Louise McCue, executive director of the Berkshire Historical Society at Arrowhead, illustrates a point in her new marketing plan at the final meeting of the marketing magnet class, as Stephanie Abrams, course instructor looks on. (Photo by Bill Sample)


PITTSFIELD – Tourism business owners, employees and officials from Sheffield to Williamstown revealed plans Tuesday to move new marketing approaches from concept to action as this year's holiday season approaches.

The marketing blitz and high-energy tourism campaign — ranging from holiday specials to a promotion called “The Chocolate Covered Berkshires” — are the result of a five-week class offered by Berkshire Community College, featuring Stephanie Abrams, an award-winning business radio talk show host, as the instructor.

Members of the class included managers, directors or owners of various tourism-related venues, including Berkshire Historical Society/Arrowhead, the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce, Images Cinema of Williamstown, Howard Johnson's Express, Holiday Inn Berkshire (North Adams), Eastover Resort & Conference Center, Berkshire Hills Motel, The Rookwood Inn (Lenox), The Orchards and The 1896 House in Williamstown, the B&B at Howden Farm (Sheffield) and The Crowne Plaza Hotel in Pittsfield, where classes were held.

The purpose of the course was to sharpen marketing skills, with emphasis on setting goals, fine-tuning focus, identifying and creating opportunities, and implementation of programs to meet goals for businesses whose bottom lines are enhanced by tourism.

At the final meeting of the “Berkshires Marketing Magnet” course, participants said that co-operative marketing efforts are the best way to increase tourism in the Berkshire area.

“One of the things we focused on in the course is collaboration,” said Louise McCue, executive director of the Berkshire Historical Society at Arrowhead. “We shouldn't be out there doing our own thing by ourselves. It helps promotion-wise, marketing-wise, to collaborate. We decided to do something holiday related at Arrowhead that will tie in with what is going on in the rest of Pittsfield.”

McCue described a Dec. 4 event at Arrowhead, “A Bright and Happy Season,” an authentic re-creation of the Christmas holiday as it would have been celebrated in the late 180's. The title of the event came directly from a letter to Herman Melville from his sister, who was describing her feelings about the upcoming holiday season.

As a result of concepts learned in the class, McCue has for the first time designed an advertisement that will be placed in area newspapers, along with prepared press releases. She has also contacted TV stations, mailed out flyers and spent time on local radio shows in a full-bore effort to promote the event.

“I came to this class with the perspective and focus of a historian.” McCue said, “and I learned that to attract people to your establishment, you have to learn what to say and how to say it to spark interest from the general public. I learned how to promote Arrowhead from a marketer's perspective, and that has been very helpful.”

Abrams, who took time from her busy schedule as the host of the nationally syndicated “Travel With Stephanie Abrams!” radio talk show to instruct the course, said, “Rather than just talk in hypothetical terms of case studies and how they turned out, we concentrated on producing real marketing campaigns, did the legwork, wrote the releases, networked and really made sure that something real came out of their participation in the class.”

She added, “All of these events happening countywide in the month of December are the direct result of the hands-on, practical experience students gained from this class. What I wanted to avoid was people getting excited about the concepts, having a good academic experience, but not actually producing any action. I call that the sound of one hand clapping.”

Another class participant, Amber Braman, executive director of the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce, said, “I learned that communicating with a large variety of venues is very important. You have to keep everybody in the community involved, in the loop and informed about what the others are doing. The Chamber is doing the right things. We have undergone many changes during the almost three years I have been there, but there are things that we can improve on, and I feel we can move forward with many of the things I have learned here.”

One of the themes that came out of the class was the need for more programs that attract people in the winter and early spring months, Abrams noted. A large segment of the class is working cooperatively to implement a “Fudge-in-February” program subtitled, “The Chocolate Covered Berkshires!”

“It's very exciting to see so many different special-interest entities crossing over to work together on a project that is not just an academic exercise but has practical applications,” Abrams said. “The reality is that everyone has the answers. They just need to be focused to ask themselves the questions related to what specifically they want to achieve, define that success and make the plans to get there. Working smart and working together are key elements to that success.”

Denise Richer, of the 1896 House Country Inn and Motels in Williamstown, said taking the course has widened her horizons. She is in the process of expanding her business to include a new antiques and gift shop on the premises.

“I've been promoting my business myself for 19 years, moderately successfully, but I was missing the big picture, which is what Stephanie has given us,” Richer said. “Having an inn, you do what you can, but marketing seemed like a copycat process. I think the important thing is to bring the county together, starting in small segments such as in classes like this. If we can work as a county, we will win, we have more going for us than anybody.”


Stephanie B. Abrams