Tuesday Tip: Lessons From the Space Race – Often Times the Simplest Message Works the Best – by Dan Tapper

Last month’s 50th anniversary of the Apollo XI moon landing, coupled with work we did recently with an aerospace client to commemorate the work they did in designing space suits for that mission and others, put us in mind of a great lesson in public relations that came from the epochal Space Race.

The lesson? Sometimes the simplest of messages will resonate the loudest. And the message from that amazing time? Just three words uttered by Gus Grissom, one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts who later was part of the Apollo program before tragically dying in a fire on the eve of the Apollo I launch in 1967.

“Do good work.”

Back in the early 1960s when the race to the moon between the United States and the Soviet Union was just heating up, American companies across the board went to work building the spacecrafts and equipment the astronauts would need to get them there and back. Often times astronauts—who justifiably had achieved “rock star” status—would visit the plants where the equipment was being built to deliver “pep talks” to the people who were working to get them into outer space.
It was on one of these tours of a Convair pant where Grissom was asked to say a few words. He was never big on public speaking, and with the workers assembled in front of him, he simply uttered the first thing that popped into his mind: “Do good work.”

Simple. To the point. Perfect.

The engineers at Convair loved it. So much so that “Do Good Work” became a mantra for them and others, a slogan that would spread to other aerospace companies. Signs and posters reading “Do good work” would soon enough be found in factories and offices throughout the industry, as thousands of people worked tirelessly win the race to the moon.

It is a lesson in the very essence of strategic communications—the ability to communicate the right message, no matter how simple, to the right audience. Gus Grissom never considered himself much of a communicator, but he said a mouthful that day, one that resonated long after he was gone.

Original Mercury 7 Astronauts in Spacesuits – Courtesy of NASA Image & Video Library

We’ve seen plenty of our own examples of such simplicity doing the trick with our clients. One of our clients is a senior care provider, and when we first began working with them, we were trying to capture the true spirit of everything they were able to do for seniors—it encompassed a wide range of services, and the point was anyone with any questions on senior care should simply call them first.

And thus a key message was born: “Call us first.” Three words that said so much more.

Who knows what our next “moonshot” will be, the next project that will inspire a nation and energize a citizenry to aim beyond our wildest dreams. Whatever that next great project is, it will need to be embraced by the masses, and will need to get them galvanized around common goals and memorable messages.

And who knows? Maybe it will be another message as simple as “Do good work” that will get things moving. We know it’s worked before, and that means it can work again.

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