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Pittsfield used ARPA funds to host social media influencers. City leaders say it's paying off

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Passengers disembark from train cars after the inaugural trip for the Berkshire Flyer rail line from New York City to Pittsfield at the Intermodal Transportation Center. A new ARPA-funded marketing campaign focused on drawing millennial visitors to Pittsfield by hosting influencers and journalists in city this summer. 

PITTSFIELD — City officials are welcoming influencers and bloggers to local attractions in an attempt to market and anchor Pittsfield in the region as a destination for millennial tourists.

And those efforts are beginning to pay off.

Jen Glockner, the city’s director of cultural development, told the City Council on Tuesday that in the first two months since Pittsfield hired a PR firm and launched a targeted marketing campaign, the city has been featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Forbes and Vogue, among other outlets. She said these articles and content from influencers who visited the city have received an estimated 4.2 million views.

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City councilors sport promotional "Love Pittsfield" hats as Jen Glockner, the city's director of cultural development, discusses how American Rescue Plan money has been used in a new marketing campaign for the city.

Mayor Linda Tyer allocated $510,000 of the city’s nearly $41 million in American Rescue Plan money at the start of this year to a marketing campaign aimed at rebuilding “Pittsfield’s travel, tourism and hospitality economy-post pandemic."

This particular portion of the city’s marketing efforts is budgeted to use between $300,000 and $350,000 of that ARPA money — about 40 percent of which has been spent so far.

The campaign kicked off when the city hired Roger Matus, a local marketing consultant who led the city’s “Love Pittsfield” campaign to answer the question: “How could public relations and media be used to improve the economy in the city?”

Matus told councilors that as he set out to study Pittsfield’s tourist base and found that the demographic of visitors changed dramatically between 2013 and 2021.

In a presentation to the council, he said that today, 65 percent of city visitors are between the ages of 18 and 44. And the city is already well-stocked in the things that millennial visitors are looking for.

“They want a daytime of active outdoors and scenic beauty and a nighttime of music especially, shows, craft food, craft drinks and craft beer," Matus said.

The trick of this PR campaign, Matus said, is to meet millennials where they naturally seek out travel information: Google, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. To this end, the city hired San Francisco-based PR firm Bospar.

The firm was selected after a request for proposal process, and began working with Pittsfield on May 1.

Between July and August, Bospar set up 10 trips with influencers to experience Pittsfield. Another four trips are set up through the end of the year.

“We inform [the influencers] that Pittsfield is the premier destination for the Berkshires, daytime and evening,” Matus said. “We have what are called FAM trips — that's familiarization trips — and we hook them up with local experts, we give them an opportunity to see what the city has.”

The next step in the campaign: repeat.

“What we have to do is create a regular cadence of coverage,” Matus said. “The more that happens, the more top of mind [Pittsfield is]. It builds on [itself], and influencers look at other influencers and they start to see, 'Hey, there's something going on here.' ”

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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