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Public relations in terms of education and international networking, press work for national and international media from newspapers to TV stations, social media activities for a large community on different channels, visuals for content creation, media production, visual orientation at the location as well as corporate identity, all this is created by our international media team.
Our media team builds bridges between the OeWF and the public. Many are probably hearing the term analog research for the first time. How does your team support members in communicating with the media to get the message across?
Monika: Analog research is completely new territory for the general public and most journalists we talk to. It is also a fairly new field in science. So, our task is to explain who we are, what we do, how we do it and especially why. We write press releases in German and English, organise press conferences, conduct background interviews with journalists; we are present on numerous social media channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and coach those OeWF members who are preparing for an interview. From the visuals team, which is part of the Media team, come infographics, for illustration. And, of course, we work a lot with photos – which, as we all know, say more than a thousand words.
How much preparatory work, i.e. the work that no one sees at first, is required in the run-up to an OeWF mission or a new project in order to generate the quite large press response that we are currently achieving?
Monika: A lot of telephone hours go into it. We talk to journalists, explain what an analog mission is, for example, that we are helping to prepare astronautical missions to Mars. In the run-up to the mission, we produce social media posts and many texts for the homepage and press, which we then publish during the mission. These should be generally understandable. So, we write, discuss, rewrite, get the OK e.g. from our research partners, possibly rewrite again. We make detailed lists which photos we will need from the mission – this time from Israel – to convey the complex mission organisation, the whole range of scientific work, the internationality and the overall great feeling of the mission.
How has the OeWF’s public relations work changed over the years? Which channels of communication are used in the meantime?
Monika: So, when I remember 2012 and the mission on the Dachstein: We really had to do a lot of information work and make a lot of effort with the media. From then on, things started to look up. Since our 2018 mission to Oman, at the latest, we have become a household name for many Austrian journalists and are approached by them when they are looking for experts on a space topic. On the other hand, we must not get tired of telling our story and further promoting the understanding of analog Mars missions. The topic is still exotic, even if many journalists now know what “OeWF” means. The professional photos we work with and our presence on social media have been very helpful. Facebook and Twitter were the first channels. Depending on who we want to address, LinkedIn and Instagram are becoming increasingly important. So, we are reaching more and more people around the world on different channels.
What was the weirdest press request so far and what came of it?
Monika: What’s weird in space travel? After all, there is no “up” or “down” in space ;) Well, seriously: It’s funny when we are asked to borrow the space suit simulator Aouda, which the analog astronauts wear during their missions – e.g. for filming an Austrian prime-time crime series. Aouda is worth as much as a Ferrari. It is a highly sensitive piece of equipment that exists only twice in this form in the world. So, the answer then is “unfortunately no”. In the specific case with the crime series, we lent out our kids room suits that we use at events. Looked pretty good ‘on camera’ too.
What does press relations look like during an analog Mars mission?
Monika: As already mentioned, we prepare a lot. Nevertheless, the first mission day is like a whirlwind that we conjure up ourselves and therefore also control. Because we intentionally concentrate the publication of the first mission photos and the first stories on the first mission day in order to generate as much media coverage as possible. The first mission days are then very intense, almost overwhelming. But it’s worth it: The journalist requests are pouring in and our mission leadership gives interviews at all possible and impossible times of the day for newspapers and TV stations like BBC, ARD or ORF. In addition, we have film crews in the MSC and in the field, which record the first steps of the analog astronauts, but of course have to leave the test site at the beginning of the isolation phase. When we then see that the OeWF and the analog mission are successfully set, it’s a great feeling.
This article is available in: German
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