Clearwater & Its Island Beaches

Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce Case Study

Creative Marketing + Design Services

INITIAL ISSUE

The Greater Clearwater Chamber of Commerce solicited member bids for its revenue-generating quarterly publication, Around Town. Unlike the Visitor Guide which was an outbound piece, the new publication was to be distributed locally to visitors at the chamber welcome center at the city’s main entrance, at the beach welcome center and at the chamber office. Advertising was to be sold by a chamber staff member with publication sales expertise.

Editorial content would feature spotlight articles, listings of attractions, restaurants, golf courses, park and recreation facilities, a calendar of events and a map with legend. Advertisers, who could not afford the more expensive ad rates for large volume distribution of the Visitor Guide, were hoped to find the Around Town rates more affordable.

SOLUTION

Upon being awarded the bid, Flying Compass proposed ad rates and a production schedule based on the desired revenue. The chamber accepted these and sales began. The final product was a 72-page 4” x 9” brochure.

The Around Town piece proved to the chamber that publications were a viable revenue source. That same year – 1988, the Visitor Guide, which had been previously outsourced making the chamber a small profit, was brought in-house giving the chamber more control over content, design and layout and most important, greater net revenue.

BENEFIT

Flying Compass specializes in providing creative marketing and design services for the hospitality, travel and leisure industry. Our clients are involved in all aspects of the hospitality industry and therefore we understand the inner workings of each sector as well as how they interact with one another. This knowledge is extremely valuable in developing destination collateral materials.

Having previously served as the Greater Clearwater Chamber of Commerce’s tourism and convention director, Principal Lynn Fuhler knows first hand how profit centers like the visitor guide help the chamber’s bottom line. She has worked within non-profit and government budget constraints, is familiar with tourism-based member businesses, what motivates tourists to travel and the types of information visitors desire. Throughout his career, Principal Steve Frazier has been involved with all sides of publications – from design to production and delivery (to now website architecture, design and content) as well as photography and retouching. His talents are a perfect complement to Fuhler’s expertise.

Having worked with chambers of commerce, tourism boards and CVBs, Flying Compass brings a unique perspective to a destination’s brand identity. We know how to showcase community tourism assets and the proper distribution channels to reach visitors.

EVOLVING ISSUES

The chamber’s goal in bringing the Visitor Guide in-house was to increase its net revenue and to help defray the shipping costs of a large portion of the 125,000-copy Visitor Guide.

Additionally the chamber and it hospitality industry leaders and members sought to:

  • Promote the destination through adverting;
  • Stay in regular contact with potential visitor;
  • Utilize publicity to generate free exposure; and
  • Share hotel and attraction developments and infrastructure projects in progress.

The challenge was that the chamber budget did not provide the ability to accomplish this without innovative approaches.

The City of Clearwater had hired a tourism director whose responsibilities duplicated those of the chamber’s tourism director. Unable to gain traction, the position was eliminated. Dollars previously used for this position and activities were funneled into a $160,000 tourism promotion grant.

About the same time, the Pinellas County CVB made changes to its Visitor Guide. Only expensive full-page advertisers were allowed to supply their brand standard ads. The personality of all other ads were forced to use the publisher’s standard formatted ad design. Editorial was shifted to the front of the guide and ads were relegated to the back, thus reducing their effectiveness. Companion banner ads could also be purchased but were also formatted in the same style.

SOLUTIONS

The Greater Clearwater Chamber of Commerce applied for the grant. The City of Clearwater recognized the chamber has had long standing role in promoting economic development, especially tourism. It was staffed by a tourism expert who had the ability to positively react to the needs of the hospitality industry and do so quickly.

The chamber was selected as the recipient of the city’s grant and was tasked to serve as its tourism promotion agency and to drive visitor inquiries and visitation. Desired outcomes included to:

  • Increase awareness of the destination
  • Generate interest and leads from potential visitors
  • Capture email addresses
  • Support the CVB advertising program by purchasing co-op ads
  • Provide a more economical way for their members to participate in ad opportunities
  • Defray the cost of some of its visitor guide postage and shipping costs

Flying Compass created an annual production schedule for the visitor guide, restaurant guide and map. Each can require substantial lead-time to update listings, secure or take quality photos, draft and edit copy, design, review proofs, seek approval from management, print and receive delivery. Organizing the work flow allowed projects to be received prior to season and to also assure they were spread out throughout the year.

A system was developed to monitor inventory to avoid “We’re on the last box of restaurant guides.” As part of this project, data collection was standardized to eliminate repeated request for information and to minimize touch time. This data was used by multiple agencies and for different purposes. Policy was developed for non-responses.

Visitor Guides - A Profit Center

Each year bids were let for the next year. Over a span of 20+ years, Flying Compass was consistently selected to produce the Clearwater & Its Island Beach Visitor Guide. Each year, our firm reviewed the rates, helped update the advertising contact, reviewed bid specifications and set a production schedule, along with other recommendations like the inclusion of a special (formatted) ad page only for small hotels. Flying Compass also provided assistance and direction tied to best practices for print, web, publicity, ad production, marketing and technology.

The chamber’s membership staff sold visitor guide ads on commission. This incentivized them to develop relationships with the hospitality industry. It also increased their sales skillset to include print and banner ad sales and ad design while learning about the value of tourism.

Every year, we designed the Clearwater & Its Island Beach Visitor Guide with a fresh new cover and a new look and feel throughout. Our adept photo retouching skills allow us to take a great image and turn it into the perfect cover. Editorial content was provided by the chamber, reviewed and edited by Flying Compass. The chamber also provided photography including state and regional DMO stock images. Flying Compass assured that the advertising-editorial ratio met state welcome center standards and submitted the publication to the state for approval.

To further increase revenues, the chamber’s tourism director and the membership director took action. They solicited major hotel and condos south of Clearwater and Clearwater Beach advising that as members they would be eligible to purchase Visitor Guide ads and participate in ad co-op programs.

The Clearwater & Its Beach Visitor Guide continued to place hospitality industry ads in various sizes and design styles throughout the publication giving advertisers greater exposure than in the Pinellas County Visitor Guide. In addition to a mainland and Clearwater Beach accommodations listings, a new, full Beaches South section was added along with a corresponding map and index.

The industry also remarked that the design and content of the “Clearwater & Its Beaches Visitor Guide” was much more dynamic and appealing than the CVB.

Samples of Clearwater Chamber of Commerce VGs

Advertising Co-op Programs

The chamber’s small membership budget could never support advertising the destination even in a small way. However, when the chamber was awarded the tourism grant, it found innovative ways to stretch the dollars, generate interest and leads in the destination, distribute the Clearwater & Its Island Beach Visitor Guides and capture email addresses.

It supported the CVB’s marketing efforts by purchasing ads in the bureau’s advertising plan.

While the CVB continued to promote the entire county, Clearwater Chamber’s co-op program provided individual chamber members a more affordable option to advertise their tourism business in publications otherwise out of their reach – AAA – Chicago, the Wall Street Journal and the Orlando Sentinel among others. The grant also permitted the chamber to do non-co-op ads.

Flying Compass was enlisted to design the ad co-ops to the Visitor Guides theme. As Flying Compass had a strong client base within the local hospitality industry, we could quickly assemble and proof participating ads from materials on file.

Public Relations, a Media Website & Emails

With tourism promotion dollars from the city, the Clearwater chamber contracted with a local public relations firm to tout “Clearwater & Its Beaches.”

To provide regular access to news releases and destination images, Flying Compass submitted a bid and was contracted to develop a media website. This was the first time Clearwater as a tourism destination established an online media presence. The website also provided the media open access to the latest news on Clearwater and Clearwater Beach as well as an image library.

To support the co-op advertising campaigns, Flying Compass prepared and distributed the quarterly eBlast, “Footprints” from materials provided by the PR firm. These were distributed to the leads (email list) captured as a result of the co-op ad program.

With minimal support staff, the tourism director sought to minimize or eliminate touch-time in handling administrative functions. By automating the media site, efficiencies were created on multiple levels. For instance, the admin area of the new media website allowed the PR firm to update the website.

By consistently distributing emails to those interested in Clearwater, the chamber was able to share the latest news including hotel development projects, expanded airline service, upcoming events, attraction features, hotel packages, awards, etc. The email served to remind visitors to return or visit for the first time.

BENEFITS

With our unique background in hospitality, travel and tourism industry, we understand the leisure, corporate, group and convention traveler and how each interacts with the other. Additionally, because of Flying Compass’s marketing expertise in tourism, ranging from design and publications to public relations and websites, we were able to meet the diverse needs of the Greater Clearwater Chamber of Commerce. We can see the larger picture and know how to transfer information used in one medium to another, say print to digital content for email marketing and websites.

The talent of our top-notch photo retouching staff allow for subtle changes creating that “something looks different but I can’t quite put my finger on it” response. We enjoy taking an OK image and transforming it into a destination’s signature image.

Our goal at Flying Compass is to help our clients achieve their goals. The chamber’s original goals for bringing the Visitor Guide in-house were met. Every year the chamber made a profit which helped the chamber’s bottom line and pay a portion of the postage and shipping costs. They also controlled content, design and layout.

Flying Compass involvement allowed the chamber to achieve the desired outcomes of the city’s grant. While not a stated goal the numerous awards and recognition Clearwater Beach received represent the results of the various programs the chamber coordinated.

  1. Increase awareness of the destination
  2. Generate interest and leads from potential visitors
  3. Capture email addresses
  4. Support the CVB advertising program by purchasing co-op ads
  5. Provide a more economical way for their members to participate in ad opportunities
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