Making a Big Bang for STEM

Consolidated PR had the job of driving visitor numbers to The Big Bang, the UK’s showpiece celebration of science and engineering, held at ExCeL London in March 2011.

Squarely aimed at young people, their parents and teachers, the fair sets out to demonstrate the excitement and opportunities of following a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). We implemented an integrated campaign which smashed the event’s previous attendance record – encouraging 5,800 more people (a 25% increase) to visit the fair than in previous years. We increased the number of under 18s attending by 20%, whilst growing its Facebook fanbase from 350 to 6,000 (a whacking 1,700% increase), smashing our target by 5,000%.

How did we do it?

We took the approach of seeing science and engineering through the eyes of young people, creating a sense of wonder that we trusted would inspire them to consider becoming scientists, mathematicians, engineers or technologists in future years.

We nudged parents into encouraging their children to open their eyes to the possibilities and banish their own potential preconceptions about careers in these fields. To reach out to teens in all their diversity and their parents, we created a campaign that went beyond traditional media relations, incorporating strong social media elements and live events into the mix. We struck gold by recruiting Professor Brian Cox – ex-popstar and latterly well-known particle physicist - as the face of the campaign. His appeal offered the perfect link between two generations. He hosted a once in a lifetime science lesson for one lucky school through a Facebook competition that saw over 8,000 entries from children and teachers and which was webcast through the Sun Online. We curated ‘Street Science’ roadshows in shopping centres around London, events that allowed young people to take part in fun, live experiments and enabled us to share details of the forthcoming fair to an engaged audience.

Creative media relations was also used to change perceptions. We recruited academics to bring science fact in fiction to life – namely the three course bubblegum meal from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Dr Who’s sonic screwdriver and Superman’s X-ray vision. We partnered with a sports scientist to prove that footballers are actually innate scientists and mathematicians, gave one lucky person the chance to become a McLaren engineer for the day and in the run up to the fair, released statistics to show that the biggest barrier to children pursuing careers in science is in fact the lack of understanding in their parents.

These clever treatments caused global news and social media storms.

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