The science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) sector is growing faster than any other in the U.S., according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Available jobs are predicted to increase 17 percent between 2014 and 2024, while non-STEM employment is expected to grow 12 percent. That said, according to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the U.S. needs to increase its yearly production of undergraduate STEM degrees by 34 percent to match this demand. With an expanding workforce that calls for more graduates to fill the pipeline, it is crucial to engage students at an early age.
To help bridge this gap, MilliporeSigma—a global life science company—focuses its corporate responsibility and science education efforts on several initiatives, including the Curiosity Cube™ mobile science lab. Launched in 2017, the Curiosity Cube™ engages visitors in interactive, hands-on experiments to ignite student interest in science and prime them for STEM careers. Throughout 2017, it visited schools and public events in 85 U.S. communities. The 2018 tour is in progress and includes stops in more than 100 communities across the U.S. and Canada.
For both tours, Havas PR was tasked with sharing the powerful story and need behind the Curiosity Cube™. We focused on the following objectives: drive traffic to events through social media promotion and event calendars; garner local media/influencer interest and attendance, resulting in coverage; and elevate MilliporeSigma's profile as a company committed to enhancing access to science education and fostering innovation at a young age.
Havas PR created a comprehensive communications plan focused on highlighting the hands-on experience that the Curiosity Cube™ brings to the student and communities that it visits. We targeted local media and key opinion leaders (KOLs)/influencers in the markets the Curiosity Cube™ visited, as these outlets would generate a conversation about the events. We also targeted parents of elementary- and middle-school-aged students, encouraging them to stop by the Curiosity Cube™ during public events. These parents are key stakeholders in our mission to drive awareness of the Curiosity Cube™, as they help shape their children's success and can take them to the events.
Lastly, we focused on reaching education decision makers, including teachers, school board members, school administrative staff, etc. We targeted those who live and work in communities the Curiosity Cube™ visited, as they play a vital role in establishing or continuing a partnership with MilliporeSigma. Messaging to our target audiences focused on how the Curiosity Cube™ is playing a crucial role in engaging students in hands-on science. We also emphasized how hands on-laboratory experiences—such as the ones available in the Curiosity Cube™—help spark student interest in science and prime them for STEM careers.
Our strategy consisted of the following proposed tactics: tap local influencers to drive awareness of the Curiosity Cube™; conduct outreach to local outlets, including daily/community newspapers, TV stations, radio stations, parenting/family magazines, and city magazines/news sites; connect with local partners for amplified outreach; and share earned coverage via MilliporeSigma's 3BL channel—a corporate responsibility (CR) news distribution platform.
For each market the Curiosity Cube™ visited, Havas PR distributed a media advisory and Curiosity Cube™ fact sheet to local media and influencers. To make a connection between MilliporeSigma and each community, the advisory listed local organizations that the company has partnered with and local schools that have participated in its Curiosity Labs™ program or that the Curiosity Cube™ has visited. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, we also shared photos of the Curiosity Cube™ to call attention to its unique design and show students conducting experiments inside.
The goal of our outreach was to secure on-site attendance and interviews that resulted in coverage. We treated the influencers the same as media outlets—encouraging them to attend public events and share their experiences via their blogs or social media. To ensure the on-site staff was equipped with the right tools to handle media interviews, we provided key messages and conducted media training. We further promoted the Curiosity Cube™ in each market by submitting public events to online event calendars.
Additionally, we distributed news releases on the 2017 and 2018 Curiosity Cube™ tours. We also worked to place op-ed pieces in CR- and education-focused outlets. These articles were written by Jeffrey Whitford, head of global corporate responsibility and branding for MilliporeSigma, and by two partners who are well-known for their impact in STEM—Girlstart and the Institute for School Partnership (ISP) at Washington University in St. Louis.
Results from the Curiosity Cube™ exceeded our own expectations. Combined media outreach efforts for the 2017 tour resulted in 191 placements, yielding 1.6 billion impressions—including 22 broadcast placements across 16 local TV news stations. MilliporeSigma is not frequently on television, so these broadcast placements were a big win for the company. For the 2018 tour through July, we secured 112 placements, equating to 841,994,864 impressions—including 22 broadcast placements from 14 TV stations.
Notable coverage includes placements in USA Today, Scientific American, Boston Globe, Courier Tribune, EdTech Digest, Sheboygan Press, St. Louis Magazine, STEM Magazine, Teach Magazine, Triple Pundit and Wyoming Public Media.
In 2017, MilliporeSigma measured the impact of the Curiosity Cube™ by conducting surveys on students' experiences. A survey of visitors following their experience demonstrates the resulting positive impact: 77 percent of students said they were more interested in science after visiting the Curiosity Cube™; 74 percent of visitors said they now feel "more curious"; 95 percent of students who visited the Curiosity Cube™ increased their understanding of life science terminology—and 76 percent of students were able to answer the question "What does the cerebellum control?" correctly.
The Curiosity Cube™ was also well received by participating schools and teachers. Among those surveyed: 100 percent of schools would like to participate again; 100 percent of teachers said the Curiosity Cube™ created a fun learning environment; and 81 percent of teachers indicated their students continued to integrate content learned from the Curiosity Cube™ into their discussions.
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