The European Space Agency (ESA) is Europe’s gateway to space. Its mission is to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.
After mapping variations in Earth’s gravity with unprecedented detail for four years, ESA’s GOCE satellite has run out of fuel and, on 21 October 2013, the end of mission has been declared. While most of the satellites disintegrate in the atmosphere, some smaller parts were expected to reach Earth’s surface. When and where these parts might land could not be predicted. The GOCE satellite’s descent to earth generated for the ESA a climate characterised by uncertainty and risk.
The study aimed to offer a 360-degree visibility of how the ESA and the GOCE satellite’s descent to earth were perceived from the top mass media and down to online activists.
The strategy was based on four stages of work, over an overall period of 3 months:
Phase 1 (Listening and monitoring): Implementation of a listening method for conversations about GOCE on the following platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Forums, Video Websites, Photo Websites. Monitoring was conducted in 5 languages, in order to cover the scope of the 6 principal ESA member states: German, English, Italian, French and Spanish.
Phase 2 (metadata and calculation): An in-depth collection of owned meta data was collected, making it possible to calculate an estimation of reach, in number of contacts for each post and tweet which mentioned GOCE.
Phase 3 (social media evaluation): An analysis report on the impact of earned and owned social media was conducted.
Phase 4 (mainstream media evaluation): An analysis of ESA’s traditional media corpus was made, containing 167 pieces of written and online press from 6 countries, in order to compare the results and to draw global conclusions which will enable communication efficiency to be improved.
A satellite photo taken in the Falklands and published on Twitter has been identified as the buzz trigger on social networks, thanks to the broadcaster’s influence (BBC, in particular). The proactivity of ESA communication on Twitter at the time of the mentioned tweet, has been a determining factor in communication efficiency.
The influence on social networks (Twitter in particular) remained in the hands of journalists. More than 60% of Twitter impact came from journalist’s Twitter accounts and the BBC’s various Twitter accounts generated the most impact.
News conveyed by social media on GOCE remained effectively informative, often unbiased. GOCE benefited from positive media coverage in 48% of mainstream media, which taking into account the nature of the event, would seem to represent excellent communication.