Today, let’s talk about Mike and Mary Robertson. They live in Madison, Wisconsin and have two kids. Mike is an accountant and Mary is a schoolteacher. They’re comfortable and are raising their two children the best they can. They have been cutting back their activities a little, renting movies instead of hitting the theaters, eating in instead of out, they did the “staycation” this year and a gift swap at Christmas.
Mike is watching the nightly news and notices that the President will be at a Space Summit in Florida this week. There is the possibility of massive job losses and while Mike is sorry, he believes that cutting space programs might be the way to go…”Times are tough” he mutters under his breath. Like a lot of Americans outside of Florida, he doesn’t know the benefits of space travel. He doesn’t know that the heart pump that keeps his mom alive, the cell phone his wife is speaking on or the GPS that keeps him moving in the right direction are all because of space exploration. The purified water he insists on drinking, the satellite TV he is watching or the Lasik he would some day want to get for his daughter are all because of those people at NASA. Those brilliant minds who went to school all of those years in subjects like physics and engineering that he still can’t put together. He forgets about the trip to visit his brother in Detroit after the auto industry fell apart and what the environment in city dependent on a certain industry was like. Mike would feel a lot different about the whole entire space program if he knew how it affected his life.
Mary is on the cell phone that space travel helped make a reality and talking to her sister Michelle, who is a school teacher like her sister in Florida. Governor Crist has a bill he can veto or sign that will determine how much Michelle makes by how well her students do. Mary is floored by the entire concept “I don’t get enough time with my students” Mary says “with all of the distractions they have and I don’t know what their environments at home are like”. It occurs to her that she hasn’t seen her kids studying a lot recently and maybe she had better check their assignments. Mary asked “How could lawmakers let that happen?” Michelle responded “We were too busy teaching, and paying for school supplies out of pocket, to monitor legislation” Okay, Michelle didn’t say monitor legislation but you get the point.
Let me get to MY points. NASA doesn’t do enough to communicate to Mike just how important the work they do is. Every business must be able to communicate to the people that matter what it is they do. That’s where community outreach and effective awareness campaigning comes into play. If Mike knew what NASA did for him, wouldn’t he along with so many of the unaware voters in this country be in contact with their representatives in government?
Teacher merit is more complicated. One lawmaker called it a “gutcheck” for Florida educators. I don’t have kids but I know that parents are busy, teachers are busy, and kids have everything from algebra, to growing up, to Twilight Vampires being throw at them. It’s a lot more complicated than it use to be when I was in Orange County schools. I hope that we can look back in a couple of years and realize we made the right decision.
Anyways, NASA and Florida public schools will hopefully take guidance from their public relations/affairs department and keep people in the know. As professionals in this field we must constantly be communicating with the people we advocate for and the audience we seek.