The Power of Storytelling in Persuasive Writing, with Trish Hall – Ep #40

Scientists are often encouraged to embrace the power of storytelling in writing or presentations, but how do you know which story to tell? Do you understand how to connect with your reader? If you struggle to find a balance between presenting research while also making a connection with your audience, you’re not alone. Today we’re joined by Trish Hall to talk about her new book, Writing to Persuade, and how you can weave her suggestions into your own work. 

Trish Hall’s served almost 5 years as the Op-Ed Editor of The New York TImes—doubling her department’s size and creative output. She’s credited with creating one of the cornerstones of the Sunday Times, the ‘Sunday Review’. Trish’s other senior roles at the Times included Assistant Managing Editor and Living/Style Editor. She concluded her tenure with the Times as the Senior Editor. 

Trish recently published “Writing to Persuade” (W.W. Norton) and writes and edits Op-Eds for clients who want to get their opinions out into the world

Trish graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a Bachelor’s Degree in History. 

What You’ll Hear On This Episode of When Science Speaks

  • [1:00] Mark introduces his guest, Trish Hall
  • [3:00] You have the expertise and a story that people want to hear
  • [4:30] Scientists, engineers, and doctors are trustworthy
  • [7:30] How to establish similarity with your audience
  • [9:00] The credibility of the messenger
  • [11:15] How to deal with alternative facts
  • [13:15] Change is slow but some change is fast
  • [14:35] Flattery is an important way to connect
  • [17:00] The importance of research

Connect with Trish Hall

Resources & People Mentioned

Interweaving the power of storytelling with your expertise

Are you excited to start writing, but worried your opinion or research may be misconstrued? Do you know how to establish a connection with your audience? Trish has some encouraging words: you have some expertise or story that people want to hear. Don’t be afraid to talk about a personal experience that will draw your readers in and engage them. People desire to have some context for what you’re talking about. So a personal story or experience related to your topic goes a long way.

Remember, as a scientist or engineer, polling consistently shows high degrees of trust in these positions. It’s important to keep your audience in mind when you write. What publication are you writing for? Is the typical reader liberal or conservative? Make sure you establish similarity with your audience. The best way to do that? Establish a personal connection with storytelling.

Personal connection with your audience as a means of persuasion

Scientists tend to focus on the facts and what the research shows. Facts, graphs, and charts are all great tools of persuasion, but developing a personal connection is the strongest. A personal connection is also one of the strongest precursors to change. The ‘Me Too’ movement took off because everyone has a mother, daughter, or sister. Many people had a connection in some way or another to someone who was personally affected by sexual harassment or assault.

Writing to persuade requires authenticity, the ability to be empathetic, and the ability to listen. If you’re looking to share your opinion and persuade your reader to do the same, you have to know their argument. You have to anticipate their questions and rebuttals and address them. Present an argument that is rounded and addresses all issues—and always remember the importance of the human connection. 

Make sure to listen to this episode of When Science Speaks to hear more about Trish’s career in journalism and the powerful role of storytelling in persuasive writing the next time you’re addressing an audience outside your specialty..

Connect With Mark and When Science Speaks


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