CU Content Lab is helping neighbors

The Castleton University Content Lab was approached by the town of Poultney’s Economic Development Coordinator Sarah Pelkey about designing a series of newspaper ads that would run consecutively in the local paper.

The goal of the ads was to generate awareness of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Recreational Economies for the Rural Communities by gaining input from residents on plans to improve recreational opportunities in the town.

Poultney Vermont was one of 10 places selected around the nation that could be a regional base for a growing recreational economy.

What the program did was open up conversations via Zoom over a week-long series to help drive involvement in the community, and to get as much input as possible on future recreational plans from a diverse group of residents.

“They really wanted to have a diverse group of people participating in the community. A lot of these board meetings you’re seeing the same faces over and over again, so you’re getting the same ideas over and over again” Content Lab member Maggie Lewis stated.

The EPA and RERC wanted to move the community of Poultney together and forward at the same time.

Poultney was recognized for this program and sought out the assistance of the Content Lab to spread the word that this webinar was happening.

The Content Lab was ready for the task, but ran into many obstacles.

“How do we advertise this series when not everyone in Poultney has access to the internet. How do we make sure it’s reaching the greater community? The target audience they were trying to reach were those locals who have lived in the town their whole lives and had really interesting perspectives” said Brooke Rubright, president of the Content Lab.

How to get people to make the jump from newspaper print to online Zoom was another frequently asked question.

Not only was this a tough project with a strict deadline with work due at the end of each week, but the Content Lab was just getting into gear again for the spring semester.

“This was one of our first projects with our new members of the Content Lab to be working over a Zoom platform. I think it was something that took time to get used to, but it ended up being a great process. And I think it was a great project for us to learn with,” Rubright said.

Professor William DeForest, who is advisor of the Content Lab, said there were challenges to work around, but Zoom was not one of them.

“Zoom is what really made this possible. We were able to work so quickly because we were able to meet with them in Zoom and hear their language. Zoom was a key player,” he said.

The end result was a great success. The series ran and the involvement was considered very high with more than 50 people enrolled.

“The Content Lab at Castleton University has set a high bar in providing this community service to Poultney. The virtual workshops were a great success and with the ad campaign we were pleased to have excellent participation from the start,” said Sarah Pelkey.

And out of the 10 communities chosen, Poultney had the most people participate.

“People were wanting to be involved because of these ads that we were putting out,” Rubright said.

As of right now, the town of Poultney and community members have plans to build new trails for biking, walking and cross-country skiing between Poultney, East Poultney, and Lake St. Catherine State Park.

They are promoting the Poultney River and Rail Trail to raise awareness and increase the use of the trail.

And last, the community is wanting to beautify the entrance corridors to Poultney and the trailheads with art illustrations, and by painting bridges with bright colors.

“The Content Lab working with local organizations, like Sarah Pelkey from the Economic Development of Poultney, are the projects that we want to be taking on as the Content Lab. We want to be helping these local organizations, we want to be growing our community. Staying local and really having an impact are the projects we want to be taking on,” Rubright said.

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