I have a dream job: I’m the press secretary at NASA. Our mission: reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind.
Doing press for one of the most internationally – perhaps intergalactically – well-known brand institutions still has its challenges.
Media convergence and newsroom staff reductions mean fewer reporters cover space, and media consumers can select more niche outlets to get their news.
I was first hired as a press secretary in 2001. In those days, I faxed and hand-delivered press releases to the statehouse press corps in Columbus, Ohio, then would follow-up with a round of phone calls. I was generally only worked with political reporters. Innovation came when I pitched a sports reporter to come follow my candidate at a football tailgate.
Tactics have changed; opportunities come and fade faster, but I believe it’s easier for us PR professionals to connect with reporters and outlets by following trending topics on Twitter and other social media sites.
Case in point: the NASA newsroom.
NASA’s social media outreach is a key way NASA is reaching the public. Over 8 million people follow @NASA and our other accounts for our missions, programs and even astronauts tweeting from Earth and space.
Direct engagement with followers is essential. NASA Socials bring together NASA followers from all walks of life (and platforms) for once-in-a-lifetime experiences to view launches, see NASA missions in the development phases and interact directly with NASA experts. NASA allows its followers to come, see our work, and let individuals “report” back to their followers using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, personal blogs, and more. We allow our followers to see what we’re doing for themselves, and report out in their own words and own media. NASA has proven that this type of behind-the-scenes access is an awesome way to connect with fans, future fans, the critics and the uninformed.
In May, J.D. Power gave NASA top marks for servicing and marketing engagement in its 2014 Social Media Benchmark Study, saying, “Among the government agencies included in the study, only the National Aeronautics and Space Administration performs particularly well in both types of social interactions.” NASA social media earned back-to-back Shorty Awards for use of social media.
So what can Earth-bound brands learn from the NASA experience?
Take risks. Allowing social media followers to tweet about their experiences – good and bad- at your facilities could be risky, but one worth taking when they better understand what you do, and share that story with their local communities.
Be personal. By allowing employees to tweet about their daily lives at NASA, we demonstrate that NASA isn’t a monolithic, government bureaucracy, but truly is a vibrant organizations staffed by deeply committed individuals who are leading NASA’s exploration efforts.
I actively follow reporters who cover space and science, but also those who cover science fiction movies and technology developments. When there’s an appropriate opportunity, I interject NASA-related comments into the discussion to get correct information out there, and to add a spacey angle to the conversation.
Have fun. From Astronaut Chris Cassidy posting video of shaving his head in space, to allowing a group of interns do a Gangnam Style parody (that actually did a great job of explaining what NASA is working on), seizing on social trends to tell your story can be effective.
About the Author
Lauren Worley is Press Secretary and Senior Advisor at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, where she is responsible for communicating President Obama’s vision for NASA – to explore farther into our universe than ever before and improve life here on Earth.
Worley earned a degree in Newspaper Journalism from Kent State University. She is a Star Wars devotee, loves bicycling and bacon, and she tweets about space and science @SpaceLauren.