From the red and orange hues of fallen leaves to blue skies draped with sheets of white clouds and everything in between, IGbethlehem has shown off the beauty of Bethlehem for several years, amassing a following of roughly 25,000 Instagram users.
Whether it’s a midday picture of North Bethlehem’s historic architecture or a sunset view near the Steel Stacks, each post highlights the account owner’s appreciation for Bethlehem through the lens of an iPhone camera. But, the individual behind IGbethlehem is not as well-known.
In the past few years, Bekah Rusnock, the owner of IGbethlehem, has been one of the more anonymous community leaders in the Bethlehem area. Rusnock has used her marketing skills and love for Bethlehem to show people what the city has to offer.
This work is apparent both online, in the form of IGbethlehem, and offline, through several initiatives that have promoted locations and opportunities to take advantage of in the local area to a younger, tech-savvy audience.
Rusnock grew up in the Lehigh Valley until she went to college at Susquehanna University, roughly two hours away in central Pennsylvania. After graduating with a degree in journalism, Rusnock was not fully set on her career path and where she would live.
“I don’t know if I ever really thought about it,” Rusnock said. “I got a job, and that was basically it.”
In 2013, Rusnock started posting on the IGbethlehem account while working for the City of Bethlehem in the Community Economic Development Department.
Rusnock said her position gave her access to a lot of interesting spaces in the city, and these spaces inspired her to begin capturing meaningful pictures to later upload on IGbethlehem.
She said early on it wasn’t about her wanting to create something for everyone else. Rather, she needed a creative outlet.
Alongside the early years of IGbethlehem, Rusnock’s work for the City of Bethlehem involved looking into how Bethlehem could better market itself to a younger generation. This goal led to her more directly promoting the town to her followers on Instagram.
“I was kind of like, ‘Well, I need this creative outlet, I have this cool access to all this stuff and I want to reach a different audience,’” Rusnock said. “If I could put all three of those factors together, it was like, ‘Oh, I’ll build this brand through Instagram, and that will reach the audience we need to reach.’”
This thought process did not go unnoticed. Other people who worked with Rusnock at the City of Bethlehem could see the difference in Rusnock’s ideas on marketing for the city.
“What I liked most about Bekah was that she saw the world in a very different way than I did,” said Joseph Kelly, the director of Community Economic Development. “She very much appreciated, I think, early on, the impact of social media.”
Her plan helped IGbethlehem grow. During the same time, Rusnock’s mission to reach a younger audience also materialized offline.
While working for the City of Bethlehem, Rusnock planned and oversaw the creation of the Partnership of Innovation (Pi).
Pi is located on the second floor of a building in South Bethlehem that is set up for entrepreneurs to have an affordable workspace. Rusnock was tasked with overseeing the creation of Pi.
She also pushed for Bethlehem to get a local branch for Fig magazine. The magazine was originally based out of Lancaster and was introduced to the City of Bethlehem by Rusnock.
The magazine’s main goal is to promote local businesses in the area through print and online promotion.
“She’s got a great design sense herself and a very artistic eye, and she thought it was very impactful,” said Kiera Wilhelm, director of Fig Bethlehem. “She mentioned it to the mayor at the time, and I believe it’s that conversation that kind of led to Fig existing here at all.”
Rusnock is still actively posting on IGbethlehem and works as the marketing coordinator for Alloy 5. On top of this, she is on the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce board.
“That experience from IGbethlehem is really invaluable,” said Angela DelGrosso, senior vice president of Bethlehem Initiatives for the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. “She always has creative new ideas.”
Rusnock has combined artistic creativity and strategic marketing to create spaces that inspire a young audience to explore the city and find what it has to offer to them, helping a new generation find a home in Bethlehem.
“I remember in the first year of doing this some woman left a comment that said, ‘Oh, this is a thing,’” Rusnock said with a smile on her face. “I was like, ‘Yeah, exactly!’”