REGIONAL FOCUS: FLORIDA - Shifting sands in Florida. As vacationerscontinue to bail out on the Sunshine State, PR firms are now lookingbeyond the tourism industry for fresh clients. Robin Londner reports

The land of fun and sun, splash and tickle, theme parks and beach

resorts has been slapped in the face by the national tourism falloff

following September 11.



As of early October, Florida tourism was down 40% compared to the year

before, according to Visit Florida, the state's tourism marketing

company - that roughly translates to a $364 million loss. In a

usual year, 48% of the state's sales tax is raised from tourists. Of

course, 2001 has not been a usual year.



PR agencies across the state, long used to representing hotels, cruise

lines, and attractions, have found themselves in a new marketplace where

many tourist-dependent clients are pulling back their activities. For

example, the Miami Seaquarium had used an outside agency for as long as

PR manager Maritza Arceo can remember. Agency of record Citigate

Communications Miami went out of business in August, and Arceo says she

called off her search for a replacement shortly after the economic

effects of September 11 took hold. She says she doesn't know when she'll

hire another agency.



As with many other regions, diversification is key to survival. Seth

Gordon, managing partner of GDP & Partners, and a longtime Miami PR

fixture, shifted the focus of his agency over a year ago from technology

to telecommunications.



Once that dried up a few months ago, he decided to get into what he now

laughingly describes as "a stable area like tourism." He says he was in

discussions with several prospective clients when the sector became

chaotic.



Building blocks



Now Gordon is shifting his attention to South Florida's new promise of a

secure industry: real estate. Figures for the industry's economic impact

are hard to come by, but an article in The Miami Herald stated that more

than $5.5 billion in real estate construction loans were made in

2000 in South Florida - $700 million more than in '99.



"Real estate clients are stable," says Gordon, who counts One Miami,

Bermello Ajamil Partners, and Summit Properties as clients. "Once you

become part of an individual project, from the earliest stages where you

announce, you're involved for two, three, four years. You have a

marketing budget, you know what you're doing in advance, and it has a

great deal of predictability to it."



Israel Kreps, president of Kreps/DeMaria/Treister Public Relations,

agrees. In keeping with prior years, he expects real estate to account

for one half of his agency's 2001 revenues of $1.45 million. He

says the excesses of the industry were curtailed by September 11, which

has resulted in a more balanced marketing approach. For example, the

agency had been on an 18-month hiatus with three-year client West Brooke

Communities.



West Brooke restarted its PR when sales traffic slowed to a normal

pace.



Similarly, 14-year client, realtor Esslinger Wooten Maxwell (EWM), has

increased its PR budget since September 11.



"In real estate in particular, perception is reality," says Kreps. "If

enough people say the sky is falling, the sky is falling. Our clients

want to send out clear information."



Andrea Greenberg, chief marketing director of Miami-based development

and marketing real estate company Fortune International, explains that

the clear information Kreps is talking about doesn't come cheap. The

company currently has eight projects, six of which use a PR agency. The

in-house staff of three is also kept busy with events that can cost into

the six digits.



"Luxury lifestyle views - high-rise residential living - remains, and

always will be appealing in this market," says Greenberg. "Because of

that, we want to make a big marketing statement, and that includes

PR."



Struggling to stay in the sunshine



South Florida has seen some high-profile comings and goings of late.

After five years as a Weber Shandwick Worldwide affiliate, Weber RBB has

returned to independent status, but as a WSW partner. And back in March,

New York-based Harrison & Shriftman opened a Miami office, while both

Hill & Knowlton and the aforementioned Citigate shuttered their South

Florida outposts, contributing to the area's lack of mega-agency muscle

and the subsequent proliferation of independents and boutiques.



Most firms in this region perform some level of Spanish-language

communications due to the region's large Hispanic population and its

proximity to Latin America. But in the central part of the state,

there's a different story: Agencies are struggling even more than their

Miami cousins.



Frank Stansberry, a PR professor at the University of Central Florida in

Orlando, says that there really is no other industry but tourism in that

area.



"The PR market here is slowly drying up," he says. "I don't think I've

ever seen a problem of this magnitude industry-wide. Agencies that do

projects and short-term work are seeing those budgets being cut back to

nothing. They're hard-pressed to pay their overhead."



The big kahuna in town is Disney World. The theme park is Orlando's

number-one employer, with 55,000 workers, according to the Economic

Development Council of Mid-Florida (EDCMF) - a lifeline for the region's

PR industry, you might think. But spokesman Rick Sylvain says Disney

does not use a local agency.



One industry that is seeing a climb in business is defense, but

Orlando's contractors do not use outside agencies at all. The three

Orlando facilities of Lockheed Martin are home to 6,500 employees, but

Lockheed, which was recently awarded a military procurement contract

worth $19 billion, according to the Orlando Sentinel, employs 15

PR staffers. And Carlton Caldwell, the company's information systems

communications director, says that security concerns prevent Lockheed

from hiring a local agency. "When you're in the defense industry," says

Caldwell, "outside people can't have access to your facilities and

programs."



Looking beyond the peninsula



Agencies hopeful for the future are being forced to look outside Central

Florida for clients, and often outside of the state altogether.



Yesawich, Pepperdine & Brown, one of the region's larger agencies, was

until recently completely reliant on travel and tourism. "We've

obviously had to do some adjusting," says SVP of PR Rod Caborn. The

agency has moved into promotions and events to drum up business for

clients, virtually all of whom are outside the state.



In North Florida, Carrie Zimmerman, president of Tallahassee-based The

Zimmerman Agency, makes the case for tourism PR, which comprises 80% of

the agency's revenues. She says clients including airline caterer Sky

Chefs, hotel management company Six Continents, and Diner's Club have

all bumped up PR budgets by 30% since September 11. According to

Zimmerman, the agency is doing continual consumer and business travel

polls, and is helping clients develop cobranding initiatives to

stimulate traveler interest. She cites an Emerald Coast partnership with

Crayola as an example.



"Linking the travel industry with something that's not in travel adds a

level of security and credibility," says Zimmerman, "and the Emerald

Coast is a very family- and children-oriented destination. To me, this

is an exciting time for PR; it gives us an opportunity as an industry to

show the true value PR can bring to a brand and to increasing revenues

when people really need it."



However, in Jacksonville, one of the few parts of Florida where the

tourism drop-off has had little affect on PR, Del Galloway, COO and EVP

of the PR arm of Husk Jennings Advertising, says his agency still found

the need to reach outside the US for clients. Last year, 10% of the

agency's clients were international. This year, they will account for up

to 40%. The reason is the slowdown in the once-strong telecoms

market.



"Increasingly, offshore organizations want to do business in the US,"

says Galloway. "We, by design, have been deliberate in talking to those

folks." The agency counts among its clients a Belgium-based manufacturer

of soy foods and a German trade show and special-events company.

"There's an initial bump in expense as you're establishing the

relationship, but through the beauty of technology, you can do a lot

electronically," says Galloway.



But, as in the south, some agencies in North Florida say real estate is

the best bet for the state once defined by 1920s land scams. Gail

Stansberry-Ziffer, VP of PR for three-person Ziffer Marketing &

Communication Consultants in Tallahassee, represents the St. Joe

Company, the largest private landowner in Florida. She says that

managing a small firm with just 24 clients means she will only invest

time in certain, surefire industries.



"We haven't had any cutback whatsoever since September 11," says

Stansberry-Ziffer, who counts law firms and real-estate interests among

key clients.



"Three to four years ago, we made a real effort to get away from

industries that would be susceptible to economic downturns. So far,

we've been really successful at that."



FLORIDA PR AGENCIES

Rank Firm Name Revenue Increase Staff Location

2000 (dollars) (%)

2000

1 Burson-Marsteller 7,983,000 48 67 Miami

2 Weber Shandwick

Worldwide 4,861,303 13 51 Miami

3 Fleishman-Hillard 4,625,000 33 36 Miami

4 The Jeffrey Group 3,250,000 76 26 Miami

5 Thorp & Company 2,611,819 79 22 Coral Gables

6 Pantin/JGR/ Public

Relations 2,510,263 193 18 Miami

7 Porter Novelli Intl 2,471,000 170 24 Ft. Lauderdale

8 The Nixon Group 2,425,758 29 26 Miami

9 Edelman 2,395,830 24 18 Miami

10 TransMedia Group 1,200,000 -20 12 Boca Raton

11 O'Connell & Goldberg 1,181,000 23 15 Hollywood

12 Public Communications 963,352 -41 9 Tampa

13 Everett Clay Associates 732,192 10 N/A Miami

14 Cramer-Krasselt 610,000 8 6 Orlando

15 The Nixon Group 585,083 162 6 Tallahassee

16 BSMG Worldwide 504,018 16 4 Florida

17 GCI Group/APCO Assoc 370,082 N/A 3 Jacksonville

18 Ziffer Marketing

& Comms 284,394 103 4 Tallahassee

19 Nann Miller Enterprises 100,000 43 2 Singer Island

Source: Council of PR Firms Auditing: No audit was required for

inclusion in the rankings. The CEO/CFO/principal was required to sign a

statement verifying the accuracy of the data and agreeing to possible

participation in a random audit. Disclaimer: While every effort has been

made to ensure the accuracy of these figures, PRWeek cannot accept

liability for, nor make financial guarantees based upon the information

in this chart.



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