30 May 2019

One small step for employee engagement, one giant leap for internal comms

Every day is an opportunity to learn, especially when you work with so many amazing communications professionals.

On a recent trip to Phoenix for the PRSA Connect Conference, Gemma had the chance to meet someone particularly stellar. Noah Michelsohn is a Communications Specialist at NASA, a 12,000 person organisation with an astronomical 20 different directorates. They had a chance to chat about what his job entails, space missions and moon rocks! Without further ado, let’s launch into what they said…

What can you tell us about your overall comms aim at NASA?

We have 20 directorates, each looking after different missions. People often want to know what’s happening in their mission so relevance and targeting in our communications is really key.

It’s also important to really humanise every story so that people can connect.


Can you tell us about some employee communications you’re doing at the moment?

We do a combination of long and short-form content including a daily 6am email, round-up post and feature on Twitter. We send out comms from one of the Centre Directors each month, and also have a monthly televised ‘all-hands’ meeting.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your role?

So, first of all, the majority of our audiences are engineers, researchers and scientists. Different people want different information. When it comes to content, they are highly intelligent and want lots of detail: they know we can get to the moon – they want to know realistically how and when we are going to do it. That said, it can be challenging to maintain consistent communication because there is always the political risks of directional change under a new administration. A project may change after an election and we have to make sure employees understand the changes and are excited about that new direction. Communicating progress is key.


How do you inspire people who work on projects for such a long time?

Every engineer is contributing to and building the hardware and software that will go into space. When they’ve finished the piece of equipment, they sign it so that each person’s signature gets sent into space.


What’s the best thing you’re currently working on?

I do public affairs for moon rocks. That means I get to see the rocks and also I get to meet amazing people like Jack Schmitt, the first professional scientist to walk on the moon.


For more on Gemma’s time at PRSA Connect, check out her 10 key takeaways. And look out for some conference notes too, landing on our website very soon. 

For the latest from NASA, check them out on Twitter

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