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NASA as a Public Relations Machine

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MMS Hyperwall Imagery
Comparative Magnetospheres: A Noteworthy Coronal Mass Ejection

By Rachel A. Adler
Online Career Tips Contributor

Recently I was one of 25 people selected to attend NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) Media Day at their location in Goddard, Maryland. Aside from learning about the MMS, I also got to look at how NASA cultivates public relations and provides professional development for their scientists and engineers. Attention big companies – take a page from NASA on how to run a successful and informative media day.

While NASA is well known for pioneering the field of space exploration and advancing research in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields, the government agency is also a PR machine. Here are a number of ways to run a successful media day based on NASA’s strategy:

  1. Create a day that targets a niche market. NASA chose to focus on social media mavens. Cast a wide net; choose social media aficionados from all walks of life and all professions that utilize a wide range of social media including: Tumblr, Skype, Twitter, Facebook, Vine, YouTube, SnapChat, Instagram, Google+ and more.
  2. Create an application that asks the right questions. The answers should demonstrate the applicant’s genuine interest in the subject of the event while also considering their clout and influence.The people you choose will become your brand ambassadors.
  3. Don’t just pick the good speakers. The event is a professional development opportunity for your employees. Allowing them to publicly speak enhances their skill-set and also allows them educate others about their professional passions.
  4. Create fact sheets or scripts. This helps your brand ambassadors explain. This is also a great way for your scripts to be modified and easier for people to understand.
  5. Don’t just educate, learn too. Media days are an excellent opportunity to learn about media you didn’t know about or your company is not using.
  6. Make lunch a networking and schmooze hour. NASA did a lunch and learn where we got to engage and converse with the scientists, public affairs officers, and engineers. It was informal but informative.
  7. Make introductions fun and memorable. Think back to camp when you did icebreakers.
  8. Create a catchy hashtag. NASA chose #MagRecon with their anchor hashtag #NASASocial with their handle @NASA_MMS. Research the hashtag to ensure you’re not stepping on anyone’s toes. Make a customized list of your brand ambassadors so they can tweet together. Here you can see that the list the NASA Social team creates for every media day: https://twitter.com/NASASocial/lists/magnetic-multiscale-day.
  9. Follow up- keep the conversation going after the event.

 

MMS spacecraft
My view of all 4 MMS spacecrafts in the clean room for the last time before they are set to launch.

Overall, the experience was extremely educational. I got to learn about Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) its uses in a mission. The goal in a mission is to use four identical spacecrafts to solve the mysteries of magnetic reconnection, one of the most important drivers of space weather events. Magnetic reconnection is uncommon in our daily lives here on Earth as most of the material we interact with regularly is not dominated by electromagnetic forces. However, it is crucial to understand how material and energy move around plasma; the material that makes up 99% of the rest of the universe, including the sun, the stars, and interstellar space. Please make sure you continue to stay connected with NASA and all of it endeavors. They are an incredible knowledge resource and have great social interactions daily. Mark your calendars! MMS is scheduled to launch on March 12, 2015 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

If you are ever fortunate enough to visit any of the NASA facilities across the United States seize the opportunity. You may walk out learning something about the agency that has nothing to do with space!

 

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