By Madison Rettig
I grew up in a Midwest town near Dayton, Ohio, where my knowledge of Mississippi’s background and culture was fairly limited. I learned more in grade school while hearing lessons centered on topics such as the Civil War and the civil rights movement.
In truth, my own perception of the state was not overly positive. My first time here was when I started school at Ole Miss. Since moving here almost a year ago, Mississippi is unlike any other state I have been to.
I have witnessed firsthand the diversity of feelings about this state from those who live and visit here. Those feelings are a mixture of positive and negative perceptions. The positive focuses on the state’s Southern hospitality, scenic landscape, food and music. On the contrary, most of the negative perceptions seem to surround racial discrimination and the Civil War.
This viewpoint was illustrated when we listened to the National Public Radio story in class, which opened my eyes more to the race issues that African American students face, not just at the University of Mississippi, but also across our country. The student in the NPR story described his love/hate relationship with the state of Mississippi, which is felt by Americans of all races and backgrounds.
This state does need reform and change, but it is important to remember many places in our nation are not perfect. It will take a concentrated effort to overcome the state’s troubled past, but I have confidence that with Mississippi’s rich culture and deep roots there is much room to grow.
This concentrated effort would require a campaign to target the issues that result in the uncertainty many feel about the state. Unfortunately, this task will not be easy to overcome because the media displays the extremes of Mississippi by highlighting poverty, poor education, and its history of racial discrimination. Though the media never brings to light the aspects of Mississippi that many know and love, I hope to capture this in my social media campaign.
In realizing the almost impossibility of stopping the media’s obsession over the unfavorable parts of Mississippi, I would try to build a straightforward campaign that anyone visiting the state can use.
In trying to change perceptions of Mississippi, my campaign would center around creating a hashtag on social media and a blog of experiences to coincide with this new perception. This hashtag would be #Mississppi365, which is all encompassing to represent its deep roots, beautiful views, the many destinations and experiences that can be had 365 days in a year.
Many people don’t realize that Mississippi’s climate allows visitors and residents the ability to enjoy the outdoors every day of the year, and there is a lot to experience, explore and discover.
The main objective of this campaign would be to travel and document different towns, attractions, and things to do in Mississippi to build excitement and a fresh new identity for the state, thus highlighting the natural beauty, wonderful culture, and Southern charm.
Through social media pictures, videos, and blog postings from different locations, I would illustrate the positive attributes that often get overshadowed by Mississippi’s past.
I would use Instagram because of its popularity with this generation. This platform is a great outlet for everyone, whether its visitors or residents, to see posted pictures and videos that make Mississippi the great state it is.
The use of the hashtag #Mississippi365 can create a new excitement and identity for the state. I would also use the state convention and visitors bureau to spread this campaign through existing tourism outlets to create what we call the New Mississippi.
In addition to the hashtag, I would create an Instagram account where pictures and videos can be compiled. This would give people across the country a platform to see all Mississippi has to offer in an exciting new format.
People will start to realize Mississippi is more than the media portrays. This page would humanize the campaign as a whole, because it would be real people sharing their own experiences throughout the state.
Giving this campaign a home page allows people a place to illustrate their passion for the state through the hashtag #Mississippi365.
Oprah Winfrey, who is from Mississippi, would be a great spokesperson for the #Mississippi365 campaign and could help share her favorite pastimes on a blog post. Getting Oprah to become a sponsor for my campaign would help it go viral.
In conclusion, the campaign would help create a new image and identity for the state. With the hashtag, #Mississippi365 we can start anew and show Mississippi in a new light.
I felt this was a positive step in a new direction for the state. Though every state has a past, both positive and negative, there is always potential to grow, prosper and reinvent.