I was the publicist for a celebrity manatee. (And it was awesome!)
Snooty is the oldest manatee to be born and raised in captivity. He is also the first manatee to have a recorded and documented birthdate*. When you combine these two attributes with a personality that loves people and attention, you have a celebrity “spokes-manatee” and wildlife ambassador unlike any other.
My first professional job was serving as the public relations officer for the South Florida Museum, Bishop Planetarium, and Parker Manatee Aquarium. In addition to handling day-to-day public relations for the complex and all of its events, this meant I was also “Snooty’s publicist” and in charge of planning and promoting his birthday party for three years.
Snooty’s Birthday Bash was the facility’s biggest public outreach event, drawing both people and attention to the South Florida Museum.
Attendance – between 3,000 and 3,500 for his 49th and 51st parties – topped out at nearly 5,000 for Snooty’s 50th birthday celebration.
Each of the free, four-hour parties featured live entertainment, children’s games and art activities, and a wildlife awareness festival that showcased regional animal groups. An expanded slate of museum, planetarium, and aquarium programming was also available for a reduced admission fee. The festivities culminated with the singing of “Happy Birthday” to Snooty and the awarding of prizes to the winners of the annual children’s birthday card contest.
As the event planner, I was responsible for:
- Recruiting sponsors;
- Lining up exhibitors and entertainment;
- Placing food and rental orders;
- Coordinating activities with the museum’s aquarium, education, and planetarium departments;
- Organizing the birthday card contest;
- Planning all event publicity, marketing, promotions, and printing;
- Serving as the day-of event manager; and
- Conducting pre-, during, and post-event media relations, as well as facilitating media sessions with aquarium personnel.
Earned media coverage: Tampa Bay, Florida, United States & the world!
During my time at the museum, Snooty’s Birthday Bash received intensive, regional media coverage, including story placements in the Bradenton Herald, the Manatee and Sarasota editions of the Herald-Tribune, the Tampa Tribune, the St. Petersburg Times, independent weeklies, regional magazines, and the Associated Press.
Regional television coverage was even more extensive, with almost every station in both the Tampa-St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida markets airing pre- and post-event stories and PSAs.
These stations included: Bay News 9 (Time Warner / Tampa Bay), WWSB News 40 (ABC / Sarasota), WTVT-FOX 13 (Fox / Tampa-St. Pete), WTSP Channel 10 (CBS / Tampa-St. Pete), WFLA Newschannel 8 (NBC / Tampa-St. Pete), and SNN 6 (NY Times, Comcast / Sarasota).
Most of the broadcast organizations participated in the Florida News Network video wire service and were also CNN and network feeds.
As a result, “Snooty” stories and footage were shared throughout the United States and worldwide. Museum guests from as far away as Washington state, California, England, Germany, and Australia discussed seeing these articles and news segments with the manatee caretakers and me in the months before, during, and after the birthday celebrations.
*Fun fact: Snooty went on to be officially recognized by Guinness World Records as the “Oldest Manatee in Captivity” in 2015.