Tuesday, 23 July 2019
Getting ACRUX-1 off the shelf, overseas and ready to be launched into space is in itself an incredible achievement. But we believe that the success of ACRUX-1 tells a much deeper story which goes beyond this extraordinary feat. ACRUX-1 represents a lot of firsts – not just for us, but for Australia as a whole.
In the second of this three-part series, we spoke to our managerial team about some of the unique accomplishments, challenges, and experiences MSP and its departments have had over the years, and how these things put ACRUX-1 in a league of its own.
The Creative Communications (CComms) department manages a wide array of work: marketing & communications, social media, blogging, graphic design, events, PR & media relations, internal communications, merchandise and website management, to name a few.
Still, when it comes to outer space, the concept of needing a robust marketing and communications strategy doesn’t usually come to mind first.
Blackholes and galaxies (and really all of astrophysics) are quite good at captivating the public imagination in a way only the mysteries of the universe can. Space is just cool.
But oftentimes there remains a significant disconnect between how space capability is perceived, and how deeply that capability can impact how a society functions and prospers. Nowadays a nation’s ability to keep up with the technological advancements shaping the world around it can be a telling sign of its future struggles and successes. This is especially true in Australia.
So the Creative Communications department has always had quite a multi-dimensional challenge to tackle: how do you communicate the value work on something complex, niche and (both physically and metaphorically) distant from the public eye, but inherently vital to Australia’s future, such that it changes how space capability is perceived?
The CComms team has found creative approaches to laying the groundwork for tackling our stakeholder engagement and education efforts for ACRUX-1, which has involved events, campaigns, and internal culture & communications.
Over the years CComms has represented MSP at events hosted across Melbourne: the Astrolight Festival, Avalon Airshow, Melbourne Knowledge Week, and World Space Week; we’ve also held workshops and attended conferences across Australia; and we’ve helped organise talks at local observatories, schools and amateur radio clubs.
In 2016 we ran the Final Frontier Festival, Melbourne’s first-ever space festival; in 2017, we coordinated the logistics for a group of 20 MSPers to attend the internationally-renown IAC2017 conference. We helped secure funding to ensure equal opportunity to any volunteers interested in attending, and we ran workshops so that our IAC attendees could cultivate their networking skills and build confidence within a professional conference setting.
Through these events we were able to engage directly with hundreds of Australians about our work and the value that our organisation brings – both for Victoria and for all of Australia as well, as MSP continues to grow.
Much like MSP uses space projects as a vehicle for educating and upskilling our volunteers, CComms has used ACRUX-1 as a vehicle for educating and engaging with Australians.
This was done through the design and development of campaigns such as ‘Space is Ace’ and ‘ACRUX-1’ that tailored our messaging around education and the wider social, historical and political contexts which shaped the creation of MSP and ACRUX-1.
Because without knowing these, it’s difficult to fully comprehend the value of what MSP does as well as just how much of an underdog we were leading up to the launch of ACRUX-1 — and still are.
It was a uniquely-situated communication challenge that no other space-faring or education group here has come up against, making our ACRUX-1 campaign the first of its kind in Australia.
As a once-former student club turned fully-independent organisation we’ve also learned how to navigate public perception of our branding and credibility, which has often been overshadowed or misunderstood by our relationships with prominent academic and industry partners. Learning how to professionally define ourselves from the past whilst also seeking to push boundaries for the future has taught us lessons in managing communication in the face of misinformation and scepticism surrounding who we are, what we can do, and what we stand for.
The workforce of the future will require more than just technical proficiency; aptitude in communication, knowledge sharing, EQ and creative problem-solving will be essential as well.
So as we turn our focus towards future MSP projects and people, the CComms team will use our unique experience with ACRUX-1 as a catalyst for strengthening and iterating on our internal communications and cross-departmental upskilling efforts. By working with engineers and all other MSP volunteers on their professional, written and visual communication skills, as well as helping build their confidence in media engagement and networking activities, the Creative Communications department will help MSP in its vision for launching the next generation of technology pioneers.