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We should be doing better to promote our state

West Virginia Day is Thursday.

June 20, 1863 is the day West Virginia officially broke away from Virginia and became a state, joining the Union in the midst of the American Civil War. That is 156 years of history for the Mountain State.

To celebrate, the state’s Tourism Division has once against launched a social media campaign to help showcase some of what makes West Virginia so special. This is already the third day of the campaign, but I’m sure there is still an opportunity to participate and if you go to their website, it will have all of the information.

My understanding is the idea behind the campaign is that nobody helps to sell West Virginia better than West Virginians.

There are incentives, of course, with various prize packages available for what officials deem to be the best representation of a particular day’s theme.

Of course, one has to have their social media profiles available for public viewing or none of it is going to matter.

It’s a nice idea as there are people constantly taking pictures with their phones and posting them online through some medium. Whether they are residents or visitors, there are probably thousands of people who have posted photos of West Virginia for others to see. These photos, and accompanying information, help to show off their experiences and thoughts of our state, and possibly encourage others to look into a visit or day-trip of their own.

There are still obstacles, though, and no social media campaign is going to address it.

All the pictures of starlit skies, sun-drenched mountain ranges and fast-flowing rivers won’t do much if we, the people of West Virginia, don’t do something to clean up our own image.

After all, it’s the first impression people have when they arrive at the destination, along with the experience they have while there, that will help to determine whether they return.

Our state is a beautiful place, with many diverse areas making each community and county unique when compared to the others. The southern part of West Virginia is as different to the Eastern Panhandle as both are different to the Northern Panhandle. Our people are, for the most part, friendly and hospitable and more than willing to be of assistance if needed.

But we also haven’t always done a good job of taking care of our home.

We all know about the problems with our roads, which haven’t been addressed the way it has needed to be for various reasons, including increased partisan bickering in Charleston. Some of our state parks can be difficult to find (forget about using GPS in many areas of West Virginia). The biggest pieces of news to come out of our state in recent months has been more about what our governor has, or hasn’t, been doing.

Selling West Virginia to the rest of the world has to include some effort from all of us. Every time one of us visits, or moves to, another part of the country, or even to another country, we are representing our home. Every action we take, every bit of information we put out there, tells our story.

If we want to promote our state, and attract others here, we have to do more than a social media campaign and putting pictures of white water rafting on the sides of cargo trucks.

We have to be honest with ourselves about what we have and work to address what needs fixed. We can’t rely on a John Denver song and a nice slogan to do the work for us.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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