Point Students May Help With Branding Campaign

on June 29, 2017

LANETT — The Chambers County Commission’s External Affairs Committee met Tuesday morning at the Chambers County Development Authority office for a progress update on the county’s branding effort. County government and its individual departments, local cities and towns, local school systems and Bradshaw-Chambers County Library each have logos embracing the “Strength Woven In” theme. The latest ones being considered are for the Huguley Fire Department (a flame against a red and black background) and the Huguley Water, Sewer and Fire Protection Authority (the image of a dripping faucet against the red and black weave pattern). Red Sage Communications, Decatur, Ala., is serving as a consultant on the project and has come up with some really good ideas. In the fairly near future, these Strength Woven In logos will likely be displayed on welcoming signs and on vinyl stickers on county vehicles.

Some thought is also being given to the slogan: “Chambers County, the county of champions,” this to seize on the county being the birthplace of boxing champ Joe Louis Barrow and all the local high schools having won state championships in sports.

“After textiles left us, we had to reinvent ourselves,” said committee member Debbie Wood. “We have had to have the grit to fight through things. We went from having 22 percent unemployment in 2009 to 3.9 percent today.” Committee members talked at length with Dr. Todd Weaver, head of Point University’s Business Department, about ways to engage Point students in helping to promote the branding campaign. Dr. Weaver said that two upcoming classes would line up nicely with this. This fall, Point will offer an undergraduate branding and marketing class and in the spring will have a graduate-level MBA class that could help with this. The undergraduate class could do some surveys to gather data on public perceptions and the MBA class could explore long-term strategies in carrying the branding campaign forward to the next phase.

“This will be a good learning experience for our students, and we can help you out as well,” Dr. Weaver said. Committee member Sam Bradford said the basic purpose of the campaign was to get across in a positive way what Chambers County is all about. Wood said that this is sometimes an uphill battle given the way more and more people are googling on the Internet when they are looking up information on a given community. More often than not, information that’s easily available is significantly flawed. Wood cited the example of crime statistics that list both Lanett and Valley as two of the most unsafe cities in Alabama.

“We need to get off that list. It hurts our image,” she said. If there’s one murder in a calendar year in Lanett (a town with around 6,000 people), a city with 300,000 people could have 49 murders and be a “safer” city the way these statistics are determined. In 1998, Conecuh County, Ala., which has around 13,000 people, made the national top ten for the highest murder rate because three people were killed one night in a small-town armed robbery. The way these statistics are determined are clearly slanted against smaller populated communities. Wood said she has talked to Realtors in the metro Atlanta area who have told her they carry a gun with them when they show a home that’s for sale in certain neighborhoods they work. She said she’s never felt like she had to do that anywhere in Chambers County.

“We’re not a high crime area, but we’re perceived that way because of what people find in Internet searches,” she said. Bradford said he’d like for a survey to be done to find out how the mill demolition sites affect public perceptions.

“We could do surveys,” Dr. Weaver said. “We could talk to focus groups in our fall class. We could do a study on what people thought about Chambers County.” Bradford said he’d also like to know if some Point students like it enough here to want to stay after graduation.

“We’d love for our graduates to stick around and to have a local alumni base,” Dr. Weaver said. Kimberly Carter of the CCDA staff asked Dr. Weaver if he had target dates of when to start. He told her that the fall term will start Aug. 23. That’s when the undergraduate branding and marketing class would be taking place. The graduate-level class would be starting in January. There will be some money for the branding program in the county’s 2017-18 budget. Signs and banners will be ordered by Dec. 1 with the promotional campaign starting in January. Strength Woven In banners can be displayed from power poles in Lanett, LaFayette and Valley.

“It’s a great feat for our county to have all departments on board,” said Wood. Scott Windsor of the Huguley Water Authority suggested painting the logo on water tanks. He said that two of them in the Huguley Industrial Park are on schedule to be repainted in 2018. The county logo and the Strength Woven In expression could be going up on them. Members of the committee liked the idea. “I think it’s a great idea,” Wood said.

By WAYNE CLARK Times - News News Editor

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