Piping Plover Day draws 2.5 million-plus media impressions, mobilizes volunteers, marks release of documentary
From two beach clean-ups to a bird walk, a happy hour and even a film screening, the first-ever Illinois Piping Plover Day was a smashing success, tallying at least 2.5 million media impressions and bringing together people across the Illinois shore of Lake Michigan. Piping Plover Day—a concept developed and implemented by Turnstone Strategies—was inspired by “Monty” and “Rose,” a pair of endangered piping plovers that took up residence this summer on busy Montrose Beach in Chicago. When a scheduled music festival encroached on their nest, the plovers were propelled to national headlines and became local avian celebrities.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker declared November 18 Piping Plover Day to celebrate the birds, the volunteers that protected them and the release of a documentary on the same day. The announcement drew interest from television, radio and newspaper outlets. With just days to prepare, we quickly organized a suite of activities on a dreary November day. For starters, volunteers gathered at Montrose Beach to collect plastics and other human debris in hopes of protecting shorebird habitat. Volunteers in Waukegan followed that up with a beach cleanup of their own. Meanwhile, a group of birders braved the 30-degree temperatures for a walk at South Shore Nature Sanctuary, a parcel of lakefront property that is threatened by development. In the afternoon, the festivities moved to Spiteful Brewing on the city’s North Side, where a cause marketing promotion included a toast to Monty and Rose and a percentage-of-sales to benefit piping plover conservation.
The special day was capped by a screening of “Monty and Rose,” an independent documentary developed by Turnstone Strategies and funded through the generous support of backers on Kickstarter. The showing drew a sellout crowd to the historic Music Box Theatre, the first of five sold-out showings.
A robust social strategy resulted in at least 100,000 impressions on Twitter and nearly as many on Facebook. The #PloverDay hashtag and custom graphics received tweets and retweets from a number of notable birders and leading Chicago conservation organizations and public agencies. The earned media strategy included print media and a letter to the editor that appeared in the Chicago Tribune.
Local volunteers are hopeful that Monty and Rose return to Chicago next year. Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a goal of ensuring 150 piping plover pairs in the Great Lakes by 2050. The current total is 71 pairs. The next steps are to develop a longer-lasting communications strategy that raises awareness of the birds, rallies Chicagoans and ensures expansion of the plover population.
Visit www.montyandrose.net to learn more about the documentary and attend a screening.
The blog is a space for stories of the natural world and the occasional post about communications and strategy.