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More on Combatting the Jim Cantore Effect

Friday, October 29, 2004

I had the honor of being on the Annual Meeting program for the Florida Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus last month. As you might expect, the stories being shared ranged from utter frustration to cautious optimism...with the occasional tale of looking a hurricane in the eye.

Pensacola’s Ed Schroeder did just that, riding out Ivan in his home, listening to the nails holding the shingles to his roof pop out of their seats...as his Bureau’s offices were being virtually destroyed by the winds. But Ed’s spirit (not unlike that of his community) was far from broken, exemplified by the new logo that is accompanying their public relations efforts to counter the “Jim Cantore effect.”

Because, when the Weather Channel, CNN, MSNBC, et. al. are through with their moronic practice of standing a talking head out in hurricane force winds...it’s the last image with which we are left.

As they move on to other disasters, we remember only the destruction...because it’s the last image we see. And that image stays with us...even as the destination comes back stronger and better than ever.

Indeed, one of the long-term effects of the hurricanes that crisscrossed Florida this year is the lasting impression that Hurricane Season is always like this. While nothing could be further from the truth, there is growing concern in the Sunshine State that meeting planners will be avoiding Florida during the next few Hurricane Seasons because they fear a repeat performance by Mother Nature. While few conventions were actually impacted by the storms, hundreds of planners may choose to play it safe and take meetings elsewhere...extending the damage of Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne beyond their physical impact.

The chances of Florida enduring another 4-Hurricane onslaught next year are 100-1...but perception is reality. Which is why the Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB is giving away space in August and September for the next two years at the Broward County Convention Center to any group willing to book 600 hotel rooms on the peak night of its event. Bureau President Nicki Grossman said, "this is not a trivial offer. This is a major incentive that we think needs to be there." What’s even more amazing is that Ft. Lauderdale was virtually untouched by severe weather this year.

Nicki’s team is also unleashing cutting edge graphics and placement to counter the impression that Florida is closed for business. In their new campaign, a bikini-clad woman stands provocatively with her belly button acting as the ''O'' in ''Sunny.org” (the Bureau’s URL). In another ad, a shirtless man stands with his thumb in his swimsuit, his nipple ring occupying the same spot in the website address.

It’s out there. But, Nicki says it has to be to capture people’s attention. And, looking ahead to next year, she says that the Bureau will redirect its focus to a younger, more diverse audience that surfs the Internet to book travel. And, one that doesn’t fear hurricanes like their traditional customers might.

For many impacted destinations, worrying about future business is a luxury. They’re focused on the here and now. And the Lee County VCB is targeting locals with their new campaign. The rationale: locals will be more understanding (and appreciative of the level of recovery) than skeptical consumers that watch too much 24-hour news. And, if the locals witness the incredible recovery on the beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel, they’ll tell their friends (who’ll tell their friends who’ll tell their friends that the beaches are back).

Cutting edge ideas and tactics that not only show the brilliance of Florida’s CVBs, but their resilience as well. Thanks, FACVB, for the opportunity to join you and share some of your stories.

Here’s hoping there are no more tricks before you...and only treats as you develop a destination that is better than ever.

11/16/2004

In the ongoing saga of Florida CVB’s turning to unique approaches in an effort to counter the “Jim Cantore Effect” (chronicled in our last post), Sarasota’s Virginia Haley is resorting to a tried but true tactic…word of mouth.

Even though Sarasota was spared during the historic 4 ‘cane attack, national media coverage left many outside of Florida believing that the entire State was boarded up. So, Virginia’s Bureau launched a campaign to encourage residents to forward an e-mail (available on the CVB site) to all their friends and relatives. From coverage on Tampa Bay’s 10TV to a gathering of community leaders (during which County Commissioners demonstrated how easy it was to send the e-invitations), the CVB resonated with the community and the consumer in one very cool move. You can see the e-mail (and send it to your friends if you like) at sarasotafl.org/charming.

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