The Truly Local team poses in front of Martin Hall and includes Jillian Peyton, Kaycee Lantz, Kianna Rodriguez, Lani Beaudette, M. Grace Sears, Maleri Tustin, Aubree Johnson and Jenna Stewart.
Many West Virginia residents will tell you they feel a deep sense of pride for the state’s unique beauty and Appalachian heritage. Students in Martin Hall Agency (MHA) launched a campaign during the fall 2022 semester to ensure that pride extends to agritourism destinations.
“Agritourism offers countless opportunities for West Virginians to learn, seek adventure, create family traditions and establish a deeper connection to their home state,” said Dee Singh-Knights, a WVU Extension specialist in agribusiness economics and management.
Agritourism, a tourism industry subgroup involving experiences and products related to agriculture, is deeply rooted in West Virginia with more than 220 agricultural-based businesses within the state. In partnership with WVU Extension, students in MHA, the Reed College of Media’s student-run advertising and public relations agency course, developed a campaign to increase awareness of agritourism opportunities and equip West Virginia agritourism business operators with free promotional resources.
The students started by conducting focus groups and in-depth interviews with agritourism business operators and WVU Extension agents. The results indicated that West Virginia's agritourism opportunities are ideal for families, and agritourism business owners are in need of resources to help market their businesses to relevant audiences.
The resulting “Roots of the Appalachian Experience” campaign is being piloted in the West Virginia Potomac Highlands region and utilizes evocative imagery and messaging to express the beauty of West Virginia’s agritourism through billboards, posters, newspaper ads, social media graphics and radio spots.
A digital advertisement created by the Truly Local team is included in the Promote Local WV Communications Toolkit. The picture in the background features May Tree Farm in Maysville, West Virginia.
MHA students also designed the “Meet Me in the Mountain State” agritourism trail for the Potomac Highlands. The trail, accessible from WVU Extension’s website, lists farm-to-table restaurants, farm markets, horse riding businesses and other agritourism opportunities within the region, offering residents an all-encompassing resource for planning their next getaway.
To support agritourism business operators’ promotional efforts, the team created the free online Promote Local WV Communications Toolkit, which includes social media templates, radio scripts, posters and other useful tools. The students organized an agritourism networking event to present the toolkit to business owners in December at Swilled Dog, a cidery in Upper Tract, West Virginia.
Agritourism business owners and operators listen to a presentation at the Home Grown event Dec.1 at Swilled Dog in Upper Tract, West Virginia.
“Being from West Virginia, this campaign and the work behind it is very near and dear to my heart,” said Jenna Stewart, MHA communications director. “Our goal was to translate our passion for West Virginia and reflect the spirit of Appalachia and its people throughout our messaging and content.”
After the fall 2022 semester, WVU Extension will oversee and expand the campaign to other regions throughout West Virginia. The resources developed by the MHA team will be instrumental in WVU Extension’s efforts to support and advance awareness of West Virginia’s agritourism industry.