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Communications and Public Affairs

two guys looking at the sky wearing eclipse glasses

Partnership Spotlight: Total Solar Eclipse

Communications and Public Affairs is a vital resource for the many academic and administrative units across campus. We collaborate with these units to craft and amplify key messages, unifying the university’s stories for an ever-growing audience.

The Opportunity: Total Solar Eclipse

In August 2017, Columbia, S.C., was one of the best places to experience America’s first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse since 1918. 5.4 million people would watch the eclipse in South Carolina, and Columbia boasted the longest total solar eclipse for a metro area on the East Coast. This rare and inspiring event was a chance to showcase the university’s expertise and leadership. Our experts — astrophysicists, researchers, naturalists and artists, among others — were poised to provide valuable insights to students, faculty and staff members, and the community. Our office highlighted our experts and eclipse programs to reinforce our brand as a high-impact research university.

The Deliverables

  • faculty member opening the Melton Observatory

    Total solar eclipse video

    This video, published about three weeks prior to the eclipse, showcased all of the work and research going on around the university related to the eclipse. 

  • little boy looking at the sky through ecipse glasses

    Eclipse on-campus photo gallery

    The university was honored to be named an Official Viewing Location by NASA. Visitors to our 15 on-campus viewing stations enjoyed access to eclipse-related experts and other educational opportunities in a safe environment.

  • people wearing eclipse glasses

    This web page gave visitors information about the eclipse, links to our stories related to it and information about the the many offerings on campus from Thursday, Aug. 17, to Monday, Aug. 21.


The Approach

To raise awareness about our unique eclipse expertise, we focused on a regional and national audience of eclipse enthusiasts. When promoting our eclipse-weekend programs, we targeted our local university audience. Our tactics:

  • Present our wide range of eclipse experts through compelling digital media.
  • Sync owned and earned media. In other words, create our own content that attracts others to create content about us. 
  • Create an eclipse landing page to unify eclipse efforts across campus.
  • Partner with the Midlands-wide eclipse coalition to establish our university as the regionwide education hub.
  • Target regional and national media with stories of our impressive range of eclipse experts. 

The College of Arts and Sciences played a major role in this campuswide event. Our plan increased the reach of units such as the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Department of Geography through our media relations services and by featuring their experts and activities in our video and written content. Our office also worked with the Division of Student Affairs and Academic Success, which led USC Columbia’s logistics planning, by designing an eclipse landing page with special callout messages about safety and travel during the eclipse weekend. 


The Results

  • NASA named the University of South Carolina a NASA Official Viewing Station.
  • Our media audience totaled 6.5 million.
  • Our eclipse stories were among the most-read stories of 2017 on @UofSC today.
  • The eclipse video we created won two 2018 American Advertising Awards from the American Advertising Federation of the Midlands.
  • We received 21,806 page views in two months. This eclipsed our benchmark for success.
  • The 2017 total solar eclipse is the largest single tourist event on record in South Carolina.