In January, the American Electric Power Foundation awarded the College of Media a $250,000 educational grant to support and sustain “BrandJRNY," a community branding initiative launched by the College of Media in 2015 with a grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. The initiative is designed to help revitalize West Virginia communities by identifying and promoting their unique qualities to encourage economic development, boost tourism and increase community pride. College of Media faculty and students work with stakeholders to develop a research-based brand campaign for each community, and communications and creative deliverables. Past community partners included Matewan, Grafton and Whitesville.
The grant from the AEP Foundation will allow BrandJRNY to continue for two more years and focus on West Virginia communities within Appalachian Power’s service area, which includes most of southern West Virginia and two northern panhandle counties.
Located in Wyoming County, Pineville was chosen for its strong community and government engagement and its economic development and tourism potential. The town is located along the Guyandotte River and is part of the expansive Hatfield-McCoy Trail System, which consists of 630 miles of all-terrain vehicle trails. It’s the location of the popular Pinnacle Creek Trailhead, the towering Castle Rock sandstone, and unique local businesses including some that cater to ATV riders. Twin Falls Resort State Park is 15 miles outside of Pineville.
“Pineville has a lot of potential,” said Rita Colistra, associate professor and BrandJRNY director. “We’ll be working with the town stakeholders to create a new, authentic brand that bridges Pineville’s past with its vision for the future. But this kind of project is only successful if we have dedication and engagement from both students and the community members.”
An independent advisory committee helped identify towns that seemed ready for a comprehensive branding campaign and a targeted application process led to the selection of Pineville. The year-two community will be chosen through a formal application process and solicited through a broader-based promotional approach, which will be announced in early spring 2019.
“The AEP grant allows us to work with each community for two semesters, which gives us more time to build stronger relationships and provide community trainings that will promote long-term brand implementation,” said Colistra. “This seemed like the perfect timing for Pineville, and it was important to select a committed and engaged community in order to build a model for the other project.”
Students in Colistra’s public relations capstone
course will collaborate with students in a brand storytelling class taught by
David Smith, another faculty member in the College of Media. The students will travel
to Pineville to experience the town first-hand and meet with the newly created
community branding committee. Students will conduct extensive research,
including surveys, focus groups, interviews, social/digital analysis and more
to gather community input and learn about potential target audiences.
By the end of the project, Pineville will have a new cohesive brand identity. Students will create authentic multiplatform storytelling pieces that include photo and video; social and digital strategies to increase awareness of Pineville; a media strategy to promote tourism and a branding campaign plan and tool-kit that community leaders can use to maintain and manage their new brand for long-term sustainability.
“We are very excited about this opportunity,” said Christy Laxton, executive director of the Wyoming County Economic Development Authority. “We know that this grant can give us the opportunity to showcase what Pineville and Wyoming County have to offer in this region and this great state. We are excited to share what we love about Pineville to inspire others to enjoy and embark on adventures here.”
A community kick-off event is scheduled for September 13 in Pineville and will include students, town government officials, members of the Pineville branding committee and representatives from the AEP Foundation. The event is free and open to the community.
Follow the students’ journey via the BrandJRNY Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts @brandjrny and by using the hashtag #BrandPineville. Read more about past and current community branding initiatives at brandjrny.com.
Erica Lindsay, Reed College of Media
Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.