Pierpont’s IABC Members Shoot for the Stars at NASA’s Johnson Space Center

Account Executive and IABC Board Member Lauren Williams and Assistant Account Executive Carrie Whittlesey joined other members of the IABC Houston chapter for an exclusive look at how NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) navigate both internal and external communications.

The group was treated to presentations from the public relations staff as well as a behind-the-scenes tour of the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility, the original 1969 Mission Control and the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, where scientists and astronauts train on to-scale replicas of space equipment. Of all the out-of-this-world communications insights the team at JSC shared with the group, there were three mission critical takeaways.

The Communications Team is Responsible for Understanding and Translating Knowledge for the Public

Communications Officer Debbie Sharp explained the necessity for the communications team to be familiar with the equipment production and training side of each operation. She specializes in translating the Orion mission into stories that the press and public can easily follow and become invested in.

Public relations professionals wear many hats and, like Sharp, are often expected to be as knowledgeable in their company or client’s industry as the subject matter experts they’re representing. Research and close communication help ensure information is passed between the organization and the public correctly and accurately.

Internal Communication is a Valuable Asset For Both Internal and External Success

Attendees also met with Isidro Reyna, senior communications specialist, who explained that in an organization like JSC, the communications team isn’t just the designated public relations and public affairs staff, it’s the entire employee base. Reyna and his team recognized the need for an internal communications rebranding and reorganization process to effectively engage employees. Prior to the campaign, the internal pieces were outdated and ineffective in reaching employees in a timely, meaningful way.

When employees are informed on what’s happening within an organization, they’re able to share accurate information with teams inside and outside the company. A cohesive, knowledgeable internal communications arm ensures company information is correct and aligned across different levels and departments.

Gathering Analytics Before a Rebrand is Essential to the Campaign’s Success

In order to create an internal communications plan that met the needs of management as well as the wants of the staff, the entire employee base was surveyed on what type of information they like to receive, how they like to receive it and how often they want to receive it. With this data, the communications team had clear direction to begin developing a plan.

From the research they gathered, they knew they wanted to keep both the legacy brand and alumni employees in mind while creating ahead-of-the-curve pieces. They were able to leverage branding of the organization’s original internal communication outlet – a quarterly publication titled “Roundup” – across the campaign as well as appeal to the younger employee base.

Effective internal communications benefit the entire organization and it’s important to create a campaign that employees feel is valuable and worthwhile. Getting direct feedback as a first step in the rebranding process keeps the communication team informed and helps prioritize initiatives.

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