Low and Outside: Cliffs pitches in the dirt

     The old line that pitching wins pennants is true for more than baseball. It used to work exquisitely well for The Cliffs Communities when it aggressively promoted its lush roster of amenities, but these days Cliffs’ Founder Jim Anthony is serving as its frontline pitchman with lots of defense but little offense behind him.

        Back in the good old days of selling $1 million properties

Jim Anthony is now shouldering much of The Cliffs' promotional duties himself.  Bad move.

and $150,000 golf memberships, the Cliffs marketing machine spent $14 million dollars annually on slick brochures and print ads, parties for potential buyers and elaborate booths at trade shows.  A team of professional pitchmen and agencies took care of the message delivery, and only on rare occasions did the machine trot out The Cliffs owner and developer; those few interviews seemed tightly scripted, and Anthony typically remained on-message.

        But the Cliffs marketing budget has been cut significantly from those lofty days, and Anthony himself is shouldering much of the communication load.  Bad move.  A few of the developer’s recent interviews demonstrate he could use a lot more training and scripting.  He has been inconsistent in his messaging, telling a local newspaper in February that construction would restart in April on the Tiger Woods golf course at The Cliffs at High Carolina, and then giving a TV interview (aired yesterday in the Asheville, NC, market) in which he admits construction is still on hold and utterly reliant on property sales, of which there have been virtually none recently.

        It is clear in the TV interview that Anthony was not properly prepared to handle even the most mildly negative questions.  Example:


Reporter:  “So you’re just as frustrated as anyone [about the lack of progress at High Carolina]?"

Anthony response:  [after some hesitation] “…frustration is probably as good a word as any.”

Better response (of many possible):  “Not frustrated, optimistic.  The economy is improving, more people are looking at properties in The Cliffs, the golf course will be great, and our owners have voted for our amenities plan with their financial support.  I’m optimistic, not frustrated.”


        Nothing in the suggested response is untrue; our sources tell us more people are looking at The Cliffs Communities, if not at High Carolina.  Honesty does not mean having to say you're sorry (or acting that way).  Anthony is an honest, genuinely nice guy, according to Cliffs residents we know.  But as baseball’s Leo Durocher once said, and we soften his words here so as not to seem unkind, “Nice guys do not finish first.”  The Cliffs developer needs to start aiming his pitches high and tight.

        Judge for yourself and watch the TV interview by clicking here.  It also offers a good view of the sweeping fairway of one of the Tiger Woods designed holes.

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