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Local marketing, PR effort might not be enough
September 12, 2018

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To the editor:

I would like to commend the Sanibel Chamber of Commerce and the Southwest Florida marketing and public relations professionals who have launched a campaign to "share positive aspects about the region on social media in response to the ongoing water quality issues." This is a laudable effort and should continue. I fear, however it might not be sufficient to counter the "tide" of negative press about the impact of red ride and green slime that has so negatively impacted all of Southwest Florida. The news of dead fish - turtles, birds, manatees, whales - coupled with a vile choking smell on our once pristine beaches has spread worldwide. I have received numerous inquires and concerned comments from friends from Seattle to Europe to Latin America. I'm afraid merely a localized marketing and PR effort on social media while helpful will not be enough.

I headed for over 17 years the economic development agency for Miami Dade County. Our mission was to promote the business assets of Miami Dade County worldwide. We often had challenges to project a positive message. This was especially true after we would be impacted by hurricanes. It was often necessary to mount aggressive campaigns to insure and reinforce that we were OK - and "open for business." While we had excellent local professionals, we often found it necessary in addition to local efforts that we needed to expand our efforts by engaging top national PR firms in New York City,where the media we were trying to reach were located. We knew we needed to engage with firms that had the access and contacts with both national and international media. Many of these firms specialize in crisis management representing locales after major events like floods, fires, hurricanes and tornadoes. We often used Development Councilors Inc., but there are other firms to consider as well.

Southwest Florida has been hit with a "Water Quality Hurricane." The negative impacts on our region has been obvious - our restaurants, retail establishments, hotels, rentals, fishing industry, et cetera - have all been adversely impacted. If Southwest Florida is to insulate the economy from being adversely impacted this upcoming season the affected counties and communities along with the state must band together to insure that accurate yet positive messages are getting out worldwide via national and international media.

I strongly recommend that the several most impacted counties of Southwest Florida band together along with VISIT Florida to move immediately to mount an aggressive and professional integrated marketing and public relations campaign. This campaign should not only stress tourism but our business assets as well. No company will wish to locate in Southwest Florida if the quality of life is of concern. Our property values and subsequent sales and property tax collections could also be adversity impacted. We have a small window of opportunity to act as folks are already making their plans for the coming season.

These campaigns are expensive and clearly not affordable by small independent communities like Sanibel. That is why the private and public sector leadership of our region must come together along with state resources and financial support from other communities and counties adversely impacted by the current scourge of red tide and green slime!

As well intentioned a local social media campaign may be, we all know where the road of good intentions may lead. It's time to band together for the common good of Southwest Florida!

Frank Nero

Sanibel

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