As a PR opportunities go, it was out of this world. With the UK media
agog with news that there really might be life on Mars, Pielle PR, which
represents the state of Pennsylvania, grabbed the opportunity to promote
that lesser known Mars - the one just outside Pittsburgh.
On hearing about the Martian meteorite that sparked the story, Pielle
hit on the wheeze of ‘twinning’ Pennsylvanian Mars, which is home to
1,800 earthlings, with the Red Planet.
The London agency contacted the president of Mars Council, Fritz Baehr,
who gamely went along with the plan, being quoted on a swiftly written
press release, saying: ‘If there is life on Mars we want to talk to
them. And there are an awful lot of ways that our two communities could
work together.’ The ploy worked, with the Daily Telegraph, IRN, Capital
Radio, Kiss FM and various other media carrying the twinning tale.
Louise Gabriel, on secondment to the agency from Leeds Metropolitan
University, says: ‘There was Mars mania but I think the story took off
because the idea that there really was life on Mars made people laugh.’
The inevitable diminution of that mania may not spell the end of
Pielle’s unearthly Pennsylvania plugs: just 20 miles from rural Mars is
a town called Moon.