Community Branding a benedum-funded project at the wvu reed college of media

"Anywhere that I am in this state, I can look around and feel the mountains perpetually hugging me with a natural, majestic beauty. It reminds me that I am alive in the most peaceful sense." -Kelly Williams, Account Supervisor

We're a team of strategic communicators from the WVU Reed College of Media, working to create research-based integrated branding campaigns for three communities in the Mountain State: Matewan, Grafton and Whitesville.

"I've lived here all my life, don't want to live anywhere else. I really want to see our community grow. West Virginia University has gone above and beyond of what most institutions would do within a state." -David Hatfield, Matewan Business Owner

We specialize in brand storytelling that favors “place” over products.

A community brand is a unique, collective story that makes a place memorable, such as a town or region’s people, history, beliefs, mission, business, natural resources or new focused endeavors.

The 2015 Hatfield McCoy Reunion Festival in Matewan, W.Va. Photo credit: David Smith/WVU Reed College of Media

In each community, we aim to increase local business, raise regional and national awareness of assets, increase independent efforts toward strategic goals, provide resource materials for economic development, and foster a sense of community pride.

An ATV rider at the 2015 Hatfield McCoy Reunion Festival in Matewan, W.Va. Photo credit: David Smith

Our project director and principal investigator, Dr. Rita Colistra, led the #BrandMatewan campaign in 2015.

"To be honest, I was intrigued with Matewan as soon as I drove up to the stop sign and watched the fog set in as a coal train passed on the tracks that separated me from the town. It was unbelievable." -Dr. Rita Colistra, PI

Dr. Colistra explains why working with communities is important:

Step 1: Background & Secondary Research

Here's a quick look at our community-branding process. First, #BrandMatewan met with branding experts before collecting and analyzing existing information.

Fahlgren Mortine Branding Expert Matthew Sutton offers advice to strategic communications students at the West Virginia University Reed College of Media during the #BrandMatewan campaign. Photo credit: David Smith

Step 2: Immersion Trip

Next, we sent a team into Matewan to conduct primary research, such as focus groups and surveys,...

‏@BartschCourtney: Jesus take the wheel as I drive all through West Virginia for the second time in this past week. Matewan here we come! #BrandMatewan

...but mainly to meet the residents and get to know the town. It's important for our teams to understand that they're helping real people, so spending time in the communities is essential.

"After coming down and working with, talking to and listening to these people, in comes the human element. Before it was community members. Now it’s Kathy and Don building a fire for us to roast s’mores over. It’s Kim cooking breakfast at the B&B even with her two broken fingers from a landscaping accident." -Tyler Clendenin, #BrandMatewan Community Relations/Content Strategist

On this trip, #BrandMatewan recruited 26 business owners and town stakeholders for a roundtable to gauge their perceptions of Matewan and to discuss ways to improve tourism and economic development.

Dr. Rita Colistra and her team during the 2015 immersion trip to Matewan. Photo credit: David Smith

A few weeks later, the team held a community member focus group to hear their thoughts on improvement.

#BrandMatewan Research Director Courtney Bartsch hangs a flier for a community focus group. Photo credit: David Smith

Step 3: Planning & Creative

Dr. Colistra's team spent 5 months traveling to Matewan to take pictures, film 360 video clips, hold social media workshops, interview residents, earn media coverage and discuss logo/brand ideas with a local branding committee.

A brand guide for Matewan designed by Katie Jarrell, #BrandMatewan Art & Creative Director
Screenshot of a virtual tour of Matewan by #BrandMatewan Digital Media Director Kelsey Staggers
Local artist Vera Kay Hankins sketches during the 2015 Hatfield McCoy Reunion Festival. Photo credit: David Smith

Step 4: Presentation

On December 16, #BrandMatewan successfully showcased their efforts at the WVU Media Innovation Lab. They presented a new brand image, slogan, website, social media accounts and other deliverables.

‏@lindseybetz75: I can honestly say I have never been more proud of a project and I am honored to be a #ColistraKid #BrandMatewan

We're passionate about telling each town's unique story!

Designed by Mariah Elliott, Coordinator

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