Local website guru big asset for Berkshires

Posted

Sunday April 22, 2012

LENOX

I

nformation rules. Content is king.

Phrases I've always lived by, so it was encouraging to hear that mantra espoused by one of the county's leading website gurus, Kevin Sprague.

His firm, Studio Two (S2) in Lenox, is responsible for revamping and rebooting websites designed to sort out the deluge of outdoor and indoor events that showers residents and tourists as the "on-season" arrives.

Even in the off-season, a misnomer now because there's so much activity year-round in the Berkshires, residents, visitors and nonprofit leaders have long clamored for a one-stop clearinghouse to showcase events and prevent scheduling conflicts through a constantly freshened database.

During an informal chat at the Lenox Chamber of Commerce's "housewarming" for its spiffy new digs at the town library, Sprague demolished some myths about website design and content update. As a low-to-medium tech kind of guy (some would call me "no-tech"), I was impressed by his knowledge and his ability to explain the rules of the road for a layperson.

Sprague stressed that the key to success -- accurate, up-to-the-minute data -- must be combined with attractive design and presentation. A dowdy-looking site, even with rich content, can be a turnoff for visitors.

His own site is state-of-the-art, as one would expect, and it showcases his two major partnerships with the Berkshire Visitors Bureau and the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.

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The BVB's berkshires.org is set up by event category, and seems as comprehensive as any tourism-oriented site I've seen. It's also visually inviting and easy to navigate, a major asset for those of us who grew up at a time when computers were the stuff of science fiction and fantasy.

Sprague, under contract to the Chamber, is about to unveil a redesigned lenox.org site that holds great promise as a gateway to all things Lenoxian. The town has been struggling to figure out a Web presence with "search optimization" (a high rank when folks launch a Google search for area activities) and with up-to-date events listings.

Keeping a site freshened day by day is a much simpler, less expensive project than many people realize, according to Sprague. Given his expertise, I don't doubt it.

Studio Two's long client list of nonprofits and businesses encompasses The Mount, Shakespeare and Company, Guido's Marketplace, the Berkshire Natural Resources Council, the Berkshire International Film Festival, the Norman Rockwell Museum, Hancock Shaker Village, and now the Lenox Chamber, among others.

"Imagine Yourself in the Berkshires" is one of the slogans found on studio
two.com, which promises "strategic branding and creative thinking for dynamic organizations."

While I have no skin in this game, it seems obvious that if you promise compelling events to visitors and residents and then deliver, the only "marketing" needed is getting the word out to as many people as possible.

To accomplish that, everything in the digital toolbox needs to be used effectively. It gives people a bad impression, obviously, to showcase a long-past event on a website designed to promote a town and its offerings.

Give people a bad experience, online or in real life, and they won't return. Give them a well-functioning, one-stop website with a rich trove of information and a cool-looking design, and you'll reel them in.

When it comes to promoting the Berkshires through the Web, social media, mobile apps and all the rest, there's first-rank talent to be found right in our figurative backyard. Hiring local isn't knee-jerk parochialism. It's basic logic and common sense.

Clarence Fanto is an Eagle staffer.
He can be contacted by email at
cfanto@berkshireeagle.com or on Twitter at @BE_cfanto.


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