be the change you wish to see in others!
My bookshelf is full of books about healthy eating that have been penned by some very influential dietitians. Clearly we are a group that can tell a convincing story about how to eat right and feel great. However, it never ceases to amaze me of the number of food and nutrition “experts” that continuously pop up on the nutrition and health scene. Regardless of their training, we can learn something from them: we are only as good as our communication message.
Taking a Cue
Love them or hate them, politicians make their living by developing persuasive arguments that their constituents can get behind, and that are motivating enough to get people out of their house and into the polling station. Stand-up comics, storytellers, CEOs and reality television stars (yes, reality television stars) all have to master the nuance of developing a good message in a short time frame. What can we learn about communication from these professions too? Getting your message out is a skill that needs to be harnessed, massaged and developed over time. It needs to be practiced with a target audience and refined based on the feedback that the message receives. Everyday is a new opportunity to master the art of communication and every person that you meet, whether you are on or off the clock, is an opportunity to try something different. While we may not always have the newest or sexiest message, we can be the reliable, science-based source of nutrition information always providing consistency and clarity in our messages.
Lights, Camera, Action
Registered Dietitians are the best source for nutrition information. Yet, we are challenged as a profession to be on top of so many different issues when it comes to providing that information. People want to be educated about food from farm to fork, omega-3 to antioxidants and so much more! As professionals we understand the need to refer patients/clients to the right individual when their needs are not within our scope of practice. We understand that we can’t be all things to all people and there are specialties within the profession that require substantial research and education. However, that philosophy doesn’t always work in the “real world” when you are spending time with friends, family, colleagues, or strangers and you get bombard with questions about the latest study or controversy about food that was just reported in the news. As nutrition and health communicators we need to learn the tricks of the trade to flag, transition and respond to these questions in a credible way. Here are some tips to help you:
? Stay ahead of the curve: First stay on top of the latest news by signing up for ADA’s Daily News feed. Consider setting up a google alert about nutrition or check out blogs that are run by other dietitians.
? Direct the Traffic: If you don’t know the answer to someone’s question, it’s okay to say that, but know where to direct them for good information.
? Pave the road and add the sidewalks: If you do know the answer let them know that and provide examples to support your opinion. Using authoritative statements from government agencies and other health associations can be helpful, such as according to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans…
? Be the driver: Consider using anecdotes and telling a personal story.
? Avoid collisions: If you know the answer to their question but it differs from their point of view, be compassionate as you respond with your opinion.
? Brace for IMPACT: Use messages that have impact, for more information on developing messages with impact see our other blog posts.
Also, remember that just because someone talks the loudest, it doesn’t mean that what they are saying is resonating and motivating people to change. Providing consistent messages that are reliable and science-based will help you harness your skills and remain the valued nutrition and health communicator that you are!
Other RD Blogfest posts:
Beyond Prenatals (Debra) – Vitamin D in Pregnancy and Beyond
Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, MS, RD – Can Dietitians Have Real I.M.P.A.C.T?
Sandra Meyerowitz, MPH, RD, LD – Changes Worth Making Take Time
Carrie Miller – What Nebraska Dietitians Are Saying
National Dairy Council- Nutrient-rich foods build a healthy diet
Janel Ovrut MS RD LDN – My Top Tips for Registered Dietitian Day!
Heather Pierce, MS, RD, CDE – Enjoy Food
Robin Plotkin, RD, LD – Give a Kid a Fish, Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Kid to Fish, Feed Him for Life
Elizabeth Rahavi, RD – The Art of Nutrition Messaging
Shelley A. Rael, MS RD LD – Food Is LIFE, Nutrition is HEALTHY Life
Kerry Robinson, RD – A Food Safety Message with IMPACT
Kris Sollid, RD – Unintended Consequences of Simple Messaging
Angie Tillman, RD, CDE, LDN- Take Time to Care for Yourself