While it is widely known, I’ll say it again, there are necessary economic and cultural shifts that need to happen in our state. I firmly believe that examining and rewriting the stories we tell ourselves and others about West Virginia can be key to precipitating those shifts. Our stories can bring change to West Virginia – if we get savvy about how we tell them.
I’ve been energized by the renewed focus on storytelling that has been floating around in popular thinking for the past couple of years, but back when I was starting my career, we were still calling this nebulous concept by its less-catchy name: marketing and communications. As a marketer, I have learned how to draw out, package, and deliver stories that have potential to make change. And with this set of skills in hand, in 2013, I packed up my place in Washington, DC and traveled to live in an apartment that was a 5 minute walk from my childhood home in the East End neighborhood of Charleston.
I came home to West Virginia because I wanted to invest the skills I gained working in other areas of the country into communities in the Mountain State.
While it can be tough to acknowledge – and live through – the realities of a declining population, there is merit to the argument that building a path that allows people to leave, and then encourages them to come back home with new knowledge and skills, has an important role in improving West Virginia’s outlook. As I was settling back into life in these hills, I realized I had joined a league with many folks who are bringing new and diverse skill sets to the state to work for change.
When I found myself back in 2013 sitting in an apartment just two blocks from my elementary school, traveling the same streets, going to the same post office and grocery store, my eyes were opened to the rumblings of a need for change happening all around the state, including some tense transitions, clashing opinions, and conflicting solutions. But what I also saw in the months and years since moving back home are the hundreds and thousands of people looking to help make change happen in a way that brings grace and dignity to our history and people.
I feel fortunate to now be situated in the center of these conversations as the next Director of Strategic Network Communications for The Hub, helping to use good marketing techniques to reframe and promote the stories we tell about our state – and, as a result, help to create change.
I offer my most gracious thanks in honor of the astonishing amount of good work done by our first Director of Strategic Network Communications, Jake Lynch. The entire team at The Hub is wishing Jake safe travels to his new gig down under in Australia.
And to those West Virginians ready to engage, I’m looking forward to making change with you. Give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a story to share or project to collaborate on.