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SCC Hosts Lunch & Learn: Communicating Complexity

October 27, 2016
Jenn Maxwell

On Thursday November 10 from 12:00pm to 1:30pm the School of Communication and Culture’s Advisory Council Chair, Steve Chinn, will host a Lunch & Learn session about Communicating Complexity. The event is open to staff, faculty and students. Please join us on campus in the Centre for Dialogue or online via Livestream.

Steve will present a work-in-progress report on a funded project he is leading. The project examines how complex, technical, difficult-to-understand information about treatments for serious illnesses is reduced to simple, often premature claims and bold headlines for public consumption – and how this causes problems for patients, carers, doctors and healthcare professionals. The focus will be on new and modified cancer treatments. He will look at the stakeholder interests and processes involved, review research with patients, oncologists and nurses, and describe the range of possible responses being considered. The talk will conclude with a look at how resources and requirements must be traded-off to arrive at a realistic and affordable plan of action. The project is being conducted for a consortium of healthcare providers and cancer charities in the UK (from whom Steve has permission to start publicising it). This talk will be of interest to anyone likely to be involved in communicating complex information, on emotionally charged issues, to highly engaged audiences anywhere.

Steve is an independent communications consultant working out of the UK. A typical project in the commercial sector involves looking at the effects of feedback culture on the ability of businesses to compete and innovate. In the public sector, a typical project question is how to achieve better representation of intrinsically complex issues (such as funding decisions on cancer treatments) in the headline-driven media.

Most of Steve’s career has been spent in advertising agencies, in the strategic planning function. He has worked in senior roles at BBDO, Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide, and Mc-Cann Erickson. Clients have included Procter & Gamble, Volvo, Nestle and Nescafe. Since starting his own consultancy in 2007, he has focussed on public sector issues. These he finds particularly engaging, as the problems they address often seem intractable – and, as a colleague has pointed out, making communication that works is like ‘hitting someone wearing a crash helmet over the head with a marshmallow’. How, for example, to persuade men in their late teens and early twenties not to drink and drive?  Or impressionable teens not to smoke? Or – a key issue of the day – how to address the problem of excess ambient drinking among the middle class-middle aged?

Steve is currently a Visiting Lecturer in the Division of Media, Communication and Culture at Stirling University in Scotland.