In May 2017, the Economics Network brought together economists from academia, the media and government to discuss communicating economics with the public. We asked a range of them for their thoughts…

 

You can watch the video here – or read a summary below.

 

 

One key take away is a recurring theme of this blog: keep it real. Many spoke about the need to talk about real, concrete things like money, wages and jobs instead of abstract things like inflation and the labour market. They advised fewer dead metaphors like ‘jam today vs jam tomorrow’ and more relevant focus such as questions like: ‘why are your heating bills higher than last year?’. Cut out the jargon, watch the 10 ‘o’ Clock News and talk to people about the issues that really matter to them.

 

Prominent economist and blogger Simon Wren-Lewis called for more organisation – something economists can take from the science community. When it comes to climate change, the media now talk to the Royal Society whenever they need a consensus view, but there isn’t such a group that does the same for economists. It’s an old joke that two economists will inevitably lead to three opinions, but whenever the big issues of the day bring economists (mostly) together there needs to be a way for the public to find out what economists are saying.

 

Research on social media was brought up. Scientists have become wildly popular on Twitter even among non-scientists, and they are much more likely to use simple and inclusive language, avoiding acronyms and mentioning other people.

 

And last, but not least, we mustn’t forget the sheer diversity of society and the economy. Almost *nobody* sees their welfare rise and fall in the exact same way as GDP does, whether they’re living in different regions or different generations. If we only ever use one overall average number to talk about everyone, especially a number that ignores the people left behind, then economists won’t seem relevant to those people, and fewer and fewer people will listen to them.