JACKSON, MISS– When you’ve traveled, you may have had someone ask you about home–and as soon as they heard that you were from Mississippi, they started on the questions about whether or not you could read, if you wore shoes, or if you fly a confederate flag off your vehicle.
But what some don’t realize is that these misconceptions are carried much further than just in casual conversation.
“Do you still see the KKK on your streets every day and do you hate all black people?”
That question, asked by a 12-year-old boy from Connecticut to a Mississippi businessman on a plane 11 years ago, started a public relations campaign, which was completely financed by the businessman’s company to the tune of over $1 million, and has been viewed by over 150 million people worldwide.
The Cirlot Agency created the Mississippi, Believe It! ™ campaign, on a pro bono basis, to inform and educate the world about the accomplishments, individuals, aspects and facts associated with the state of Mississippi. The campaign, which today consists of 21 public service ads, takes common Mississippi stereotypes and twists them to reveal the truth about the state. Service Printers of Flowood, Miss., donated all printing services, totaling over $100,000 in services. Mac Papers in Pearl, Miss., supplied all of the paper necessary for printing.
After promoting the virtues and culture of Mississippi for the past 11 years, The Cirlot Agency relaunched the Mississippi, Believe It! ™campaign by introducing four new public service ads, as well as updating the entire campaign with relevant content about the people, places and spirit of Mississippi. Additionally, the ads have been developed into lesson plans for 4th grade students, which cover areas of music, economics, geography, government, biology, history, and English.
“We’ve donated over $1 million of our time and resources in the past 11 years to show the rest of the country a different side of Mississippi and our people,” said Rick Looser, President and COO of The Cirlot Agency. “Right now, we are most excited about offering 4th graders throughout Mississippi a complete curriculum based on each ad. All lesson plans were created by Mississippi teachers and meet College and Career Readiness/Common Core standards. Teachers can download the free lesson plans from the website,” Looser added.
The Cirlot Agency plans to send 1500 sets of all 21 posters to every public and private school in the state.
Full-length feature stories on the Mississippi, Believe It! ™ campaign have appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, US News & World Report, The Washington Post, and The Chicago Sun Times. The campaign has also been featured on the NBC Today Show as well as NPR’s All Things Considered and Morning Edition. The campaign has been viewed by an estimated 150 million people and created publicity valued at $80 million.
Regardless of the millions in publicity dollars and hundreds of millions in viewership, Looser says the campaign still tends to resonate most among older Mississippians.
“I had a little old lady come up to me with a tear rolling down her cheek,” said Looser. “She said, ‘I tried to read these ads and I only got halfway through them and I started crying. You have said, in these words, what I have wanted to say my whole life, but didn’t know how to articulate.’”