Courting high tech industry to take root in Central Florida has been a longstanding effort. Established in 1996, the Florida High Tech Corridor Council spearheads a unified approach based on a partnership developed by former University of Central Florida (UCF) President John Hitt in collaboration with then-President Betty Castor of the University of South Florida (USF). Since then, the University of Florida (UF) has joined The Corridor to create a 23-county regional economic development initiative with a mission to grow high tech industry and innovation.
Marketing is key to raising general awareness of the region’s high-tech activity in and outside of Florida. Media monitoring to track most recognized regions, direct outreach to site selection consultants and corporate facilities executives, and assessment of the growth of tech clusters in regions around the country has shown the need to position The Corridor in a more focused manner to compete with identified competitor regions in New York (Silicon Alley), California (Silicon Valley), Texas (Silicon Hills) and North Carolina (Research Triangle). Curley & Pynn has worked with The Corridor Council since 1996 on an integrated marketing approach, including but not limited to media relations, printed publications, social media, email marketing, video, special events and internal communications.
The Strategic Firm® Approach
In 2016, we saw The Corridor Council’s 20th anniversary as an opportunity to reinvigorate efforts to increase awareness of The Corridor region among businesses, and research and government leaders.
Specific objectives for the year were defined as:
- Fifty stories in Florida publications mentioning The Corridor and one story outside of Florida by January 1, 2017;
- Distribution of 11,000 printed publications that assist economic development organizations in sharing the story of high tech industry growth by January 1, 2017;
- An open rate of at least 35 percent on an email monthly update for internal audiences;
- An open rate of at least 15 percent on an email monthly update for external audiences;
- Maintaining an informative website and a 10 percent visitor increase over 2015; and,
- An event within the region by January 1, 2017, advancing high tech industry and attracting at least 100 influencers in business and government. Internal audiences include The Corridor Council (board of directors) and Core Team (secondary board).
Year-long media relations efforts were anchored by outreach to a core group of local reporters with whom we stayed in touch regularly. Curley & Pynn also built relationships with reporters at national publications for potential coverage. News hooks throughout the year included new appointments to The Corridor Council and the announcement of 12 high-tech industry professionals who had been selected as The Corridor’s “Faces of Technology.”
Curley & Pynn also produced an editorial-style magazine and annual report in printed and digital formats, managing all editorial development and creative direction.
Corridor news and accolades were also shared monthly with members of The Corridor Council and its “Core Team,” a group of 150 regional influencers who champion high tech growth. Additionally, Curley & Pynn shared regional high-tech economic development news in a monthly e-newsletter distributed to over 3,000 subscribers. We also maintained The Corridor’s website with updated news, regular publications and social media, and consistently included calls to action in our marketing collateral for recipients to visit FloridaHighTech.com to learn more and connect.
Finally, we revived an event in 2016 which brings together career placement professionals from the nation’s top universities and local business representatives to discuss talent needs and help place top graduates from around the country. Billed as Career Expo, the event began in 2007, but went on hiatus during the Great Recession. Planning and recruitment for Career Expo started in mid-2015, and it took place February 24-26, 2016, in Orlando. Curley & Pynn was charged with communications and marketing, including media relations, recruitment, collateral and day-of assistance.
Media relations efforts throughout the year led to more than 50 stories published that mentioned The Corridor from publications including the Orlando Sentinel, Tampa Bay Times, Daytona Beach News-Journal, WMFE and others. The Corridor was also mentioned in Washington, D.C.’s The Hill, a publication important in educating Congress on this growing high-tech region.
The magazine and annual report, florida.HIGH.TECH 2016, was used as a marketing tool by partners tabling at the Florida Economic Development Conference, I/ITSEC, IEEE Sensors 2016 and many more events. All but 409 copies of 11,000 printed were distributed and digital impressions totaled 29,397 unique visitors.
The Corridor Council’s Communique e-newsletter surpassed our objective, with an average open rate of 37 percent, and the monthly e-newsletter achieved our objective, with an open rate of 15 percent. Additionally, the website received 24,233 visitors in 2016 vs. 20,680 visitors in 2015, earning an increase of 20 percent and surpassing our 10 percent objective.
Finally, Career Expo attracted 130 attendees from local high-tech businesses and the nation’s universities to discuss placing graduates in Florida jobs, many of whom developed relationships to receive applications from qualified candidates shortly after the conference, as was the case between Maitland’s EA SPORTS and Hofstra.
This integrated marketing program was recognized with a Radiance Award from the Public Relations Society of America’s Sunshine District and an Image Award from the Florida Public Relations Association’s Orlando-Area Chapter.