NASA Internal memo: Updated Guidance on NASA Messaging


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September 11, 2007

Office of Strategic Communications

TO: Officials-in-Charge of Headquarters Offices Directors, NASA Centers

THRU: NASA Deputy Administrator

FROM: Chief, Strategic Communications

SUBJECT: Updated Guidance on NASA Messaging

This memorandum supersedes my August 1, 2007, memorandum to OICs and Center Directors. Its purpose is to clarify intent and provide guidance on how this messaging material might be used to the best advantage of the Agency.

First, the original guidance was intended to provide some consistency on how we talk about NASA's work with the public. It is not a mandate and should not have been prescriptive.

Second, the Core Message (NASA explores for answers that power our future) is not a slogan or tag line. You are not required to use it, but feel free to include it if you deem it appropriate and helpful for your communications needs.

Third, the Graphic Element (Inspiration+Innovation+Discovery=Future) is a formula for those key themes that illustrate and enhance the Core Message. It should NOT be used as a graphic in Agency materials; however, the three themes can serve as a guide for Agency messaging.

The three themes of inspiration, innovation, and discovery are being used in Headquarters communications products - either individually or in some combination. You are encouraged to use one or all of the themes, depending on whether they work for you, your audience, and the focus of your speech.

Fourth, the triangle graphic contained in the original memorandum was never intended to be used in NASA materials. It was merely a means to illustrate the relationship of the key themes to the core message.

Previous market research gave us a wealth of information, including the validation that NASA has high support and wide appeal. However, people have little specific knowledge of what we do, they don't see the relevance of our work to their lives, and there is low awareness and excitement around the Moon and Mars missions. The following include specifics from the research:

  • Participants' overall impression of NASA - the combination of "somewhat favorable" and "very favorable" is 76%
  • Participants' view of the importance of space exploration - the combination of "somewhat important" and "very important" is 71%
  • Participants' view of the relevance of NASA to the individual and family - the combination of "somewhat relevant" and "extremely relevant" is 53%
  • After exposure to NASA-related technologies, such as advanced breast cancer imaging, participants' view of the relevance of NASA to the individual and family increased - the combination of "somewhat relevant" and "extremely relevant" shot to 94% (from the initial level of 53% referenced above)
  • After exposure to NASA-related technologies, people also were much more inclined to believe that NASA makes a significant contribution to the U.S. economy
  • Participants were questioned about reasons why NASA should send humans to the Moon and Mars and continue space exploration in general. The message that tested the highest was - "Space exploration has led to more than 1300 technologies... As we continue to explore, we will develop even more technologies to benefit life on Earth."
  • Among messages tested, there were no weak reasons for continuing space exploration, though some reasons were stronger than others.

Many have requested guidance about messaging and we are working to share the information we've gathered and put it into messaging and materials that will enhance Agency communications. Another goal of our communications efforts is to expand our efforts outside our traditional aerospace community by disseminating information on NASA's work more widely and educating and inspiring new audiences.

For some of the speeches we plan to craft at Headquarters, we will tailor the message to the particular audience and combine inspiration with a practical benefit that has relevance to that group. This is a model that has proven to be very powerful. Some may choose to discuss the role of exploration in inspiring students to go into high-tech fields, or how exploration may lead to new innovations that contribute to economic competitiveness, or how NASA's scientific discoveries increase our knowledge of Earth and the Universe. These are all examples of how NASA's work can be made relevant to various audiences.

The bottom line is to be creative and mindful of how to most effectively reach out to target audiences and to allow for the broadest possible dissemination of NASA's activities so that we can reconnect with the American public.

Here are some links to speeches given by Mike Griffin and Shana Dale that include messages that touch on some combination of the themes of inspiration, innovation, and discovery. These are included to serve as examples that may help to energize your creative thinking as you develop messages and communications products aimed at engaging and educating the public about NASA, its programs and its missions.

Mike Griffin speeches:

Joint Planning and Development Office Day (JPDO) (06.13.07)

Commemoration of Jamestown Settlement (05.13.07)

World Economic Forum (01.26.07)

Remarks at Quasar Award Dinner (01.19.07)

National Space Symposium (04.06.06)

Shana Dale speeches:

NRO/AIAA Space Launch Integration Forum (07.24.07)

Woman of the Year Award from Learning for Life (05.10.07)

2nd Space Exploration Conference (12.05.06)

National Space Symposium (04.05.06)

Robert P. Hopkins

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