No sooner had Mark Bellinger taken on the job of executive director of Okaloosa County’s Tourist Development Council when the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill veered his TDC management plans in a whole new direction.
"We had our hands full with crisis communications and public relations," he said. "We had to get the word out that we were open for business, and we had to do it visually. At the time, we were running low on inventory for the Emerald Coast Visitors Guide. We had to decide: do we want to reprint what we have, or do we even think about publishing an entirely new book?"
Compass Media produced all aspects of the guide the year before, so Bellinger decided to proceed with the initial meeting.
"I showed Compass the guides I had done in the past, and they quickly learned my personality," he said. "They understood my preferences in terms of quality and also my vision of where I wanted to take that guide in the future."
Bellinger's next step would be to meet with the graphic designer." I didn't have time to micromanage it," he said. "I figured if I am comfortable with the designer as I was with the content and production team, I want Compass to just do it. After all, they know the destination. My only requirements were that I wanted extreme high quality production and photography, and I wanted to see Compass push the envelope and take it to something innovative and progressive. If I am going to put one out, I thought, let's make it a coffee table book."
The graphic designer traveled to Bellinger's office for a short meeting. "All I said was 'more photography and less copy.' Days later, she came back with three different, excellent design concepts, all professionally presented on boards. The TDC unanimously chose one, and I then left the guide in Compass Media's hands, 100 percent."
Bellinger said that conversations and meetings were necessarily short and few, and Compass Media simply ran with it, making at least 90 percent of the creative decisions, and even overseeing the printing and press check processes Bellinger said he would normally oversee himself. "Considering the circumstances of my dealing with national media and the community, I needed someone like Compass at that time," he said. "They were right on the money. They accomplished everything promptly, and handled the design, production and delivery perfectly. It was a turnkey production. "
Smooth, easy-going, efficient and enjoyable are how he describes the experience "It was an extreme pleasure to work with Compass."
And the results? "Not only haven't I heard one negative from anyone about the visitors guide, people are proud to show it off, and business owners beg us to let them use it at their own businesses," he said.
The Emerald Coast Visitors Guide won the 2011 Emerald Coast Advertising Foundation ADDY award for Best Magazine Design.
Said Bellinger: "All in all, job well done!"