WVU selects Point Pleasant for community branding

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The community of Point Pleasant extends into the distance from the junction of the Ohio (left) and Kanawha (right) rivers.
Pt. Pleasant, West Virginia lies at the junction of the Ohio (left) and Kanawha (right) rivers. (Photo courtesy WVU)

Rich in lore and history, Point Pleasant, West Virginia, has been chosen as the recipient of a branding project by West Virginia University designed to promote tourism and economic development.

Home of the and a , it’s also a community on the rise, says Rita Colistra, associate professor at the Reed College of Media at West Virginia University and director of its .

Sculpture watches over crowd during .

“We’re really excited to be working with the Point Pleasant community,” Colistra said.

“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.”

The community was selected by an independent advisory committee that helped identify West Virginia towns that seemed ready for a comprehensive branding campaign, along with a targeted application process.

Engagement is a key indicator of success for BrandJRNY projects, she said.

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Residents will be encouraged to attend events and roundtable discussions throughout the year and participate in a number of ways that will help guide research and implementation that creates an overall branding strategy that will benefit the community for years to come.

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, and social and digital analysis 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, Colistra said.

Students and faculty engaged in the program will create:

  • multiplatform storytelling pieces that include photography, videography, and augmented reality,
  • social and digital strategies that draw attention to the area and its offerings,
  • a media strategy to promote tourism and a branding campaign plan,
  • a 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.

Other recipient communities have included Matewan, Grafton, Whitesville, and Pineville.

“This project is near and dear to me,” says 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.”

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A community kick-off event is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 12, in Point Pleasant and will include BrandJRNY team members, students, town 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 .

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