Division A - Public Relations Programs
Category 8 - Public Affairs
VISIT FLORIDA: “Florida Tourism Counts” Education Campaign
Moore Consulting Group, VISIT FLORIDA

Judges' Award

Research/Situation Analysis: In 1996, VISIT FLORIDA®, the official tourism marketing corporation for the state of Florida, was established from the Florida Department of Commerce as a non-profit organization supported by both public and private funding. Since its inception, VISIT FLORIDA has received a mere $6.7 million increase in public funding over the past decade. With the relatively stagnant marketing budget of VISIT FLORIDA, visitation to the Sunshine State flattened in 2006 due to increasing marketing competition from top destinations and growing advertising costs. According to Travel Industry Association of America (TIA), Florida lags behind Hawaii, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Texas for public funding of tourism marketing. Furthermore, advertising costs have increased 37 percent since 1996, yet the VISIT FLORIDA marketing budget has not risen proportionately. Florida is being out-spent and out-voiced in the consumer market place. A one percent decrease in Florida visitation represents a loss of $37.2 million in general revenue collections. In order to protect the state’s hard-earned tourism market share, stay competitive in the global market place and ensure increased economic revenues, VISIT FLORIDA asked for an additional $34.3 million in public funding during 2007 Legislative Session. For every dollar invested in VISIT FLORIDA, research proves that more than three dollars are returned in tourism-related tax revenues – paid by visitors, not residents. The triple return-on-investment to the state is undeniable, which will help build roads, support schools, pay for health care and other vital programs. To educate legislators on the importance of tourism marketing and rationale for the additional $34.3 million public funding request, VISIT FLORIDA hired Moore Consulting Group (MCG) to conduct a comprehensive education campaign, which involved research, grassroots advocacy, public affairs, collateral development and interactive media. To begin the project, MCG conducted a “discovery” meeting with the VISIT FLORIDA team to discuss the legislative environment, funding request and campaign objectives. At the meeting, all agreed on the additional $34.3 million request for the campaign’s first year; the team was hopeful to receive any increase in public funding in lieu of the tight budget year. Once objectives were finalized, MCG met with the VISIT FLORIDA research department to evaluate studies on Florida visitation over the past 10 years, competitor marketing budgets (TIA) and economic impact statistics (Florida TaxWatch) to develop campaign key messages. MCG conducted informal focus groups on the “Florida’s Tourism Counts” campaign key messages and the newly created Partnership for Florida’s Tourism name and logo design. Target audiences included the Governor, Lt. Governor, Florida Legislature, VISIT FLORIDA partners, statewide tourism leaders, media and general public.

Objectives: 1) To create an influential alliance of more than 100 tourism leaders and representatives statewide to serve as a unified voice for legislative advocacy and media relations support; 2) To conduct a legislative advocacy day at the Capitol called “Florida Tourism Day” with more than 90 campaign partners in attendance; 3) To secure a minimum of 60 statewide media hits about the “Florida’s Tourism Counts” campaign;
4) To secure a minimum of five editorial board meetings statewide; and 5) To increase public funding for VISIT FLORIDA during 2007 Legislative Session.

Implementation: Objective 1) MCG sent a coalition membership e-card and membership form to potential members of the Partnership for Florida’s Tourism, which was followed up with repeat phone calls. On the membership form, partners indicated their level of participation from becoming a campaign media spokesperson to receiving campaign updates. Objective 2) In preparation for “Florida Tourism Day,” MCG created a save the date card and disseminated five e-newsletters to the Partnership for Florida’s Tourism and legislators discussing event logistics. Additionally, MCG secured a proclamation from the Governor’s Office declaring “Tourism Counts Day” at the Capitol. Florida Tourism Day included a Florida Tourism Briefing where Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp and top tourism leaders discussed the state of Florida’s No. 1 industry, and the proclamation was presented. Objective 3) MCG conducted media training for the VISIT FLORIDA senior leadership. For ongoing media relations, MCG wrote and distributed various media materials with ongoing pitches during the campaign. Objective 4) MCG conducted editorial board meetings with Florida’s major daily newspapers to secure positive editorials. Objective 5) During 2007 Special Session and Regular Session, MCG created and hand delivered weekly collateral materials to Florida legislators, the Governor, the Lt. Governor and Cabinet to maintain top-of-mind awareness of the “Florida’s Tourism Counts” campaign. Collateral materials included a campaign general brochure, tourism industry segment cards, positive media coverage mock-ups, “Call to Action” report and legislative toolbox.

Evaluation: The seven-month campaign well exceeded its goals as measured by: Objective 1) 147 tourism leaders and state representatives joined the Partnership for Florida’s Tourism; Objective 2) More than 140 members of the Partnership for Florida’s Tourism attended Florida Tourism Day – nearly 100 percent attendance – and met with their legislator(s) about the importance of tourism marketing funding; Objective 3)
69 newspaper and 20 television stories were generated totaling more than 8.1 million impressions (as of May 2007); and
Objective 4) Editorial board meetings resulted in six positive editorials supporting the Florida’s Tourism Counts campaign. Objective 5) 19 different collateral materials were hand delivered to each legislator, the Governor, the Lt. Governor and Cabinet during 2007 Special Session and Regular Session totaling 3,984 deliveries, which aided in the approval of an additional $8.95 million for VISIT FLORIDA in non-recurring public funding during a tight budget year.

Budget: General brochures (in-house): $1,000; legislative collateral materials: $3,816; legislative toolbox CDs: $75; Tourism Day save the date cards: $600; Tourism Day signage: $42; Tourism Day videographer: $200; editorial board kits: $85; media clips: $53; printing: $700; staff time covered under retainer (not including 326 in-kind hours). Total cost: $6,518.