As detailed by The Washington Post in June, NASA is implementing a new poster campaign to recruit people for its upcoming mission to Mars. While the posters are well executed, some critics may question if this is the best use of NASA’s time and resources. After all, the agency only needs a crew of 14, and the campaign is yielding thousands of applications that have to be reviewed one by one. So why did they take this route? Let’s look at some of the realities they’re facing and see what we can learn from their efforts.

In 2011, NASA started to lose some of its prestige when the Space Shuttle Program was put to an end. And now, the agency is struggling to stay competitive with independent space exploration companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic. With this in mind, NASA developed a long-term strategy that includes tactics other organizations can mimic to recruit new talent in the midst of a transition:

Refocus Your Mission: If your original mission statement no longer feels as relevant as it once was, it’s time to look to the future. Back in 2006, NASA quietly changed its mission to “pioneering the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.” By removing the mention of “Earth” for the first time, they hinted that their goals have gone in a more universal direction.

Change Perceptions: When public perception isn’t matching
what’s actually happening inside your company, introduce a new campaign in a look, feel and tone that better represents where you’re going. NASA’s new posters have bold, bright colors and a lighter tone than one might expect. It’s a simple way to move away from the scientific and serious and reignite the fun sense of wonder originally felt with NASA in the 1950s and 60s.

Look to the Next Generation: A fresh campaign is a good way to show the public that your organization is ready for a new era. NASA’s posters encourage the next generation to look to the skies and see the possibilities of the future in space exploration.

Think Differently: With new approaches, you can reach an entirely new pool of applicants. Although NASA’s publicity push and poster campaign might not feel “right” for a government agency, it is still successful in generating a wealth of applications from a younger generation. To drive similar results, take an audit of your current recruitment strategies and identify what targets you could be missing. Then, try something new (preferably where your competitors aren’t) and test different strategies until you find what works best for your company.

Ultimately, recruitment is a study of trial and error – much like scientific exploration. Sure, it takes time and resources. But once you discover the right tactics, you’ll be able to build a pipeline of talent that’s out of this world.

What do you think about NASA’s new recruitment campaign? Let us know at coversations@jwt.com.

As an Associate Creative Director at JWT Inside, Gina works to bring strategic ideas to life for companies looking to rebrand their company culture and refocus their recruitment efforts. Outside of the office she can be found exploring her home borough of Brooklyn, planning upcoming travel and consuming all forms of media.