Laura Doty speaks for those who cannot speak for themselves … the animals of the Memphis Zoo. As the Communications Specialist for a unique venue, she is always ready “do a little bit of everything.” Her day might include managing one of the zoo’s many special events, overseeing TV appearances for furry and feathered starlets or producing the zoo’s top-notch magazine. She is one of many team members (a leader of the pack!) who plays a part in making the zoo Memphis’s highest attended attraction and the top zoo in the country according to independent surveys. Welcome, Laura!
Have you always called Memphis “home”?
I have not. I’m from Oxford, Mississippi, and went to Ole Miss. Hotty Toddy!
When did you begin on the path towards a communications career?
I’m going to have to credit my high school journalism teacher, Mrs. Beth Fitts, with this one. I took journalism I as my elective freshman year. Oxford High School had (and still does!) a great newspaper, and I decided that I wanted to join the paper going into my sophomore year. I was on the paper staff for my junior and senior years as well. Mrs. Fitts really inspired my love of writing, but especially the process of finding out someone’s story. That, in turn, led me to public relations.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
This one is tough, because I love so much about it. If I had to choose one thing, I would have to say the fact that each and every day is something different.
Describe the unique daily tasks that might come up when you are a spokesperson for all of the wonderful animals at the zoo.
I get to have some really incredible, special moments. We just recently announced the birth of a snow leopard cub. It’s the first snow leopard birth at the Memphis Zoo in more than a decade. Our little guy had his six-week checkup, and I got to be the one to take his “publicity” shots-–the ones we sent out to the media.
What are your favorite animals at the zoo, and why?
Another toughie! I’m going to have to cheat and say three.
1) The Asian small-clawed otters found in our China exhibit. Another keeper and I call them underwater dachshunds, which is appropriate, because they remind us of my family’s dog, a long-haired miniature dachshund, Sadie.
2) Chinchillas, especially Luna, our female; so incredibly sweet. Plus, Luna and I have a special bond because she was my first “TV” animal.
3) Giraffes–these are majestic giants, but they are so loving. I especially love our Giraffe Feeding Adventure, which allows visitors to have the chance to feed the giraffes. (Feeding times are 11:00 to 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.)
Is there a funny anecdote you might share about your work at the zoo (memorable event that did not go as planned?)
The Memphis Zoo has a couple of different regular TV spots within our community. One of these is Good Morning Memphis, on Fox 13. The usual person who goes with the keepers was out of town, so I took his place. Lindsey, our Animal Interpreter, brought along Luna, our female Chinchilla. Lindsey was given a warning not to get her coat wet. As it turned out, there were supposed to be thunderstorms all day. You should have seen the two of us trying to waddle into the building, with Luna in her crate! We were not about to let her get wet!
I have a couple of favorite quotes, but one that I particularly love comes from Doris Roberts. She said she wanted to be remembered as the type of lady people would describe in this way: “She doesn’t give up. She doesn’t give in. And she doesn’t understand the word ‘no.’”
I also love: “There are four things that every woman should know. She should know how to look like a girl, act like a lady, think like a man, and work like a dog” (from an Unknown author); and, “Ability is of little account without opportunity” (Lucille Ball).
If there’s one place in the world you’d suggest someone visit, where would that be?
I had the amazing opportunity to visit South Africa when I was in college. It’s weird to say that you can be homesick for a place that’s not your home, but I feel that way. I love it. It was gorgeous, and the overall trip was incredibly rewarding. Even though it’s been a few years since I went, I still keep in touch with some of my South African friends.
Favorite escape or guilty pleasure?
I’m a true chocoholic. The richer, the better.
Are there any charitable organizations where you volunteer your time or support? What’s meaningful about this outreach to you?
I’m a member of the Junior League of Memphis. I love this organization because it’s about enriching the Memphis community.
I’m also a member of Chi Omega sorority Alumni Association. I serve on the local advisory board for Rhodes College, as well as serve on the national board for our Chi Omega magazine, The Eleusis. Chi Omega has given me such amazing friendships that I know I’ll have for the rest of my life. I want to give a little something back to this amazing organization.
What books are on your bedside table?
I haven’t been doing too much reading lately, but I just picked up Dan Brown’s latest. I’m also excited to read The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. I’ve heard it’s gotten great reviews, and it’s a debut novel!
What three lighthearted things could you not live without?
Well, as I’m sure you can guess, I’m a social media junkie. So I’d have to say my cell phone, and my iPad (so I can watch the many different television shows I love) and a good blue writing pen.
What events are you looking forward to this fall in Memphis?
Lots of big things coming up for the Memphis Zoo. We have Zoo Boo, as well as Zoo Lights.
I’m also the Vice Chair for Marketing and PR for the Junior League of Memphis, and we’re getting ready to host our all-new fundraiser, the Junior League Gift Showcase. I’m getting the word out about both of the events!
Thank you Laura!
And thank you to photographer/web designer Keith Montgomery for the wonderful images of Laura.