National EMSC Data Analysis Resource Center
You need to think through your data and further define what exactly it is you want to communicate.
Before you begin any communication project, you need to define your goal or goals. Many people are tempted to skip this step, thinking that it seems obvious, but having a vaguely-defined communication goal will often leave you without a well-defined communication plan or outcome. And don't think you can just have the goal "communicate my data findings." This is not an adequate goal; you need to think through your data much more and further define what exactly it is you want to communicate.
We'll walk you through the process here.
Defining your goal is best done by asking yourself four important questions:
1. What did I learn from my data?
Let's say, for instance, that you collected data on the effectiveness of your current pediatric education program in your state. You found lots of great information:
- What kinds of trainings are available.
- How often EMTs get trained in pediatrics.
- What a lot of the weaknesses the current training system has.
Now try to take this information a step further; try to identify each of the primary messages you took away with you.
For instance: what exactly were the biggest weaknesses you identified? Was there a certain area of pediatric care that was particularly weak? Pretend you were talking to a friend or relative about your study findings. What findings would you tell them? You may want to write them down to help you isolate your thoughts succinctly.
This is important because studies show that in any communication, people largely take away only one piece of information. Now take the findings you listed under #1 and try to pinpoint which finding is MOST important for others to know about. This is important because studies show that in any communication, people largely take away only one piece of information, and you want to make sure you are focusing on the right issue. Maybe it is the most surprising finding, the most concerning issue, the most prevalent problem, etc.
Once you have chosen this "most important finding," rephrase it as a message you would want to share with others; try to state it in an easy-to-understand way without using ANY data.
For example, let's say your most important finding was that 70% of EMS providers in your state said they were uncomfortable providing care to children under the age of two, largely because of lack of training and practice on small children.
This is good data, but the importance might be lost on some people in its current form; you need to think about it in a way that people care about (while still remaining accurate with the data). Therefore, your primary message from this finding could be as follows:
"Young children are at risk because EMS providers do not feel adequately trained to care for them."
This is a succinct and clear way of stating the importance of your data finding. This is your primary message – the message you will focus on in your communication.
Now that you've identified your primary message,
- What would you like to see happen?
- What is the solution?
- What needs to be done?
Identifying your target outcome is critical in any data communication project because it will help you better strategize and focus your communications to the right people and in the right way.
Let's say, given our scenario above, you feel that pediatric training on the <2 pediatric age group needs to be improved in your state. You feel that more focus must be given to young children during pediatric trainings, and more young child dummies must be provided for training practices.
Now that you've identified this as your desired communication outcome, you can tailor your communications effectively around this message. Instead of just being surprised by your finding, people can actually do something about it.
Now take all this great information you've brainstormed and write it as a goal that you can refer back to. This goal will guide the focus of your entire communication project. Be sure to write it in such a way that it includes both your primary message and your desired outcome (it can be more than one sentence if needed).
For example, my goal for the above project is as follows:
“GOAL: 1) To inform others that young children are at risk in my state because EMS providers do not feel adequately trained to care for them; and therefore 2) to convince others that young pediatric education needs to be improved.”
Great! You've defined your communication goal! These are very important questions to help you understand you data communication message.
If you hadn't done this, probably no one would have cared about your data much and nothing new would have been initiated. You are already preparing the way for data communication that will get used and won't just sit on top of the filing cabinet!