What Social Marketers Can Learn from NASA

Five Lessons From a Recent Space Launch -- We Have Liftoff

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The moments before a campaign launch are always terrifying. You're waiting for that moment where everything goes as planned, from social posts to commercial airings, hoping that not only will the launch be perfect, but that you'll also get the results that the client (and you) so desperately want. You've prepared for this moment. You're ready for launch.

NASA calls this moment "liftoff." As marketers, we're always quick to prove that we're the busiest, that no one understands and the whole world is literally watching our work as we lift off. This pressure can blind us to the little things we could've changed or learned along the way to make our work better, and we'll never let outsiders see this side of the advertising life.

But marketers aren't the only ones who understand this scrutiny. Try making something on Earth soar into space. That's a lot more pressure. And NASA is not only used to it, but inviting people to join in.

NASA created a program a few years ago called NASA Social, in which they invite social-media influencers to attend a launch and document it. I joined NASA on one of these events earlier this month to view the launch of Orion, hopefully the first spacecraft that will take us to Mars. I couldn't help but see how NASA's quest connected back to what we do every day as marketers. We might be the industry experts, but NASA has a few lessons that we can take back to our teams on Earth.

1. Go out of your way for the people who care about your brand. On each step of the NASA Social journey, we received the same access that the official press had, meeting NASA leaders and touring buildings where spacecraft such as Orion, Apollo and the space shuttles were built. By creating such an impactful event and going out of their way to give us this access, NASA created lifelong brand advocates. As marketers, we can recreate some of these same experiences for our fans by adding emotion to our work. If we create something life-changing that pays off for our fans before it pays off for our brands, we can make an impact, changing how people feel about our products.

2. Ask for help. No journey can be made alone -- especially when it's a journey leaving Earth. NASA has different organizations assist it, from Lockheed Martin to the U.S. Navy, and even more employees to make it happen. We usually hesitate before bringing in someone else to help. We can't change the status quo with just one person or even one agency (as much as it might hurt our pride to admit it). To make an impact, we have to invite our fellow experts to join us. Creating a team creates incredible work.

3, If the conditions aren't right, wait for when they are. For NASA to launch a mission, the conditions -- including the mechanics, weather and surroundings -- must be right. Not necessarily perfect, but right for the time. Many launches need to be pushed back until the issues are corrected. Sometimes, we try to make ideas work for our clients that aren't a good fit -- yet. If the conditions aren't right, our work won't be the best it can be.

4. Test. Then test again. Just one launch won't teach us everything we need to know. NASA's first launch of Orion was unmanned, giving NASA the chance to really push the spacecraft and see what it was capable of. NASA's team runs tons of tests on the equipment, data and vehicle before preparing for the next launch. Testing and learning might be the most crucial part of our jobs. We can't make statements from just one trial, but instead we need to truly examine the data and keep trying until our tests can become trends.

5. Think bigger than what's possible. NASA TV aired a briefing where several leaders spoke about the Orion launch and its importance. I live-tweeted it and people responded asking why we wanted to travel to Mars instead of going to the moon. Why should we think small? We know we can land on the moon. Push toward making the biggest impact that you can instead of going for what's safe. Shoot for Mars, not just the moon.

A launch -- whether it's a campaign or a new exploration into the world beyond -- isn't a make-or-break moment. Our problems come before that. We get too wrapped up in the final project to realize that it's not just the result that impacts our work -- it's the lessons we learn on the way. We make the biggest impact to our work when we change how we operate by learning from all the pieces that make up the journey -- from the world we know to the skies above us.

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