How NASA uses mixternal communications for moonshots and turkey trouble

Breaking down silos delivered better comms for internal and external audiences.

NASA had a turkey problem

In many organizations, internal communications are in one silo, external are in another and never the two shall meet. But mixternal communications, or a close alignment between the two communications functions for addressing the different audiences in a similar way, is gaining popularity.

NASA’s mixternal approach provides an example for how this strategy can pay dividends on topics both silly and serious.

In Ragan’s recent Speechwriting & Public Affairs Conference, NASA public affairs lead and internal team leader Mia Blessing (who is not an astronaut, she’s quick to point out), shared how the space agency has integrated internal, executive and external comms to build a holistic messaging framework that serves all audiences with transparency and trust.

“Our key messages are catered to our audiences but intertwined at the core as one voice,” Blessing said.

Mixternal shines with troublesome turkeys

NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley had a turkey problem.

It wasn’t always a problem. It used to just be the local wildlife. But during the pandemic, when most of the center’s employees were working from home, the turkeys got comfortable running the joint. They were hanging out in parking lots and even trying to breeze their way into buildings. This became a problem when workers began to emerge from their isolation and get back to work in person.

But the rub was, many workers were attached to the birds. There are a lot of scientists at the site, after all, and many of them were nature lovers. The turkeys had become of Ames’ culture. “It was an emotional issue for our internal workforce,” Blessing said.

So the message was gently delivered internally that the turkeys would be moved to a farm. And in many cases, the messaging would have stopped there. But Blessing and her team realized there was an opportunity to use much of the internal executive communications to tell an external story that held NASA accountable, ensuring there was transparency around the turkey turmoil and that the surrounding community understood what was happening.

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