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Our Dan Tyte (@dantyte) went on BBC Radio Wales’ Good Evening Wales to talk about the high sea’s most bizarrely named boat…

Now the internet’s a wonderful thing, enabling organisations to open up their decision-making processes to the masses, generating new ideas, fresh insight, a culture of openness…and if you’re not careful, 27,000 votes for your new £20m Royal research boat to be called Boaty McBoatface.

Yep, you’ve surely seen by now that the Natural Environment Research Council has a bit of quandary on its hands.   After opening up naming rights of their new boat to the public, heavyweight hitters like the former head of the Royal Navy Admiral Lord West are claiming that the leading name is ‘silly’ and ‘not appropriate’ (and he has a point).

But the internet is waiting for baited breath to see how they respond…

So how can their comms team make sure they don’t hit an iceberg? Here’s four things they could do to make the most of the opportunity…

 #1 The Boaty McBoatFace Maiden Voyage

Okay, so the PR people at NERC may be too risk averse/respectful to actually name the boat after the public’s overwhelming choice, but they could show some good-will and name its maiden voyage after the public’s choice.  Kind of like an Apollo 13, just without Tom Hanks and the explosions, hopefully.  Or…

#2 Coming to a port near you: the Boaty McBoatFace UK Tour

I’d never heard of NERC- and it’s likely the same is true for the thousands of people who voted in their poll- but they’ve now got the ears of thousands of potential new fans- if they don’t take the platform, it’s likely they’ll never hear of them again and a chance to talk about their research with a new audience will be lost.  So what about taking the boat around the ports of the UK- Cardiff, Portsmouth, Liverpool- and letting folks on-board to see the good work they do?

#3 Boaty McBoatFace: the cartoon

Now if Fergie (the Royal, not the gaffer or Black Eyed Pea) can make a success of a humanised helicopter, why couldn’t NERC make a YouTube cartoon based on Boaty McBoatFace and his adventures in Antarctica? Think heart-warming buddy comedy scenes with a friendly penguin and a generation of out-of-work actors queueing up to don the Boaty costume and lead infotainment lessons in schools.

#4  Take a comedian to the Arctic

The name could have been a lot worse- imagine the sweats the NERC comms team would have on if “Vote Leave” was winning the race.  Boaty McBoatFace shows off the best of British irreverent humour- so how can they harness that? Well, back in 2001 the artist David Buckland created the Cape Farewell project to instigate a cultural response to the climate challenge.  The thinking was that scientists weren’t always the best communicators so in 2007 comedian Marcus Brigstocke, Britpop hero Jarvis Cocker and other cultural icons went on a 3 week expedition to the Arctic to see the effects of climate change for themselves and report back in terms the public might respond to better.    So why not ask a comedian to come on the maiden voyage and report back from the journey about the incredible work NERC is doing at the Pole? That’d be a perfect way to build on the Boatface episode and turn the conversation towards their organisational objectives, but in fun, engaging, shareable way. Just like the name Boaty McBoatFace….

Whether they name the new vessel Boaty McBoatFace or not, NERC has got the perfect ice-breaker to engage a whole new audience in their amazing work.  We’ll be watching what they do next…

If you missed Dan’s spot on BBC Radio Wales, you can listen to it on by clicking here, and skipping to the 1:27:00 mark.


Working Word is a PR, digital and brand agency based in Cardiff and London, telling transformative stories for clients all across the UK.