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Pittsfield invited 'influencers' in to help sell the city's charms. Here's what they had to say

A busy outdoor lunch crowd on North Street (copy)

A crowd fills the parklet in front of the Marketplace Cafe in Pittsfield, in August 2021. A new marketing campaign funded by Pittsfield's ARPA money invited influencers and bloggers to visit Marketplace and other downtown businesses in a bid to attract younger visitors.

PITTSFIELD — In July, Pittsfield restaurants, hotels and businesses opened their doors to travel bloggers and influencers invited to the city as part of a new marketing campaign.

The campaign, funded with a portion of the city’s coronavirus relief money from the American Rescue Plan Act, launched in earnest this summer in an attempt to attract younger visitors to the Berkshires.

Members of the team overseeing the campaign presented an initial report to the City Council on Tuesday, telling councilors the investment is helping raise Pittsfield’s status in the social media landscape.

The Eagle is taking a look at what these influencers are saying about Pittsfield.

@tripsavvy Spend a weekend with me in Pittsfield, MA 😊 check out the l!nk in b!o to find out how I got there. Stick around for the animals at the end 👀 #pittsfield #massachusetts #amtrak #berkshires #berkshireflyer #nyctoma #animals #goats #pigs #sheep #pittsfieldmassachuetts ♬ as it was x cruel summer x deja vu - matty james

Since July, the city has paid to host 10 “familiarization” trips. Roger Matus, the marketing strategist helping to lead the campaign, told the council that the city covers the cost of the bloggers’ travel expenses on these trips and connects them with local businesses, but has no say in what the bloggers write.

A report by Bospar, the PR firm hired to connect Pittsfield with influencers, says these 10 “fam” trips produced 15 articles among four outlets and blogs — one of which was picked up by two news aggregator sites. The combined articles received 765 engagements — that’s clicks, shares, likes or comments — and an estimated 118,000 views.

The 10 Facebook posts, five Instagram reels and posts and one TikTok video created during the trips by bloggers fared slightly better when it came to engagements. Social media posts generated 895 engagements and an estimated 19,500 views.

One of the initial trips hosted focused on the inaugural run of the Berkshire Flyer, the Amtrak train that runs passengers between New York City and Pittsfield on summer weekends.

ElizaBeth Taylor, writing for the lifestyle and entertainment outlet The Knockturnal, called the Flyer “the stuff of magic” and described Pittsfield “a town that will always hold a special place in your heart.”

In late August, Maria Ottomanelli and Doreen Wong of Famadillo — an outlet focused on parenting — visited on a fam trip to Pittsfield. Ottomanelli and Wong stayed at the Holiday Inn and Suites, dined at District Kitchen and Bar which they called “a must-try” and saw a performance of “A Little Night Music,” which they deemed “Broadway-quality” at the Barrington Stage Company.

“What we loved most about Pittsfield is that it felt like a home away from home,” Ottomanelli and Wong wrote in their review. “Once you’ve visited Pittsfield, you will want to return to experience the different seasons, explore all the activities and enjoy the beauty of the Berkshires.”

Another fam trip this summer brought Taylor Deer, who runs the travel blog Brown Eyed Flower Child, and Scott Herder and Megan Indoe, the married couple behind the travel blog Bobo and Chichi, to Pittsfield.

All three bloggers stayed at Hotel on North and wrote in their travel guides to the city that they were in love with the hotel’s Library Suite.

“Even though I didn’t stay in the Library Suite, I got to tour it and the entire room made me feel like I was Belle from Beauty and the Beast,” wrote Deer in her blog review. Deer has some 41,000 followers on Instagram.

Over the course of the weekend, Deer, Herder and Indoe, along with other bloggers, spent time exploring Hancock Shaker Village, the Berkshire Museum and Arrowhead. The group ate at Dottie’s Coffee Lounge, Otto’s Kitchen, King Kone, The Marketplace Cafe, Mission Restaurant and Methuselah Bar and Lounge.

“And while there aren’t many nightlife options in Pittsfield, Methuselah Bar and Lounge is a must,” Indoe and Herder wrote in their review. “The cocktails are excellent and the atmosphere is a lot of fun.”

Bloggers that weekend raved about their time with Berkshire Camino, a guided walking and hiking tour company inspired by the Camino de Santiago trail. Indoe and Herder called the hikes, led by Mindy Miraglia, “one of our favorite things to do in Pittsfield.”

City officials say four more fam trips are scheduled through the end of the year, though it remains to be seen whether many more bloggers will be enticed to the city as summer turns to fall.

Becca Siegel and Dan Gold run Half Half Travel, a Brooklyn-based travel blog. On a fam trip to Pittsfield in recent weeks they took note of the quietness of the city’s main drag.

“As you leave North Street, the streets become quieter, almost movie set-like,” Siegel and Gold write in their review. “Maybe it’s because we visited in the shoulder season between the height of summer and the flocks of tourists to the Berkshires in fall.”

While the couple was won over by their time at Hotel on North, calling it “one of our best hotel stays to date,” and “one of the best hotels in the entire Berkshire region,” they remained more tentative on Pittsfield as a whole.

“The city itself is not quaint and green like Lenox; it’s more of a post-industrial feel of a city that’s being revived by new businesses and arts/culture,” Siegel and Gold wrote. “To stay in Pittsfield is to see a city that’s changing for the better through its renaissance of the last decade.”

Official ARPA spending reports from the city say that $510,000 of the nearly $41 million in Pittsfield ARPA money was directed towards marketing efforts.

Jen Glockner, the city’s cultural development director, told councilors Tuesday that this marketing campaign had a budget between $300,000 and $350,000 and that about 40 percent of that budget was spent to date.

Meg Britton-Mehlisch can be reached at mbritton@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6149.

Pittsfield Reporter

Meg Britton-Mehlisch is the Pittsfield reporter for The Berkshire Eagle. Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, she previously worked at the Prior Lake American and its sister publications under the Southwest News Media umbrella in Savage, Minnesota.

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