PUBLICIST: Long Beach Aquarium proves power of a proactive PR effort

Hollywood may be famous for its transgender denizens, but the tucked-away city of Long Beach wants you to know they have some too. Only they're fish.

Hollywood may be famous for its transgender denizens, but the tucked-away city of Long Beach wants you to know they have some too. Only they're fish.

Fish that change sex for survival are but one of many exotic animal displays at the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific's "Weird, Wild and Wonderful" summer exhibit. Launching a PR blitz last week, the Aquarium hosted some 50 media outlets for a tour that included the strangest creature I've ever seen: a leafy sea dragon from Australia. No description could do it justice. The Aquarium's marketing director Cecile Fisher (she's already heard all the comments about her name), walked me through the spacious, sunlit facility and various aspects of the media campaign. "Eighty percent of our audience is in SoCal, so we focused our long-lead efforts on publications such as Sunset and localized editions of travel guides. A month prior, we sent press kits to 100 radio and newspaper outlets, including some in Northern California and Arizona. It was part of a broad effort that included ethnic and scholastic outreaches." The colorful press kit, which also contains a CD and well-written fact sheet, was done by an in-house graphics team - part of an integrated department that ensures media materials have the same look and design as the Aquarium signage. As a global media contingent cast its eyes on the shark pool, the camera crew shot b-roll for local TV stations. "The PR staff is involved in creative decisions about the exhibits, which fosters a sense of teamwork," Fisher told me. "Our goal is to instill a sense of wonder and stewardship about the oceans." The Aquarium is part of recently renovated complex in Long Beach Harbor that includes the Queen Mary passenger ship and a large white dome structure that once housed the Spruce Goose - the famed wooden plane built by Howard Hughes. The dome was used as a filming location for cavern scenes in Pirates of the Caribbean, while nearby towering barge elevators were an inspiration for the AT-AT walkers in The Empire Strikes Back. Throughout the day, gleeful children swarmed the Aquarium, a few of whom, amazingly, were witnessing sea-life for the first time. "We will have children here on field trips that have never been to the beach," says Fisher. "Some of then live only 15 miles away." Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer

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