Rory Doyle of Delta State Communications & Marketing said, "This all started in Leadership Bolivar County through the Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce. Our group was asked to come up with an idea for a community event that would bring everyone together, and potentially act as a fundraiser. The leadership class doesn’t require that your project proposal gets carried out but we figured why not make our hashtag project a functional community concept."
Doyle said he was inspired when he read about a campaign done by Atlanta to promote the city.
"I read about a campaign in Atlanta where the city spent millions of dollars paying marketing gurus to produce a video that showed why Atlanta is a special place to live and visit. The article explained that the final product was a video that went on YouTube that few people connected with and barely anyone viewed — a weak end result after all the money that went into the campaign.
“An independent side project was started by a few photographers in Atlanta to create a social media hashtag called #WeLoveATL. The response was enormous, almost viral. People continue to use the hashtag to show all that is great about Atlanta. The photographers go through the submitted photos and put them on exhibit at venues and in their mobile #WeLoveATL van. The public can purchase prints at the exhibits, with all proceeds going to a food bank in the city," he said.
Doyle said he took those ideas and ran with them, creating our very own Cleveland and Bolivar County hashtags.
"I thought about adapting this concept and using it for both Cleveland and Bolivar County — hence the hashtags #cleveLANDms and #BoCoPROUD. Our project aims to be very similar to the Atlanta campaign, except funding from sales will go to the Delta Arts Alliance.
We will have a soft opening of "#cleveLANDms and #BoCoPROUD” at the Flight 2020 exhibit opening at the DAA on Sept. 9. Our goal is to have a full exhibit at the DAA by next spring, again, with all sales going to the DAA. There is plenty of time for people to spread word of this project and start submitting their images. There is no limit to the amount of submissions," he said.
A hashtag is used on social media sites such as Twitter and Instagram.
It is a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic.
These hashtags will be used by the chamber for years to come to help express the highlights of life in Cleveland and Bolivar County.
While smartphones are the craze right now, there are still many residents that don't have a smartphone. However, Doyle said there are others ways to participate.
"We are asking people to use Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to upload their favorite photos expressing all that is great about Cleveland and Bolivar County. Participants can use a smartphone to upload on these platforms, or they can use a real camera and upload photos via the computer. Tablets are also a great way to upload photos on social media. We will consider any image that utilizes either one/both of the hashtags, and we will be checking the submissions constantly," he said.
Doyle said he hopes these photos will capture the beauty of the Delta.
"We would love to see hashtags on images that capture our area — landscape, farming, the river, architecture, people, recreation, food, music, Delta State University — the list goes on and on. The idea is that anyone can do this, regardless of your background. There is so much beauty here, in all the Delta’s complexities and simplicities. From traditional to abstract, there is so much to photograph right here in our town and county," he said.
The photos will also be one display at the Delta Arts Alliance.
"The hope is that everyone will feel a connection to these hashtags as a symbol of pride in Cleveland and Bolivar County. The chamber can market these hashtags and help keep this project going indefinitely. Our area has so much to share, and we feel like this is a communal and unified way to share the magic. It will be an added bonus if we sell a lot of the photos at the exhibit opening this spring. The DAA does so much for this community, and we felt like this was a perfect nonprofit to partner with," Doyle said.
DAA Executive Director Rori Herbison said, "The Delta Arts Alliance will always be committed to partnering with talented, emerging artists to provide opportunity and exposure; to create new, innovative work and to rally community pride through an artistic venture. We will always be first in line in that scenario, and that's exactly the situation that presented itself. Rory and I were talking; casual conversation, and he began detailing his journey through the chamber's leadership program and started describing his project and his group's hopes with the project. I could tell instantly he wanted this to be more than a conceptual project. He wanted a tangible result. He was talking about giving it real legs and watching it take off.
"From there, we solicited the support of Chet Oguz and others on the exhibition committee and put a timeline in place to 'soft' launch the project at the opening of the Flight 2020 exhibit on Sept. 9 at 6 p.m. After the project has had time to take hold and images collected, the curation process will begin, with Rory at the helm. We are shooting for a spring 2015 exhibit opening in the gallery."
Herbison said she believed using social media was important because it allowed so many people to get involved in the project.
"I think the component of social media is important because it helps make this accessible. We live in a time of Instagram, Facebook and selfies; and some of those shots are incredibly interesting and they are all intensely personal to the photographer. Having that control, that input, that stake in how this story of our #cleveLANDms will be told, that's important. Being able to show what makes you #BoCoPROUD - that participation, that interactivity—these are defining times in the way we communicate and capture stories," she said.
"I am so excited to see what this community and this project yields. The possibilities are endless and that's truly the magical part to me. We're starting with an absolute, blank slate and asking our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends — everyone — to contribute a color, a stroke, an image to that canvas," said Herbison.