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Create a compelling attraction—but first, carefully craft your message

The owners of the mansion at 915 Franklin Ave. in River Forest knew they had built a considerable audience with past Christmas-themed decorations, so they prepared a special message to explain the addition of 20 illuminated angels along their fence.
Inside Edge PR

Public relations and marketing comes in many forms. But none of it matters if you don’t know how to get in front of an audience you want to influence.

And sometimes, by becoming or creating a compelling attraction, you can cause an audience to come to you—at which point, you are in a position to influence them. For more than 10 years, Ron and Georgia Lee Puryear, Amway Founders Crowns, hosted a River Rendezvous event at their sprawling Post Falls, Idaho property, which includes a 26,000-square-foot mansion.

More than 35 years ago, the Puryears helped start World Wide DreamBuilders (WWDB), a training and development organization that has helped many Amway Independent Business Owners develop successful businesses. A critical element is inspiring and motivating IBOs--which is where the River Rendezvous, a weekend event for top achievers, came in.

A famous line from the 1989 movie Field of Dreams comes to mind: “If you build it, he will come.”

With one particular home in River Forest that erects a remarkable array of decorations every Christmas season, they have built a tradition that prompts thousands of onlookers annually.

Known as the Grunow/Accardo mansion, the 24-room English Tudor-style home at 915 Franklin Ave. is 22,000 square feet and includes an indoor swimming pool and two-lane bowling alley. And its exterior isn’t too shabby, either—in fact, around the holidays it is such a festive and creative illumination that it would surely be the envy of many an amusement park.

The owners transform their spacious front yard into a Winter Wonderland, a nativity scene, a miniature Ferris Wheel, a scene depicting three wise men (complete with camels), just for starters. There’s also a Mrs. Claus encased in a booth, and so many other details that you could spend 30 minutes there—depending on your ability to withstand the Chicagoland cold—and still not take it all in.

Small clusters of individuals, couples and entire families flock to the scene, strolling along the sidewalk and taking photographs in front of this estate that takes up nearly half of the entire block.

This past year, the homeowners also opened up their home on two days in early December as part of the Oak Park-River Forest Infant Welfare Society’s 15th Annual Holiday Housewalk and Market.

Outside, however, they reached a much larger audience for weeks. And the exterior display included something extra: 20 lights in the shape of angels that adorned the fence along the sidewalk. They came with an explanation:

“In loving memory of the twenty children who lost their lives on December 14th, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. These angels are now in heaven watching over their family and friends."

There was no “call to action” to make a donation, though doing so would have certainly been appropriate. Instead, the owners were issuing a call to reflection as they honored the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

In your public relations and marketing campaigns, what can you do to have people come to you? Often, especially for service-based companies that don’t have a physical space, such as a showroom or store, to welcome people, the destination is a website.

Think through the visitor’s experience ahead of time, well before they even know about you at all, and then carefully craft the main message, as well as any number of secondary messages, that you want to deliver.

For any organization, whether start-up or multi-generational, a helpful exercise is to put into writing the words and phrases that you want your target audience to think about, and feel, when they encounter your brand. In addition to helping differentiate yourself from competitors, those words will drive the content that you create as well as the tone that you seek to establish through that content.