The media are going gaga about an historic comet landing Wednesday. The European robot Philae touched down on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko at about 11:00 a.m. Eastern time. It’s the first time a soft landing has been achieved on a comet. As scientists cheer and the media celebrate, brand managers may consider the best way to get in on the action. Buyer beware.
Led by the European Space Agency (ESA) with a consortium of partners including NASA, scientists on the Rosetta mission hope to learn more about the composition of comets and how they interact with the solar wind—high energy particles blasted into space by the sun, CNN said.
The landing is a huge story—right now, that is. Our guess is that by the weekend it will have been eclipsed by the next juicy story, the next crisis coming out of the nation’s capital.
If companies want to leverage the landing for branding purpose, they need to tread lightly.
Don’t get into the brainy details of the mission. Stick with the major themes of exploration, freedom and technological know-how. This could work well for companies that are trying to create new technologies—for the benefit of society—but may be a stretch for companies that sell concert tickets or candy.
When a hot story is making the media rounds the natural inclination among communicators is to jump on it. But in an oversaturated media environment, PR managers need to ask themselves some tough questions about whether piggybacking on a popular story makes brand sense.
It’s tempting to join a party. But then you get there and realize you don’t belong and probably would have been better off staying home.
Follow Matthew Schwartz on Twitter: @mpsjourno1