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Logo touts area's 'heart, soul'

The county's tourist council, working with a public relations firm, comes up with a new ad slogan that calls Citrus "the heart of Florida."

By BARBARA BEHRENDT, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 16, 2003

LECANTO -- Whether the image is a familiar Winslow Homer painting of cabbage palms and sawgrass or a closeup photograph of a pudgy, friendly manatee, there are certain things that, to locals, perfectly typify Citrus County.

Now the county's Tourist Development Council, working with an outside public relations agency, is promoting a design and logo that is supposed to make outsiders immediately think of Citrus.

New print ads will start popping up in various publications this month. Depending on where they appear, they may be designed to attract the eco-tourist or the meeting planner, the avid golfer or the bird watcher, to Citrus.

But all the ads will have something in common: the same distinctive design and logo.

The logo designed and accepted by the council is heart-shaped and features a manatee, the Historic Courthouse and a heron in flight.

The slogan: "In the heart of Florida, you'll find its soul." It replaces the former slogan: "Mother Nature's Theme Park."

The logo and slogan are indicative of the tourism council's new approach.

For the past few years, the council's tourism development efforts involved a print advertising campaign, which cost $103,000 last year.

The council also hired Geiger & Associates from Tallahassee to direct a public relations campaign aimed at placing positive stories about Citrus in magazines, newspapers and Web sites. That campaign cost $72,500 per year.

To pay for the campaigns, the council used proceeds from the county's tourist tax, which is a 3 percent levy on short-term lodging.

Several months ago, the council bypassed those companies and instead hired Gold & Associates, a Ponte Vedra Beach-based company that promised to create one cohesive marketing plan.

With the switch in firms comes a move away from the previous emphasis on placing positive travel articles, although that approach was successful: It generated $5 worth of publicity for every $1 the county spent. (The calculation is based on what the county, if buying advertising space, would have to pay to get the same amount of space covered by pro-Citrus travel articles.)

While such positive press from publications ranging from Southern Living and Better Homes and Gardens and various newspapers would still be welcome, the new firm mostly wants to drive home Citrus County's identity by creating an advertising campaign that makes the destination recognizable and attractive.

The firm conducted research and found large untapped sources of visitors in Atlanta, Jacksonville and Orlando. In those areas were plenty of people looking for the right kind of place to visit to enjoy the activities that Citrus County offers. So that is where much of the campaign will be concentrated.

The ads will show the same familiar scenes of manatees, waterways, golf courses, resorts and wildlife because those are the hallmarks of the area.

"We're going to be showing the same product but with different marketing," said Mary Craven, tourism development manager for the county. "It's identity, identity. We are just getting the name out there together with nature-based tourism."

All the ads will direct viewers back to a new Web page where tourists can tune into exactly the kinds of activities that interest them. For the meeting planner, for example, there will be a section that details everything they need to know about resorts, lodging, meeting rooms and area activities.

Eco-tourists, golfers and those who want to swim with manatees will find the information they need, as well.

The Web page will link to other interesting county sites, including the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce Web site, but it will stand alone offering much more information about specific resources visitors need.

Craven said she is excited about the new campaign.

"They have a very comprehensive approach and professional execution," she said of Gold.

Craven said the efforts will be to attract the kind of people who will know the value of what they're seeing in Citrus' natural places. "We want people who will have a respect for the environment, a respect for our product," she said.

The county's tourism development officials are especially interested in marketing what Citrus has to offer for group tours of all sorts, but mostly group tours that could take place during the middle of the week and off-season, when even Citrus County's limited number of available lodging spaces have room for more guests.

What about stifling summer heat during the off season?

Using her best marketing style, Craven just smiled.

"It's a much more temperate climate than some of the southeast United States," she said. "It's balmy."

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