CAMPAIGNS: Real Estate PR - Press sweetened up by fruit topping

Client: Interlink Hospitality (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

Client: Interlink Hospitality (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

Client: Interlink Hospitality (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

PR Team: The Ehlers Group (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

Campaign: Tropical Topping Off

Time Frame: May 15 to June 28, 2000

Budget: dollars 7,500

How’s this for a comfortable position: you don’t have a lot of money,

you don’t have a lot of time and research just indicated that your Big

Idea won’t work.

That’s where The Ehlers Group found itself when its mission to keep the

buzz going about its client’s hotel hit a snag. The agency discovered

that the first strategy to put a fresh, hospitality-industry spin on a

common construction tradition was a botanical impossibility.

Then it looked next door.


The money-saving media strategy for Interlink Hospitality to keep its

newest property - the Renaissance Ft. Lauderdale Hotel - in the news was

to take advantage of every step of construction while saving the big

bucks for the gala opening in February 2001. One such step was the

’topping off’ tradition, practiced at the completion of most commercial

real estate construction projects.

But coverage would come only if it was more than the typical ceremony of

putting an evergreen tree and an Amer-ican flag on the rooftop. ’We

wanted to put something large and unique on the roof that would be

visible from the street,’ says Chris Pollock, Interlink’s general

manager. ’And we wanted something specific to the hospitality industry,

since it’s a luxury hotel.’


Client and agency hit upon using the universal symbol of hospitality -

the pineapple - in the topping-off ceremony. Instead of an evergreen

they would hoist a pineapple tree. But the agency hit a bump: pineapples

don’t grow on trees, they grow on short, unphotogenic bushes that would

be invisible atop the 12-story roof.

’We had an industrial design problem,’ says Janis Ehlers, president of

the agency. ’Luckily, we had industrial designers right next door.’

The hotel has been getting additional publicity (even though it’s not

yet built) by funding student gallery shows at the Art Institute of


Lauderdale, next door to the construction site. ’The institute is a

(potential) source of business and employees, too, through its culinary

program,’ Pollock observes.

The students were challenged to design and build a 15-foot-high

pineapple that could withstand winds atop the 12-story building and

remain clearly visible 300 feet away.

Meanwhile, The Ehlers Group targeted local and business reporters at

South Florida’s major dailies and TV news shows with advances about the

’pineapple topping’ two weeks before the event - or the approximate

event date, because the PR pros couldn’t be sure when the cement would


Because the hotel is near the convention center, the business audience

in South Florida is particularly important.

Follow-up continued until the event, and included outreach to the

construction, community, real-estate and hotels and hospitality press.

Reporters received a kit with ’topping off’ backgrounders, a release on

the pineapple as a hospitality symbol and information about the


On event day, June 28, Art Institute students and the construction crew

listened to speeches and cheered when a crane hoisted the wooden,

150-pound pineapple atop the hotel, while an agency photographer took

photos for a follow-up release mailing to long-lead-time outlets.


The Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel ran a full-color photo on the front page

of the business section rather than the local section. ’That was a real

coup,’ says Ehlers, ’because the business section reaches Palm Beach and

Dade counties as well as Broward.’ The South Florida Business Journal

ran a full-page story with photos. The Hotel Journal, Construction

Magazine and Business in Broward magazines are scheduled to use

agency-supplied photos and material, with other community and special

business publications following throughout the summer.


The pineapple was taken down after a month and will be weatherproofed in

time for the opening ceremonies. Meanwhile, The Ehlers Group is working

on other media opportunities for the hotel, such as the naming of its

restaurant and staff announcements.

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