Division A - Public Relations Programs
Category 2 - Public Service
Beaches of South Walton: Beach Safety Awareness Campaign & Seemore the Safety Crab
Kriss Titus, Loretta Shaffer, Tracy Louthain, APR
Award of Distinction
The 26-mile stretch of sugar-white beaches and emerald-green waters of
Beaches of South Walton in the Florida Panhandle is a playground for
millions of visitors and residents each year. A series of nine
drownings due to rip currents in Walton County over Memorial Day
Weekend 2003 prompted action. Over the last three years, the Beaches of
South Walton TDC spearheaded a beach safety campaign targeting beach
goers to educate the public about beach safety and the flag warning
system. Formal primary research conducted by the Florida Department of
Health revealed that 69 percent of respondents knew the correct flag
color that was flying, and 31 percent of respondents would enter the
gulf even if a red flag was flying. Nearly 60 percent of all
respondents did not properly describe how to escape from a rip current.
In 2006, lifeguards were implemented at six regional beach accesses.
Objectives: To ensure visitors and residents
enjoying the beach during swimming months, mid-March through September,
are educated on beach safety and the importance of obeying the flag
Implementation: Our strategy was education and prevention. The campaign included the following tactics:
- To have 18 of the 20 top lodging partners
communicating the flag warning system and the importance of beach
safety to guests.
- To secure regular coverage on beach safety
and the new lifeguard program from January through July equaling
$20,000 in media value.
- To drive 500 visitors to the Visitor Information Center to receive their free beach safety kit.
- To have lifeguards focus on education and prevention through interaction with 40,000 beach goers.
- Creation of collateral materials with Seemore the Safety Crab and the
flag warning system including brochures, posters, stickers and coloring
books that were distributed through lodging partners check-in packets
and lobbies, the Visitor Information Center, retailers and restaurants.
- In-room visibility of beach safety was enhanced through the use of
Seemore the Safety Crab flag warning system decals for mirrors and
windows, magnets for refrigerators and posters.
- Media relations
outreach was conducted to keep beach safety top of mind and creative
angles were pitched surrounding peak weekends including Memorial Day.
- Exposure for beach safety on broadcast media was achieved through the
creation of three beach safety commercials, which appeared on WMBB, Ch.
13, WJHG, Ch. 7 and Beach TV. In addition, guest appearances with TDC
staff discussing beach safety were also aired on these stations.
- Beach safety promotional items, including beach balls, Frisbees, water
bottles and koozies that could be used on the beach were disseminated
via the Visitor Center and lifeguards.
- Informational kiosks with the flag warning system were erected at all 60 beach and bay accesses.
- Print advertising with the nationally recognized rip current diagram
and explanation of how to escape a rip current was used to support the
- Radio PSAs were created and aired on local stations
including Seabreeze and 30A Radio. Interviews were scheduled on radio
morning shows for Rip Current Awareness Week, June 4-10.
informational Web site (www.seemoresafetycrab.com) was created, which
includes the current flag conditions and beach safety tips.
Evaluation: There were no rip current related
drownings in 2006. Visitors and residents commented that the flag
warning system was more apparent this year, including Trudy McPhail, a
visitor from Fishers, Ind., who said we have done a great job making
people aware of the risk.
- Personal meetings at the end of the
season with lodging partners revealed that all 20 of the top lodging
partners provided beach safety information to their guests.
- Coverage of beach safety and the new lifeguard program was secured in
local media including Thirty- A Review, The Walton Sun, and Northwest
Florida Daily News equaling $24,231.93 in media value.
- More than 600 beach safety kits were disseminated through the Visitor Information Center.
- Lifeguards reported having direct interaction with 51,982 beach goers
educating them on the flag warning system and dangers of rip currents.
Budget: The WCTDC had a total marketing budget of
$155,000 for collateral, ads and promotional items and $460,000 for
lifeguards. With approx. 2.5 million visitors, this investment equates
to 24 cents per visitor.