The writers have arrived.
Invited by Tourist Development Council executive director Jennifer Jenkins, 12 writers from various U.S. publications are spending the week in Gulf County to experience the outdoor playground firsthand.
The guided vacation comes as stage three for Jenkins’ marketing plans.
Previously, the TDC had set its sights on paid and shared media with a heavy focus on spreading the word of Gulf County through social media. With a goal to reach 10,000 Facebook fans for Gulf County in 2014, the number has surpassed 11,000 just four months into the year.
In preparation for the “earned media” push, Jenkins embarked on several missions throughout December and January to network with representatives from magazines and television stations.
While attending meet-and-greets in Birmingham, A.L. and New York City, Jenkins championed Gulf County invited interested parties to experience the area.
From Wednesday through Sunday, 12 journalists, bloggers, producers and editors from as far away as Phoenix, A.Z. and New York City will enjoy a five-day stay to feature excursions plucked directly from the pages of the Gulf County Visitor’s Guide.
“Our goal is to have them experience Gulf County in a way that’s authentic and true,” said Jenkins. “We want them to fall in love with it the way we know they will.”
The packed itinerary will begin on Thursday when the journalists head to the north end of the county where they’ll travel by boat up the Intracoastal Waterway to Lake Wimico, dock at White City, and see Wewahitchka’s Dead Lakes and apiaries where Tupelo Honey harvesting will be in full swing.
Jenkins said she purposely scheduled the visit to coincide with the Tupelo harvest.
“These are things that you don’t see anywhere else,” said Jenkins.
The following day will be spent touring Cape San Blas as the guests spend time exploring the St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, before an afternoon of paddle boarding, horseback riding and kayaking.
On Saturday, the writers will go on a fishing tour and experience a “cook your own catch” dinner, a popular way to get fresh, local seafood in area restaurants.
Depending on the target interests of their respective publications, some writers will go on to visit Raffield Fisheries in Port St. Joe while others will enjoy local shopping on Reid Avenue.
Jenkins said that the rise of blogging has created many online columnists with a large circle of influence.
Her goal is to welcome those writers to the area twice a year for the next few years in hopes that with each visit, those helping to spread the word of Gulf County will extend far beyond locals and TDC efforts.
Jenkins said the event wouldn’t have been possible without the TDC partners donating their time, venues, boats and expertise to the cause.
“We want to show these writers what our interests are,” said Jenkins. “We want them to eat local food and make friends.
“Before they leave, they’ll be Champions of Sunsets, too.”