The West Virginia University Reed College of Media has announced Point Pleasant, West Virginia, as the next partner for BrandJRNY, a project that aims to revitalize communities in the Mountain State through customized branding plans that promote tourism and economic development.
Located in Mason County, Point Pleasant is situated along the state line that separates West Virginia from Ohio at the confluence of the Kanawha and Ohio rivers. It is a town rich with history and folklore, such as the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774 and the Mothman legend. It is a community on the rise, with diversified tourism attractions and the infrastructure and amenities to support visitors.
The Point Pleasant community is also already engaged in efforts to increase tourism and economic development. Community engagement is a key indicator of success for BrandJRNY projects. Throughout the year-long project, residents will be encouraged to attend events and roundtable discussions and participate in a number of ways that will help guide research and implementation of an overall branding strategy that will benefit the community for years to come.
“We’re really excited to be working with the Point Pleasant community,” said Rita Colistra, associate professor and BrandJRNY director. “This town’s leadership is inspired and passionate about the future, and business owners and community leaders are already making strides to improve their town.”
Students in Colistra’s capstone course will collaborate with peers in a brand storytelling class taught by David Smith, another faculty member in the College of Media. They will make several trips to Point Pleasant, which is about a three-hour drive from Morgantown, to experience the town first-hand and meet with a newly created community branding committee. The 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, Point Pleasant will have a new, cohesive brand identity. Students and faculty will create authentic multiplatform storytelling pieces that include photo, video and augmented reality; social and digital strategies to draw attention to the area and its offerings; a media strategy to promote tourism; and a branding campaign plan and toolkit that community leaders can use to maintain and manage their new brand for long-term sustainability.
“Point Pleasant has many diverse attributes,” said Leigh Ann Shepard, a city council member and first vice president and regional manager of City National Bank. “We, as a community, have been working toward a common goal of growing and promoting Point Pleasant as a featured destination for tourism and economic development. This grant will give us the opportunity to create a cohesive marketing plan that tells the unique story of our town and fosters its growth.”
Last year, the College of Media was awarded a $250,000 grant funded by the American Electric Power Foundation to support and sustain BrandJRNY, which was initially launched with support from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation in 2015.
Point Pleasant was selected by an independent advisory committee that helped identify West Virginian towns that seemed ready for a comprehensive branding campaign, along with a targeted application process. Other BrandJRNY communities have included Matewan, Grafton, Whiteville and Pineville.
“This project is near and dear to me,” said Colistra, a native West Virginian who has been teaching students at the College of Media for 11 years. “I’ve seen firsthand how showing passion for the state and commitment in the classroom, coupled with the enthusiasm and dedication of community members, can lead to positive results. Our students are doing some of their best work because they feel invested and committed. It’s a win-win for the students and the communities.”
A community kick-off event is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 12, in Point Pleasant and will include BrandJRNY team members, students, town government officials, members of the Point Pleasant branding committee and representatives from Appalachian Power. 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 #BrandPointPleasant. Read more about past and current community branding initiatives at www.brandjrny.com.