Campaign The Big Bang: UK Young Scientists' and Engineers' Fair
Client Engineering UK and the British Science Association
PR team Consolidated PR
Timescale September 2010-March 2011
- To increase attendance at The Big Bang
- To spark excitement about STEM.
Strategy and plan
Consolidated PR wanted to excite young people about science, but also encourage parents to banish their preconceptions about careers in science. It was keen to reach a wide audience, including people with no scientists or engineers in the family.
The PR team recruited Professor Brian Cox to act as the face of the campaign. He appeals to both young people and their parents, and already aims to make science more accessible through his own TV programmes. Pupils and teachers were encouraged to enter a Facebook competition to win a science lesson from Cox, which was webcast through the Sun Online.
Young people were invited to take part in fun science experiments at roadshows in shopping centres around London. These included allowing children to make ice cream out of liquid nitrogen and make toothpaste fit for an elephant.
Consolidated PR attempted to demystify science, by getting academics to explain the hidden role STEM plays in Dr Who's sonic screwdriver and Superman's X-ray vision.
Tapping into the nation's obsession with football, a sports science professor demonstrated how every footballer is a natural scientist and mathematician. The story was covered on Talk Sport, BBC Radio 5 Live, the Daily Mirror, the Daily Star and The Daily Telegraph.
In the run up to the fair itself, the PR team released statistics to show that the biggest barrier to children pursuing careers in science was the their parents' lack of understanding of the subject.
To bring the fair to life, a second Facebook competition was launched, allowing one lucky winner to become a McLaren engineer for the day.
Measurement and evaluation
The campaign delivered 859 pieces of coverage in six months, compared with 683 in 2010. According to Metrica, 52 per cent of the coverage led with the message that 'science and engineering is fun'. Professor Cox's science lesson was covered in the Sun Online, The Times, First News and regional press.
The Facebook fanbase grew from 350 to 6,000, eclipsing the original target of 1,000. There were more than 2,600 mentions of the fair on social media.
More than 5,800 people attended the fair, an increase of 25 per cent year on year. The number of under-18s attending increased by 20 per cent. More than 8,000 people entered the competition to win Cox's science lesson. The campaign has been shortlisted for a PRWeek Award.
Richard Knight, Director, Mettle, and comms director, The Bloodhound Project
The Big Bang represents an exciting but challenging brief: lots of stakeholders to co-ordinate, content to find, disparate elements to knit together and, of course, high expectations to manage.
The media landscape is also tough: The Big Bang is not the first to beat this path and much of the stuff on show has been seen before. 'Fun' science stories are a staple, not a novelty.
So it is to Consolidated's great credit that it navigated these waters well.
Hiring in a celebrity wasn't original but it worked, greatly improving social media hits. The 'hands on' roadshow was fun but London-centric.
The creative stories were decent but it would have been nice perhaps to see something as engaging as the Royal Society of Chemistry's 'Italian Job' Challenge from 2009.
If there is a criticism then it is that the campaign was pragmatic rather than innovative but perhaps this was inevitable. The results, though, speak for themselves.