Beyond the usual business

The Sunshine State is brimming with plenty of opportunities for PR pros in a number of different industries.

While many may think that PR opportunities in Florida are limited to travel and tourism clients, the state is actually vibrant in many other areas, including multicultural, healthcare, public affairs, b-to-b, and technology.

Agency Life
Jorge Ortega, president of the Jeffrey Group, notes that agencies in the state emphasize certain practice areas by region. For example, South Florida firms focus strongly on multicultural; Central Florida, travel and tourism; and Northern Florida, public affairs.

Florida agencies often work with local and in-state clients, particularly due to the large number of midsize entrepreneurial b-to-b companies in Florida, says Christine Barney, CEO of rbb Public Relations. But these companies often expand, leading to more national or global work for the agency.

“They are looking to Florida as their base, but [also] looking out to the [entire] US, Latin America, and [the rest of the world] to do their business as well,” she says.

Michelle Ubben, CEO at Ron Sachs Communications, says that Florida's location lends its agencies to do a lot of work with Latin American clients.

“You see Florida in particular as being an important hub for communication throughout the hemisphere,” she notes.

Due to Florida's diverse population, multicultural PR has become mainstream. Barney says that most of rbb's clients, from Starbucks to Blue Cross Blue Shield, involve some multicultural element.

“It... becomes part of what you have to be able to provide and… understand, in order to serve your client,” she says.

Reacting to the shrinking traditional news market in Florida, PR agencies across the state have also begun adding more new media tactics to their campaigns.

“There's been a huge shift from... traditional media outreach, and the lines have become... more blurred,” says Melanie Vigliotti, VP at the Zimmerman Agency. “I think there [are many] opportunities with the social media that are out there.”

Corporate Center
Many companies, including Ryder and Burger King, have global corporate headquarters in Florida – and many call upon local agencies for PR support, Ortega says.

Western Union is based in Denver, but also operates out of Florida's Brevard County, so the Jeffrey Group works with them in both locations. Ortega says it isn't uncommon for Florida agencies to work with corporate clients based in other states.

The Florida Department of Health hired the Zimmerman Agency to work on its “Tobacco Free Florida” campaign, which includes a significant social media component.

DHL, whose US corporate headquarters are located in Plantation, uses an in-house PR team for much of its media relations and community outreach work in the state, says Jonathan Baker, DHL's senior director of corporate communications and public affairs.

In addition, “all of the crisis work, whether that be specific to Florida or elsewhere in the country, is handled internally,” he continues.

The company's AOR is a multinational agency. It also uses some other agencies, based in the New York area, for other work, including corporate citizenship, trade media relations, and sports-related PR, Baker explains.

AXIA, a Jacksonville-based agency whose clients include such Fortune 500 companies as Verizon, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and MPS Group, often works with companies that want to increase their profile in the media, says CEO Jason Mudd. Though the work is sometimes conducted solely by the agency, it also works with corporate PR teams.

Floridians increasingly demand corporate transparency in the current tough economy, as the state was hit hard by the mortgage crisis. In response, companies are beginning to realize how PR can help forge positive relationships with these consumers, Mudd notes.

“They are looking toward outside firms to give them a little more of an endorsement versus being an insider [with] something to gain by communicating the corporate line,” he says.

A Changing Media Scene
When Florida's real estate market soured – and an economic squeeze followed – its media were affected along with its residents. The Orlando Sentinel, the Tallahassee Democrat, the Palm Beach Post, and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel are among the newspapers that have cut newsroom staff, and others have implemented more online and digital reporting tactics.

Many Florida papers are experiencing “ongoing woes [while] trying to find their place” in the emerging new media landscape, says Jeff Zbar, a freelance writer in Florida who authors a marketing column for the South Florida Business Journal.

TV station duopolies – agreements through which two outlets share news operations in a specific market – are on the rise in the state as news outlets search for ways to operate more efficiently. Some joint news teams include WJXX-ABC 25 and WTLV-NBC 12 in Jacksonville, and NBC 6 and Telemundo 51 in South Florida. Also in South Florida, WPLG-ABC 10 is in the process of buying WTVJ-NBC 6.

Barney explains that this concept, which means that agencies pitch one director for coverage on two stations, isn't necessarily a good or bad thing for PR – but it is important to recognize.

Multicultural remains a strong news focus and growth area in the Florida media, particularly South Florida. There are several bilingual and Spanish language publications, as well as Hispanic-focused publications in English.

“We see some strong growth... across the market for the multicultural segment,” Zbar says.

Zbar notes that niche publications are performing particularly well in Florida. Poder, for example, is a magazine produced by Page One Media that targets male and female Hispanic executives and business leaders, rather than just focusing on Hispanics in general.

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