Coastal Lifestyle’s 20th Anniversary
Publisher Mitch Roberts reflects on his family, career, and the longevity of the Lifestyle publication as we celebrate Coastal Lifestyle’s 20th Anniversary.
When Maryland native, Mitch Roberts, found himself as a single father and primary caregiver to his two young children, he knew punching a clock would never cut it. He wanted a career that could support him and his children while allowing him to remain emotionally and physically available to fill multiple roles in their lives. He knew his career also had to provide him with a sense of accomplishment and pride, while also contributing to the Gulf Coast community where he felt most at home.
Call it kismet. Initially, Roberts was a partner in a local bulk mailer business, which was perfect for his long-standing history in sales, marketing, and advertising. What was once a perfect fit, however, no longer satiated Robert’s desire to build a legacy for his children. Enter fate. This is when an advertisement to buy into a home design magazine franchise came through his agency for bulk mailing.
As a self-made entrepreneur at the age of 10, Roberts knew that a well-executed vision sets successful businesses apart. After careful research, he knew that although the franchise was not a good fit for a small beach community, the local community did not have a magazine dedicated to the opulence of Gulf Coast living. Thus the release of Emerald Coast Home Design, a publication dedicated solely to home design and decor. According to Roberts, “My goal was to produce a better magazine with each release.” On Coastal Lifestyle’s 20th Anniversary, Roberts will have published one hundred and twenty editions.
Upon initial publication, market research returned interesting results. Although the magazine encompassed Orange Beach to Destin, Alabama advertisers were unhappy with the reference to “Emerald Coast” as that was indicative of the beaches closer to Destin. After further consideration, Roberts rebranded the magazine and released the publication as Southern Coast Home Design. The magazine continued to focus on home décor and design specific to the community.
In September 2004, disaster struck our shores when Hurricane Ivan devastated our community. Roberts reflects, “People and businesses lost everything. The damage was unimaginable.” Along with rebuilding efforts, he found that community members were looking for new home décor and decorative concepts while local businesses were working very hard to recover. Southern Coast Home Design became the go-to source with all of its advertisers local to the community. Roberts was helping small businesses return to sustainability while helping residents refurnish their homes in ways never before imagined.
Tragedy struck again with the 2007-2009 recession and the burst of the housing bubble. Seventy-five percent of the publication’s advertisers pulled out of their contracts almost overnight. During Robert’s attempts to build a better mousetrap he realized there was so much more to gulf coast living than just home design and décor. Roberts changed his vision and added topics relevant to the coastal lifestyle including art, entertainment, food, travel, fashion, health, music, boating, and so much more. Roberts essentially created a magazine that mirrors the local economy, follows local trends, as well as incorporates the local community and its activities as a whole.
Rebranding efforts ultimately produced Coastal Lifestyle Magazine as we know it today. Targeted marketing is one of the best ways for any organization to reach its maximum advertising audience. Exposure is key. Running a series of advertisements directly targeting audience demographics creates a lasting impression. Roberts recalls a conversation with Michelle, a small boutique owner, who commented, “Don’t let anyone tell you this magazine does not work. We sold the same dress so many times based on one ad that I had to restock my inventory on multiple occasions.” Reinforced advertising is the way to go within our community.
Although Roberts was happy with the success of the magazine, he still felt he could do better. Roberts recalls, “Coastal Lifestyle Magazine felt too thin. This was when a flipbook concept struck me.” For those readers unfamiliar with the flipbook concept, flip over any copy of Coastal Lifestyle Magazine to find a copy of either Coastal Palate Magazine or Gulf Coast Bride Magazine. Roberts purchased Gulf Coast Bride Magazine in 2011 and returned it to a thriving status. Development of Coastal Palate Magazine soon followed as Roberts identified an unmet strategic marketing need in one of the Gulf Coast’s leading industries, the food and beverage industry. Coastal Palate Magazine emphasizes the many different eateries and incredibly talented chefs along the Gulf Coast.
Last year, with Coastal Lifestyle’s 20th Anniversary in sight, Roberts revisited whom the publication was truly helping. He questioned, “Where is my pay it forward?” This was when Roberts introduced a new section to the magazine where he and his staff bring awareness to local non-profits. To further support local charities, Coastal Palate Magazine plans to host its first Crab Claw Cook-off. “I am a Maryland native. Of course, it will be crab claws!” Roberts says with pride. Additional information will be available as details are finalized.
Through the years there have been numerous staffing changes. Every person working with the magazine has helped it evolve into a high-level publication that encompasses the community and all of its changes. Coastal Lifestyle Magazine is an elegantly designed, highly sophisticated magazine that is relevant to the community and keeps pace with its ever-changing landscape. Roberts recounts, “I have Dave Cole, the best graphic artist along the Gulf Coast. Dave has really helped the magazine become what it is today.” Roberts is also thankful for his pool of talented writers “who can take any topic and really find the heart of the story.” Roberts continues, “I am incredibly proud of what we produce.” Coastal Lifestyle Magazine has over 20 years of experience writing about and exposing the community to upscale Gulf Coast establishments. It is the local lifestyle industry print publication leader. Join us as we celebrate Coastal Lifestyle Magazine’s 20th Anniversary and its 120th edition!