BRATTLEBORO — BIPOC influencers and writers are being invited to town to share their experiences with the world.
Stephanie Bonin, executive director of Downtown Brattleboro Alliance, said the community marketing campaign is funded with 10 percent of the town’s 1 percent rooms and meals tax revenue each year.
“The idea of it is to ensure that we continue to cultivate people coming into our community and visiting our town and enjoying our town for day trips or long weekends,” she said Tuesday at the Select Board meeting. “Specifically, this phase has set a target audience of BIPOC community.”
Greg Lesch, executive director of Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce, couldn’t recall another project in which the town had marketed itself. He said in the past, the town relied on the chamber or downtown organization for such endeavors.
“So we are extremely happy to be partnering with the town, reinvesting hospitality tax dollars to effect a meaningful impact on our local community, our local economy,” he said. “I think that the data that Blue Whale will provide clearly illustrates that our message is getting out there to platforms and outlets that we never, ever had access to in the past.”
Lesch shared good reviews from New England Center for Circus Arts and Latchis Hotel and Theatre of visits resulting in coverage or social media posts from influencers and writers.
The initial “Love Brattleboro” campaign began under Penniless Projects of South Newfane, which didn’t renew a contract last year after a difference of opinions on the marketing strategy.
Rosalie Martin, executive vice president and account director at Blue Whale Public Relations of Seminole, Fla., said her group started in April.
“We have really exceeded even my own expectations and our goals right out of the gates,” Martin said. “In just about six months ... we’ve generated more than 71 million impressions and this is strictly publicity reach ... and that has come from a variety of national media, online, print, regional publications, blogs, influencer, I would say content generated. We’ve had both BIPOC specific individuals come and non-BIPOC specific but that are sensitive to those topics and cover those topics as part of their travel coverage.”
Martin explained “cost per thousand” as an industry standard for measuring how much money is spent to reach 1,000 people. She said currently, the local marketing program’s rate stands at about $1.63, whereas the average for paid advertising is about $2.80.
Brattleboro is being marketed as a multicultural, BIPOC friendly and post-pandemic friendly destination with “undiscovered gems.”
Lauren Dunaj, strategist at Blue Whale, said journalists often come to her group for sources for stories and leads to feature certain things. For example, Blue Whale provided the name of the Inn on Putney Road when a writer sought to create a list of romantic inns in Vermont and New England.
Dunaj said the firm also pitches stories based on the seasons and news cycles. The plan is to begin proposing ideas for winter holidays and travel soon.
Since April, the program has brought in nine traveling journalists.
“Our set goal, our pace, was about two journalists a month,” Martin said. “After the first few, where we understood and a had a good idea and a good sense of what was involved in the itinerary planning and the resources available, we had to to be sensitive to the fact that some businesses were on their way to opening post pandemic or they had more restricted hours, like restaurants, so we had to try to schedule visits when businesses were open, when we had availability with our hotel partners.”
More than 70 businesses and events are estimated to have been showcased through the writings of the traveling journalists. Martin said her group tries “really hard to give exposure to as many entities, businesses, events as we can whether it’s through first-hand experiences or whether it’s by inserting some of our partners in at dinners or breakfasts or whatever so they can tell their stories.”
Bonin said the state covered air travel expenses for writers and it is highlighting the campaign as an example to be emulated by other communities throughout Vermont.
Since Blue Whale started on the campaign, it has reported an approximately 30 percent increase in followers on Instagram and an approximately 11 percent increase on Facebook for “Love Brattleboro” campaign accounts. Martin noted that the increases are very high because social media pages had been virtually dormant during the pandemic.
Select Board Chairwoman Elizabeth McLoughlin thanked the team for the presentation and said the board looks forward to discussing next fiscal year’s funding at annual Representative Town Meeting in March.