Like most businesses and organizations in our region and beyond, 1Berkshire was forced to pivot in mid-March, scrambling to respond to the pandemic disaster wrecking its way through plans, schedules, and goals. While not comprehensive, this is a snapshot of what we’ve been up to over the past six months since COVID-19 sabotaged the 2020 we’d all been hoping for.
Our Information & Resources Regarding COVID-19 in the Berkshires page on 1Berkshire.com continues to be a go-to and easy-to-use resource for local business owners and community members. Built at the very beginning of the pandemic, 1Berkshire has worked hard to act as an information clearinghouse, curating numerous resources and parsing through informational updates daily.
Our Virtual Town Hall series began on April 17th, bringing together voices of our community to talk through shared issues and provide communal support. Discussion topics for 11 town halls have included visitor economy, banking, food and agriculture, reopening the economy, higher education, paid family medical leave, and the census. These videos are available on our website and YouTube channel. Stay tuned for additional events this fall.
The longstanding monthly Entrepreneurial Meetup events have gone virtual! Local businesses and entrepreneurs have gathered on Zoom for these new meetups where guest speakers discuss their unique situation and pivots during COVID-19. Afterward, participants break into smaller sessions to ask questions and offer advice. These digital events have helped business owners and entrepreneurs stay connected and share lessons learned and experiences during difficult times. Tune in on Sept. 29th and Oct. 27th for our next meet-ups.
In order to help advocate for and support immigrant-owned businesses within the region, we have joined forces with the Berkshire Immigrant Center (BIC) to create a list for internal purposes so that the BIC can better help immigrant-owned and operated businesses of all shapes, sizes, and types.
Our Economic Development team has also (virtually) kicked off the Youth Leadership Program Class of 2021, bringing together 32 students from across the Berkshires to explore leadership skills and career pathways in the region.
Our jobs thing tool continues to be active for both job seekers and businesses in need of talent. This is a high-touch tool that is updated regularly, offering positions that pay at least $40K a year and are full-time.
In the first few weeks of the pandemic, our staff spoke to members about applying for grants, the state of their business, impending lay-offs, etc. These conversations helped inform our actions and priorities while keeping us connected to our membership.
Our Member Service Director crafts a weekly communication for members, sending information, updates, and opportunities. Remaining in close contact is even more important in today’s climate.
Given the financial hardship so many have found themselves in, we made the decision to offer a 50% savings in membership dues. While many members have been able and willing to pay full price, this cost-saving measure has been valuable. Our goal is to keep membership levels healthy and stable so that we can continue our mission to promote the region with a keen focus on our members and their institutions.
Our Marketing team, along with staff assistance from all departments, has been hard at work keeping our visitor audience engaged, inspiring them to continue travel dreaming with a Virtual Berkshires blog and a Missing the Berkshires? virtual tour video.
Our social media platforms are robust and busy. In addition to regular posting and sharing, we launched Takeover Thursdays #intheBerkshires, which gave a member business 15-minutes of live airtime on our Visit the Berkshires Facebook page. These virtual tours allowed people unable to visit an intimate view into an experience or location.
As our economy began to open to visitors, we carefully crafted messages inviting people to safely and responsibly travel when the time is right. These efforts include but are not limited to: 4 million impressions from July and August digital retargeting campaign, 1.5 million impressions from various display ads, eblasts reaching 300,000 potential visitors in NYC and Boston, and participation in a regional tourism billboard campaign in July through September, which has received more than 500,000 impressions.
We recently launched a new digital We Are Open guide to inspire both visitors and residents to patron our local businesses. These are only a few of the marketing initiatives we’ve tackled this summer.
As we continue into the fall, we will remain vigilant, ready to pivot as needed. 1Berkshire’s mission is to promote the region and connect the community. We do this with the help of our members. We are in this challenging time together, and together we will bolster our community and our local economy into better times.