Video Use in Gov: NASA Debunks End of World, Creates Gangnam Style Parody

In December, NASA created two intriguing videos to help communicate and educate citizens about NASA. I stumbled across an article on FCW announcing that NASA has recently published a video parody of PSY’s Gangnam style. The article states that it has been received with mixed reviews from NASA personnel. FCW blog states:

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said the video serves a valuable educational purpose, but he acknowledged that not everyone in the NASA community gets it.

“I get a lot of notes from my friends from the Apollo era who say we’re lost, we don’t know what we’re doing,” the Los Angeles Times quoted Bolden as saying at a Dec. 20 event. “And after one of them saw this YouTube video, they were completely convinced we are really messed up.”

NASA has always thought of creative ways to tell the remarkable work of the agency. Bringing in pop culture is a great way to reach a new audience and craft a story around the agency’s mission. Check out the video:

Another way NASA has tapped into pop culture is by explaining why the world would not end in December 2012. In NASA’s blog, Beyond 2012: Why The World Did Not End, NASA writes:

If you’re reading this story, it means the world didn’t end on Dec. 21, 2012. Despite reports of an ancient Maya prophecy, a mysterious planet on a collision course with Earth, or a reverse in Earth’s rotation, we’re still here.

The Mayan connection “was a misconception from the very beginning,” says Dr. John Carlson, director of the Center for Archaeoastronomy. “The Maya calendar did not end on Dec. 21, 2012, and there were no Maya prophecies foretelling the end of the world on that date.”

They also developed a video with experts explaining and debunking common conspiracies about why the world would end in December, check it out here:

These are two great examples how NASA has leveraged video and a variety of social channels to educated and inform citizens on the mission of the agency.

What do you think? Is the PSY video and debunking end of the world theories a good use of public funds and way to educate citizens?

The Federal Consulting Group (FCG) is a franchise within the U.S. Department of the Interior. As the successor to the Federal Quality Institute, FCG has been advising and assisting federal agencies for more than 20 years with many of their senior consultants achieving results in large, high-profile government programs and projects. Check out their “Citizen Engagement & Customer Service” group on GovLoop as well as the Communications & Citizen Engagement Sub-Community of which they are a council member.

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Peter Sperry

The Gangnam parody seems eductional but I am not sure why NASA would spend so much time ruining perfectly good “end of the world” parties. Many people were looking forward to developing Mayan themed drinks (mostly involving tequila), dances, finger foods, decorations and pick-up lines. It was also a fairly good excuse to avoid Christmas shopping. But, nooooooo, NASA had to debunk the whole thing, cancel the parties and send everyone back into the overcrowded malls. I understand the Russians have spotted an comet that may provide party excuses this time next year. I hope NASA will not spoil it again. We could make end of the world disaster fun an annual event for many years in the future if scientists would stop interjecting facts all the time.

David B. Grinberg

Nice post, Pat. Yes, I concur with NASA because there was a small pocket of the national and global populace who sincerely believed ‘Doomsday 2012″ was imment and acted accordingly. Check out my blog post on how the USA, via NASA, effectively dismantled the doomsday hoax (including in video and on the web). The post also examines the reactions in China and Russia, as well as how American media sensationalism increased the hype — “Doomsday 2012: USA, China, Russia React“.


Becki Dobyns

Really fun to watch. At my agency, however, we wouldn’t get away with a video that wasn’t properly closed captioned or that used copyrighted music. Aren’t there laws we’re supposed to be following?

Marian Henderson

Loved the JSC video! My mom worked for NASA Ames back in the day and they would have eaten this up.

@Peter Sperry – you know that NASA partied anyway regardless of the facts.

Kevin Lanahan

This is exactly the thing government should do. I bet there weren’t too many people begging off from being included in the video, even if they didn’t know about Gangnam Style at first. Anything that gets your message out to a new audience and lets people know that government isn’t all about endless meetings and filing papers is good.

That includes zombies, pop songs, animated gifs and anything else that somebody can do that taps into a non-traditional audience.

NASA and CDC are doing this well.

Mitch Netzer

I love seeing the new ways that government and para-government agencies are beginning to use video! I’ve just started working to create training materials (mainly through video) for elected officials in WA state and we’ve gotten a lot of great feedback! Right now it’s pretty dry “talking-head” type videos, however I’m pushing more and more to get everyone comfortable with the idea of a less formal format and more engaging.

These videos are a great example of how to reach a young audience, but do any of you have some examples of really creative training videos (could be from your agency or just something you’ve come across)?

Here’s a link to our first and latest training series, “Budgeting Basics:”

Janina Rey Echols Harrison

I am watching the videos Mitch and I like them. Do we need special permission to use these as training materials for our staff?

Mitch Netzer

@Janina Just a referral link to where they came from would be welcomed (Association of Washington Cities). I’d also make sure that they know these are WA state specific so some of the laws/dates may be different depending on states.

Janina Rey Echols Harrison

@Mitch Even though my group is Federal the videos are pretty general and explain the information pretty plainly. There are opening and closing credits showing who made them. I will probably use them for those who get glossy eyed when you say the word ‘budget’.

Stephen J Yurick III

Loved the video…as a Video Producer I can understand and appreciate all the hard work that went into this video….budget aside–I think it was fresh and informative—Well Done!