From Daytona Beach News-Journal

April 7, 2012
By Aaron London, Staff Writer

Apparently you can judge a book by its cover — at least when it comes to telephone directories.

That’s the case for the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce & Affiliates. The 2012 Flagler County Chamber Phone Book recently took top national honors from the Association of Directory Publishers for it cover design.

Chamber President Doug Baxter said the credit for the award goes to graphic designer James Gonzalez and Heather Edwards, director of enrollment and advertising.

“We have our own staff that did it all,” Baxter said. “Chambers of commerce don’t win these things; we’re just a small fish in a huge pond.”

Baxter said the chamber is “very excited” about the award.

“It’s something that we are very proud of and I couldn’t be more proud of our staff,” he said.

In addition to taking first place for excellence in print cover design and art, the chamber directory came in third place overall in the “Excellence in Print Directories” category for publications of between 25,001 and 50,000 copies.

While the chamber has put out a phone book annually for more than 20 years, it was only in 2007 that the organization took over responsibility for producing the directory.

The product has proven to be popular — and profitable — for the business group.

“We go through 100 a week in our lobby,” Baxter said. “We’ve gone through close to 400 of them in the Government Services Building and it only came out in January.”

For the chamber, the phone book is more than merely another tool to help members market and advertise their businesses. It also gives the chamber first-hand experience with the state of the local economy. That makes them an even better advocate for the business community, Baxter said.

“We’ve gone through the recession with all the other businesses in Flagler County,” he said. “We’ve had to do what all businesses have to do in regards to budgets.”

Baxter said the chamber generates only a quarter of its revenue from membership dues. The rest comes from other sources, including the phone book.

In a chamber news release, Edwards said the concept for the winning design was unusual.

“From a design standpoint, the cover was a real departure from traditional visual depictions of our community,” she said in the release. “We chose, instead, to illustrate key words people use when searching a telephone directory.”

In an interview with The News-Tribune, Edwards said the recognition “speaks volumes to what we’re trying to convey” with the cover design.

Talking about his inspiration for the cover design, Gonzalez said he begins by brainstorming on the computer with an eye to finding something that captures the imagination and projects a positive image.

“I think it’s important for us to stand apart from our competitors,” he said.

Edwards said the cover has to “grab the attention” of readers.

With the award under their belts and copies of the 2012 directory flying off the shelves, Edwards, Gonzalez and other chamber staffers aren’t sitting on their laurels. They’re working on the 2013 edition.

“We’re just starting to begin the sales cycle,” Edwards said.

As for what’s in store for the 2013 cover, she said that’s in the works.

“It takes a couple of months to try and nail down what we’re wanting as the message,” Edwards said.

Chamber Chairman Garry Lubi said the phone book gives the chamber another way to serve its members.

“By having the phone book it creates another opportunity for us to go out and talk to our customers, who are also our members,” he said. “At the end of the day, that’s why we’re here — to serve our members.”

Asked about the national recognition the phone book has garnered, Lubi broke into a broad grin.

“It’s really cool, actually,” he said.