Earlier this week, a friend of mine currently working toward her candidacy in the University of Washington’s Molecular and Cellular Biology PhD program asked me how PR can be used to get more people interested in science.
At the core of her question was a bit of frustration about people’s perception of science and how it wasn’t valued as strongly as she believed it should be. From a lack of funding by government agencies to the difficulty in growing the number of people getting involved in the sciences, there are a lot of challenges in play.
Pretty quickly, this got me thinking about how science was one of numerous areas that don’t attract the same level of attention from many of us in the communications realm. Don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of PR professionals who are extremely passionate about areas such as science and who are doing an amazing job. However, much of our attention is focused on consumer technology, automobiles, food and beverage, and the like, partially because of the economics behind those businesses.
What’s this budding scientist to do? How can communications help ensure the science industry she cares about continues to blossom? It can do more than simply sell products. It can sell ideas, ones that keep people thinking, dreaming, and wanting more.
On Wednesday, we were all treated to a show about what Microsoft’s next generation of computing was all about through the unveiling of its HoloLens technology. Coincidentally, HoloLens has a significant science and technology play and looks to transform some of what we see as the barriers to day-to-day computing in our homes and offices.
In two videos comprising 5 minutes and 18 seconds, Microsoft delivered messages that will ultimately result in goods and services being sold (or at least delivered) to customers of all shapes and sizes. At the core of what HoloLens is all about, however, is some pretty extreme science. Sure, it lets you play Minecraft visually or experiment with new ways of modifying a motorcycle design in midair, but to hear developers talk about the limitations of light being a major factor in HoloLens is refreshing.
We live in a world full of features, bells and whistles, and shiny objects. Sometimes it’s nice to take some of the more complicated, wildly detailed things we have the ability to make happen and pull the curtain back on them. To me, Microsoft’s HoloLens launch was one of the more refreshing ways to use something we take for granted these days – a short video or two – to prompt thinking not just in a product or service, but also the process behind it.
What does any of this have to do with getting people interested in science? Well, the combination of a random inquiry from a friend and a creative announcement from a company has given me a nice bit of inspiration to think outside of the box – or maybe inside it, really – in order to build smart, creative solutions to challenges that don’t cross my desk every day.
Tom Biro is SVP of Allison+Partners' Seattle office. His column focuses on how digital media affects and shifts PR. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tombiro.