MSMS to launch statewide ad campaign


Courtesy of Sheila Westbrook

The Class of 2021 gather in front of Hooper Academic Building for a class photo sporting the new “I am MSMS” t-shirts.

Aiden Leise and Clare Seo

This month, MSMS is rolling out an advertising campaign that the administration hopes will spread awareness for the school across the state. The campaign will span social media, radio and television and is centered around the tagline “I am MSMS.”

Increasing public knowledge about MSMS has been a goal for every branch of school administration.

“[Dr. McConnell, Executive Director of MSMS] has said this since the day I started working here, ‘We need every student in the state to understand who we are so that they know they have this opportunity,’ so that’s our goal with this,” said Sheila Westbrook, Director of Advancement.

However, an opportunity to help reach this goal came during the 2018-2019 school year, when the school was not able to find a suitable candidate for a vacancy in the faculty. The funding for the upcoming campaign comes, in part, from the surplus left by that vacancy. Prior to this, the administration had planned on using a portion of the school’s reserve funds on advertising.

“Of course there hasn’t been a lot of money [for advertising], and there’s still not a lot of money to do so,” McConnell said. “But we can’t continue to recruit the students that need to be here or help companies and other parents know who we are without that investment, and so that’s an investment that we have to continue to make to ensure that we have the kind of exposure that we need to have.”

After securing the funding for a campaign, the administration’s attention turned towards a theme for the campaign. Multiple concepts were proposed, but in the end, they felt that the theme of “I am MSMS” best showcased what they wanted to represent about the school to prospective students, parents and business partners, specifically the diversity within the school’s community.

Lacking a Coordinator for Public Relations, the school needed guidance on design and distribution for the campaign, and for this, they turned to neonFROG, inc, a local marketing agency that has provided its services to multiple businesses and promotions in the Columbus community, including the Black Prairie Blues Festival and the political campaign of Dana McLean, Representative-elect for Mississippi’s 39th District.

This t-shirt design was created by senior Gina Nguyen.

A number of students at MSMS were also given the chance to help contribute to the campaign. All students enrolled in Drawing in the Spring of 2019 were tasked to submit an original design aligning with the theme for a contest. After deliberation, Gina Nguyen’s design, based around a map of the state, was chosen to be the “I am MSMS” logo. This design was printed on shirts distributed to all students on senior move-in day.

Through social media, the shirts gained widespread attention among the MSMS community, and the feedback received by the school motivated administration to also make plans for an “online specialty shop” selling MSMS merchandise.

“We’re going to eventually create some more products with [Nguyen’s design] on there because it can be kind of another [logo for the school],” Westbrook said.

In addition to the shirts, the school has also taken steps towards promoting the school through television and radio spots.

Last school year, Jake Jones, a senior producer at Starkville’s Broadcast media group (and husband of MSMS Coordinator of Admissions LeighAllison Jones) was brought in to do videography for advertisements lasting 15 seconds, 30 seconds, and one minute. These advertisements will feature members of the class of 2019 as well as school faculty and alumni describing their experiences with the school overlaid with clips of students going about their daily business at the school.

Previews of these videos were shown at Opening Convocation and Parent’s Day, though the administration has already made plans for how to keep the campaign fresh in the future.

“We had a lot of interviews recorded all at one time, but our campaign is buildable because we have so much footage that we’re using a portion of it this year,” Westbrook said. “And then we can budget smaller pieces and, without that production piece, just make new videos because we have all of the footage already available.”

The Office of Admissions and Advancement is also working to secure a hashtag for use in the campaign, to not only link social media posts about the school to each other but also so that the school can track buzz surrounding the campaign.

Due to the ongoing process of planning, school administration was unable to provide The Vision with a more specific starting date for the campaign other than September. However, McConnell alluded to the imminence of the campaign with his final comment to reporters.

“Stay tuned,” he said.