By Brenda Eubanks Burnette
This year, John Fuller, the new global marketing manager for the Florida Department of Citrus (FDOC), and Matt Joyner, executive vice president/chief executive officer of Florida Citrus Mutual, served on the panel of judges for the Miss Florida Citrus/Miss Winter Haven Competition. It was interesting to introduce them both to this iconic, grassroots promotional program that has been part of the industry since 1924 and to get their feedback on the competition. In these days, when resources are slim, the adage of “a picture is worth a thousand words” translates into “What pictures do the public want to take and post on their social media platform, and how can we maximize that image for the Florida citrus industry?”
Although many may think a crown is passe, the reality is that people still want to take photos with anything close to a celebrity, and a crown is always in that realm. When the FDOC had sales teams, it was normal to bring Miss Florida Citrus — and her crown — into major markets for tours that included grocery stores, restaurants, schools, hospitals and, of course, the media. These industry representatives have rubbed shoulders and been photographed with celebrities and have appeared on major television and radio shows. They’ve given numerous newspaper interviews, citrus recipe demonstrations, school presentations and in-store visits, while visiting countless special events, parades, ribbon-cuttings and more — all to promote images of the Florida citrus industry.
In today’s social media stratosphere, if we did the promotional programs we used to do in the past, imagine the reach we could gain — and at a fraction of the cost!
When I went to Japan in 1982 as a Florida Citrus Queen, I made the mistake of hugging the Japanese representative of the Seibu Lions baseball team on national TV and giving him a kiss on the cheek. It was a truly Southern thing for me, a native Floridian, to do. However, it was a sensational thing to do in Japan at that time, and it made every newspaper in the nation. Don Lins, general manager of Seald-Sweet at the time, told me sales increased 5% to 10% while I was there due to all of the media attention we received from the promotional programs. He asked me what I did that was different. The kiss was the only thing I could think of, because I had to do two pictures from then on with everyone we visited — one of the group and one of me kissing the cheek of the head executive!
A few of the many Miss Florida Citrus/Florida Citrus Queen promotional photos from the past are included on this page. If you have similar photos, please send them to me so we can use them next year during the program’s centennial celebration! And next time you plan an event, reach out and include Miss Florida Citrus in your programming plans, because you never know just how far one photo will take you!
Brenda Eubanks Burnette is executive director of the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame. Pieces of the Past is presented in partnership with Florida Southern College’s McKay Archives Center in Lakeland.
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