Street Talk

Ole Miss Students ‘Market’ The Valley

By Mickey Howley


You might have noticed them at the ArtCrawl, they were an earnest looking group of young folks—young as in college senior young. Which is not young as high school or runny nose kid young, but still that full-fledged legal just right over 21 years of age type of young. The group in question was the 25 Integrated Marketing seniors from Ole Miss and they were at the Crawl giving out the fan maps and talking to people about Water Valley. This class, before they graduate, picks a project or “client” to work for. It is their “capstone” project that combines everything they have learned in their major. This semester, Water Valley is the client.  
Part of their getting to know the client (that’s us) was to work the night of the crawl, be out on the sidewalk handing out the map fans. They gave 1,000 of them out and in the process interviewed 140 folks about why they were crawling and why they were in the Valley and their impression of the event and the town.  
Just so you don’t think this is some new age, social media hipster degree, the chair of the department and professor for this class is Scott Fiene, a solidly middle-age guy ,who is also one of the most pleasant mid-westerners (plains state—he is originally from Iowa) as you’re ever likely to meet. Most folks from Iowa seem nice, at least the two I know.      The field of study covers not only journalism, but also account management, branding, customer relations, employee attitude, ethics, market research, retailing, market segmentation, social media (of course), and strategy. Sounds like a lot. Scott even has this section on sweating the small stuff while getting the big picture. Yes, you can learn that in college, in theory.
This whole Integrated Marketing program is new at Ole Miss. It was just started a few years ago as part of the Meek School of Journalism; the program started with 90 students and has jumped up to 400 majors this year. Last year the senior class capstone project was devising a new marketing plan for Insight Park, the new bio high-tech facility at Ole Miss. Rick Duke, the director of Insight Park and a regular visitor to the Valley, was so pleased with the results he suggested that the next IM class look at WV.     They did and they chose the Valley to be their client.  This IM degree is in demand. Communication professionals really appreciate the combined skill set needed today. The director of communications for the state Main Street program, Jeannie Waller Zieren, told me the night of the Crawl that Integrated Marketing would be the degree she’d go for instead of her Journalism degree if she was back in school.
The class is still in their assessment and information and opinion and idea gathering stage. They’re asking for input in many ways. Next week I’ll have a link to survey they’re doing. But in the meantime, if you have any ideas as to how WV can or should be marketed; internal, local, regional, national, or even international—remember that glossy Chinese magazine that had eight pages on Water Valley—then let me know via manager@watervalleymainstreet.com.
I’ll forward those to the IM group without any of my usual over-opinionated comments.

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