Organized by the World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ), the World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ) is the biennial global meeting of science journalists, scientists, and science communicators. Member Associations within the WFSJ — spanning nations such as Argentina, Australia, Benin, Croatia, Japan, and México — bid for the honor of hosting these major meetings. These conferences offer attendees from diverse experiences and circumstances a rare opportunity to learn from one another, debating topical issues facing science coverage in popular media and discussing the tools and trends of their important craft.
In 2015, the United States delegation was awarded the bid to host the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists (#WCSJ2017), to be held in San Francisco, California. At the time, few could anticipate the geopolitical and institutional debates that would come to prominence over the following two years.
As the calendar turned to 2017, two developments posed challenges to the organizers of #WCSJ2017 — the National Association of Science Writers (NASW) and the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing (CASW).
One was a politically delicate membership vote that took place in Fall 2016 at NASW’s annual meeting. As the leading professional association for science journalism and science writing professionals in the United States, NASW has specific bylaws governing whether journalist versus non-journalist members can serve as board officers. A challenge to this bylaw — and the heated debate that followed as a result — generated wounding divisions within this professional community.
The second was global politics itself. In January 2017, the new U.S. presidential administration signaled the first of its drastic changes to visa policies, creating restrictions and uncertainty for travelers to the United States. The timing was not fortuitous for an organizing committee seeking to invite global participants to attend a U.S. conference.
The twin events presented a special marketing challenge. #WCSJ2017 was to double as NASW’s annual meeting for that year. What words could help heal the rift between its journalist members and public information officer members in time for the October meeting? And how could NASW and CASW assuage its international partners that its U.S. conference would remain relevant and welcoming to all registrants?
As serving members of NASW’s Communications Committee for #WCSJ2017, my good friend and colleague Kelly Tyrrell and I ultimately devised a social media marketing strategy that sought to amend both concerns. Based on an original creative strategy by me and a social media engagement plan by Kelly, we pitched the “Identity” campaign idea to committee chair Jennifer Jackson Cox — and ultimately to the joint NASW-CASW Conference Committee leadership.
The strategy sought to acknowledge the many identities and interests that our broad, global community of science writers encompassed. We also wanted to pose some common questions facing our varied professions and nationalities — yet tease out a single notion that united us — namely, that no matter our differences, we all truly believed in the societal impact of science journalism. These sentiments of unity and identity through diversity led to our ultimate message:
If you believe in the societal impact of science journalism — come find your global community.“Identity” Campaign, 10th World Conference of Science Journalists. (Ben Young Landis and Kelly Tyrrell)
In the end, the we generated and placed 138 social media banners across Twitter and Facebook over eight call-to-action stages — Apply, Discuss, Register, Laugh, Reason, Lunches, Hashtag, and Believe. Phases of the campaign aligned with key conference solicitation needs, such as the application period for travel fellowships (“Apply”) and the conference registration period (“Register). And key calls-to-actions were directed at more than 40 nationalities representing six continents — extending a virtual invitation to the world.
Finally, we moved the concept off the web and into the conference halls themselves — creating an interactive display at #WCSJ2017 where attendees could film their responses to a set of interchangeable “Discuss” prompts.
This was a wonderfully fulfilling project to work on. Kelly Tyrrell and I are both very proud to have done our small part in making everyone in our global professional community feel whole — and welcomed.
— Ben Young Landis
Client: National Association of Science Writers (NASW)
Delivered: March-October 2017
Creative Direction: Ben Young Landis
Social Media Direction: Kelly Tyrrell
Lead Designer: Ben Young Landis, based on fonts, colors, and logo produced by Todd Schulte Design
Copywriters: Ben Young Landis and Kelly Tyrrell
Campaign Rollout: Kelly Tyrrell with Ben Young Landis
WCSJ 2017 Communications Committee Chair: Jennifer Jackson Cox
WCSJ 2017 Social Media Chair: Kelly Tyrrell