Marketing Clearwater & Its Island Beaches
Case Study - Florida's Best Beach - Clearwater Beach
Creative Marketing, Visitor Guides, PR, eNewsletters, Website Design Services
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 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 would find the Around Town rates more affordable.
Upon being awarded the bid, Flying Compass proposed ad rates and a production schedule based on the desired revenue. The chamber accepted these recommendations 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. Additionally, the chamber retained copyrights to the publication. For nearly 20 years, Flying Compass produced the visitor guide for the chamber. Each year the publication was completely re-designed and featured a strong, dynamic cover image. We also brought the digital visitor guide online when Flying Compass created the chamber’s first professional chamber/visitor website more than 25+ years ago.
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 membership-based businesses, and knows what motivates tourists to travel and the types of information visitors desire. Throughout his career, Principal Steve Frazier has been involved in and overseen his team’s involvement in production – from content to design to delivery (print, flip books and digital downloads). These talents are a perfect complement to Fuhler’s expertise.
Having worked with chambers of commerce, tourism boards and CVBs, Flying Compass, as detailed in this case study, brings a unique perspective to a destination’s brand experience. We know how to showcase community tourism assets and the proper distribution channels to reach visitors.
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 its hospitality industry leaders and members sought to:
- Promote the destination through adverting;
- Stay in regular contact with potential visitors;
- Utilize publicity to generate free exposure; and
- Share hotel and attraction development 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 also had hired a tourism director whose responsibilities duplicated those of the chamber’s tourism director. Unable to gain traction, the position was soon eliminated. Dollars previously used for this position and activities were then funneled into a $160,000 tourism promotion grant.
About the same time, the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) made changes to its visitor guide. Only expensive full-page advertisers were allowed to supply their ads. 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 in the same formatted style.
The Greater Clearwater Chamber of Commerce applied for the city tourism promotion grant. The city recognized the chamber had a longstanding role in promoting economic development, especially tourism. The chamber was selected as the recipient of the grant and was tasked to serve as its tourism promotion agency and to drive visitor inquiries and visitation.
Flying Compass proposed and created an annual production schedule for the visitor guide. It required 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 workflow allowed the guide to be received prior to season.
As part of this project, data collection was standardized so it could also be utilized, with minimal touch time, on the chamber’s visitor friendly website.
Public Relations, a Media Website & Engagement
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 chamber/city co-op advertising campaigns, Flying Compass prepared and distributed a quarterly e-newsletter, “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 chamber’s tourism director sought to minimize or eliminate touch-time in handling administrative functions. By automating the media site, efficiencies were created including the PR firm updating content.
By consistently distributing emails to those interested in Clearwater, the chamber was able to share the latest news – hotel development projects, expanded airline service, upcoming events, new attraction features, hotel packages, awards, etc. The emails served to remind visitors to return or visit for the first time.
With Flying Compass’ unique background in tourism, we understand the leisure, corporate, group and convention traveler and how each interacts with the other. Additionally, because of our marketing expertise, ranging from design and publications to public relations and websites, we were able to meet the diverse needs of the chamber. We see the big picture as well as the details – transferring information used in one medium to another, minimizing touch time.
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. Each year the visitor guide was completely redesigned with a new impactful cover photo.
As highlighted in this case study, our goal at Flying Compass is to help our clients achieve their goals. The chamber’s original objectives for bringing the visitor guide in-house were met. They also were designated as the publication copyright owner and controlled content, design and layout.
Flying Compass involvement allowed the chamber to achieve the desired outcomes of the city’s grant, too. We are pleased to have helped the chamber meet their goals, detailed below, while achieving numerous “best” and “top” awards and honors for Clearwater Beach.
- 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