Mission to Mars
A multi-disciplinary team of Northwestern researchers is contributing to plans to send humans to Mars. What could have been just another Northwestern Magazine cover story became the kernel for a full cross-channel multimedia experience. Our team complemented the print story with a wide array of original multimedia elements, including an original animated video, and an original Instagram story. We also reedited the video with a new message and used it a PSA on the Big Ten Network.
Our objective was to share the story as widely as possible, and to add value to the digital magazine experience as creatively as possible. To that end, we promoted the story on all our social media channels, included the story in our email newsletter, and featured the story on the Northwestern.edu homepage.
In Print: Northwestern Magazine
Landing humans on Mars remains, as yet, a dream for the future. Therefore, this particular story presented great fodder for animation, where we could allow our creative imaginations to run free. While our video script followed the same overall structure as the feature story, we intentionally treated the content in an overtly fun way for digital and social uses. The entire video was developed, scripted, art-directed and animated completely in-house.
Our team internally reedited the animated video with a new message to fit within our “Take a Northwestern Direction” campaign and used it as one of our PSAs on the Big Ten Network during televised Northwestern athletic events in 2021-22. The PSA also included a custom URL to encourage exploration of the digital feature story on the magazine site.
A press briefing at the annual meeting of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), reserved for the most newsworthy research on the docket, is normally a great opportunity for media pickup. To ensure that our Northwestern researchers made the most of this special stage, our team worked closely with AAAS to prepare the presentation, using the same images and graphics in our press kit to help media tell compelling visual stories. “Missions to Mars: Understanding and Preparing Teams for the Future” was featured in The Economist, Business Insider, Space.com, The Week and NPR, among many other outlets. This study and our work to promote it are still getting coverage, even as the COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted the analog environments the research it relies on, because the lessons of teams on Mars apply directly to the Earth-bound business world where corporations want strategies to strength remote teams.
The PSA first aired during a Northwestern football game – around the time Northwestern Magazine’s fall issue was landing in mailboxes around the country, featuring the Mars story on the cover – and was simultaneously posted natively on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Across social channels, all our executions resulted in a reach of 305K, 3.6K engagements, 10K video views. We also produced a custom Instagram story to feature the spot on that channel, which 77% of viewers completed in its entirety.
And while driving traffic was not the goal of the broadcast PSA, our team set up a custom URL for viewers interested in learning more and experiencing the digital magazine. The weekend of the spot’s premiere, the PSA drove 324 hits to the top-level URL redirect, and 452 unique pageviews. During our football and basketball seasons on BTN, the URL garnered 1,295 hits overall.
Overall, the story received 3.6K+ UPVs, along with a remarkable 5:17 time on page average.
- TW: 153.5K reach, 110 engagements, 882 views
- FB: 20.1K reach, 1.2K engagements, 7.6K views
- LI: 10.1K reach, 85 engagements, 1.6K views
- IG story: 20K reach, 70% “completion rate” on story
- IG story: 7.8K reach
- IG feed: 24.3K reach, 2.2K engagements
- TW: 70.1K reach, 22 engagements