Marketing & public relations for a regional planetarium & observatory.
The Bishop Planetarium was a genuine institution for several generations of Suncoast Floridians, from its founding in the late 1960s through the early 2000s.
At the time I worked there, a majority of the area’s year-round residents had visited the facility to watch star shows, enjoy laser shows, and take part in star-gazing sessions. Many also participated in its off-site programs, which included astronomy nights throughout Manatee County and at local schools.
The resident astronomers and educators also hosted special events tied to astronomical phenomena and milestones, which provided significant opportunities for public education and outreach. I handled marketing and public relations and arranged media sponsorships for these, in addition to promoting everyday programs.
George Fleenor, then planetarium director, is incredibly knowledgeable, with a knack for explaining hard-to-grasp concepts in a way that engenders enthusiasm for the topic. He is also talented at doing this whether he is talking with you in person, being quoted in articles, or chatting live on-air or on-camera.
The combination of a great spokesperson and my friendly, proactive pitches made the planetarium a go-to resource and regular stop for regional TV, print, and radio outlets.
It also led to some interesting situations beyond the usual television news segments and newspaper coverage. These ranged from live feeds during solar eclipses to one TV station’s reporter and crew camping out (all night!) with astronomers to capture a major meteor shower on tape – and then hauling back to the planetarium for multiple live shots during their morning news broadcast.
The January 2000 Lunar Eclipse Party was representative of these special programs, attracting a crowd of approximately 1,800 throughout a Thursday evening.
In addition to pre- and post-event articles in the Bradenton Herald and Manatee/Sarasota Herald-Tribune and on CNN.com, the planetarium received significant television and radio coverage. FOX 13’s “Good Day Tampa Bay” did a pre-event morning live shot and segment, FOX 13 (Tampa) and SNN Newschannel 6 (Sarasota) included it in their evening newscasts, and then-classic rock station 102.5 FM (Tampa-St. Petersburg) held an evening-long remote.