By Arien Canales
I have lived in the Texas Panhandle my entire life, so I was eager to go to school in Mississippi due its beauty and rich history. When I visited Oxford for the first time, I was taken aback by how diverse the community was and the hospitality displayed throughout the small town.
I immediately fell in love with the town because of these factors, and I was excited to move away and experience a community different than the one I had known for 18 years.
The summer before I attended Ole Miss, I watched “Mississippi Burning” for the first time, and immediately felt horribly inside. I had a bad outlook on the state I had so willingly wanted to live in for four years. However, the first few weeks of college showed me history is important, but it doesn’t mean history repeats itself. I grew up in a college town, and the University of Mississippi is far more diverse and inclusive than the university I lived a few miles away from in Texas.
This does not mean the university, town or state does not have issues, but I believe the state has been painted in such a negative way, stereotypes tarnish its reputation.
The country has problems with topics such racism, inclusion, and sexism, but I believe labeling a state in a negative way, will not help find a solution to these controversial topics.
When most individuals think of Mississippi, words like “illiterate, racist, and hick” come to mind, while others think of phrases such as, “charming, hospitable, and adaptive.” This shows the state’s uniqueness and its many layers.
I asked individuals from different states who attend Ole Miss – some from Mississippi, and others who have never been to the Magnolia State – their perceptions of Mississippi. Surprisingly, I received all positive feedback including statements like, “traditional, cultural, beautiful geographical area, and communities with strong backbones.”
Therefore, I concluded that the media portrays Mississippi in a negative way, but does not include all perceptions of the state. The media’s stories about the state are harsh and true, but that does not mean the state and its individuals are entirely like that.
I decided to focus on Mississippi’s history and media perceptions to fuel my marketing campaign. The campaign will take the negative perceptions and expose how modern Mississippi has adapted to its negative past.
The campaign should reach a vast audience to be successful. The name will be Adapt Mississippi and will start with a commercial video. It will begin with examples of negative media perceptions, then show influential individuals who come from the state.
The commercial will conclude with modern day Mississippi. The website will contain videos and short, 10-minute documentaries of individuals from different areas of the state.
This will be the highlight of the campaign, because the audience will see many different lives, and it will feature real stories the media has not portrayed. The website will also contain a gallery of different places to visit in Mississippi and brief background of the history behind these destinations.
I believe the results of the campaign will depend on how many views the website gets. I think the message of the campaign will be clear to all, but individuals need to watch the documentaries with an open mind and get real Mississippi perceptions from actual citizens of the state who have lived there through the good and the bad.
The citizens know the bad history of Mississippi and the problems that are still occurring today, but the campaign will offer proof about how much the state has adapted and grown from its historic past. If I had more time to develop the campaign, I would run a more effective commercial that would be displayed to all states.
There is not a state, city, or small town in the United States that is perceived as “perfect,” so that does not mean Mississippi should be portrayed as one of the worst. The website will show viewers many layers of Mississippi, which will attract tourists.
The sequence of events the campaign has will give Mississippi an “adaptive” perception to individuals rather than a negative one that has been given to the state for such a long period.
I believe this campaign will show the country how a state can adapt, learn from mistakes and be better from it. Individuals will see that not everyone from Mississippi is racist, illiterate, or one-sided, but it is also a state that is diverse and loyal.
From this project, I learned there are many good individuals in the state who do not precede Mississippi’s state perception. If the state was as bad as the media portrays it to be, I do not believe there would be strong, diverse, welcoming communities like Oxford.