Keith's note: Toward the end of this morning's Maven press briefing, a reporter from the Travel Channel asked if NASA has any plan for marketing itself to the public so as to enhance visibility, increase funding, and that reaching out to the public is NASA's biggest challenge and greatest opportunity. NASA SMD AA John Grunsfeld (@SciAstro) replied that NASA does not have such a plan but instead that the agency puts spectacular missions into operate and educates the public about them.
Well, "education" is not the same as "marketing". NASA is holding a "NASASocial" in connection with the Maven launch. Alas, except for one NASA Social participant who asked a rather good question, virtually none of the NASASocial participants on-site at KSC (or their alumni elsewhere) bothered to tweet about the press event. Yet when NASA pays attention to the NASASocial people they brag about getting better access to things than the media, the swag NASA gives them, and chatter about what is said in their sessions. NASA keeps doing these socials - so they deserve credit for that - but I am not certain what they accomplish when all is said and done. Being a "Trending Topic" on Twitter only lasts while people are actually Tweeting and it only has an effect while people are awake or able to read Tweets.
I have to agree with the Travel Channel guy's query. Does NASA have a marketing plan? I see no evidence that they do. Yes, there is some scary language in some congressional legislation that prohibits NASA from lobbying but there is also equally compelling and binding congressional language that prompts NASA to better communicate with the public. I have the clear impression that NASA finds it vastly easier to say "no" than to try and push the envelope. There are a lot of people at NASA who try but there seem to be even more who thwart them or simply sit on their hands.
NASA's Confused Policy on Advertising, earlier post