March 26, 2019  

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What's the Southern Miss story? You are watching it unfold.

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What’s our story? That question is asked by and of marketing and public relations professionals on a daily basis. It is an important question because the best narrative is a factor in what sells the most, whether it’s at the box office, the record store or higher education admissions. Of the four “Ps” of Marketing 101, promotion is the one that often gains the most scrutiny.

For marketers, the answer is simple in theory, but complex in execution. The fact is that for an organization, your people tell your story, and marketers do not so much define the story as they do shape and channel it. More today than ever before, your brand is not so much what the marketing department tells people it is than what they tell one another it is.

On Saturday, The University of Southern Mississippi celebrated the coming home of Hannah Roberts, the first Miss University of Southern Mississippi titleholder to win Miss Mississippi in more than 40 years. Later that day, it was announced that Brian Dozier, a former Golden Eagle baseball player who led Southern Miss to the College World Series in 2009, had been named to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, replacing an injured Jose Bautista. It marked the first time in more than 50 years since a Southern Miss alumnus had been an All-Star selection.

The Southern Miss story? It is exemplified in these two accomplished individuals.

Roberts is from Mount Olive, Miss., and is a young woman whose academic achievements rank with the best students in the country. As a sophomore, the Honors College student was one of three Mississippi university students to win a Goldwater Scholarship, which is awarded to the next generation of great research scientists. The recent biochemistry graduate possesses all the confidence and ability to excel in a male-dominated field and does not mind charting her own path to success when others might have shied away from the challenge. She’s a talented violinist who has contributed more than 25,000 books to kids through her Pages of Love platform over the past 10 years.

Dozier is from Fulton, Miss., and was a lightly recruited middle infielder when he arrived at Southern Miss nine years ago. When others would have sulked away quietly, he chose to become an All-American. When he was injured his senior season, he became the emotional leader the team needed to make a historic postseason run to Omaha. In other words, he is a hard guy to keep down. Again this week, after it seemed he was inexplicably going to be left off the All-Star team on Monday, he hit a game-winning home run for the Minnesota Twins. On Friday, when he came in second in a fan vote for what was believed to be the final All-Star spot, he hit another game-winning home run for the Twins. By the way, that was after hosting a clinic for kids in the morning.

If you’re closely watching, this is the Southern Miss story—really the story of South Mississippi. We like to say that this is a place where ordinary people can do extraordinary things. In reality, though, it’s not so much that people like Hannah and Brian are ordinary, it’s that Southern Miss has a habit of recognizing and fostering the extraordinary within—it’s what we do best. Clearly, we’re unafraid to take on a challenge, whenever and wherever it arises—that dates back more than 100 years to the legislative fight to establish the institution.

We are also emerging leaders in a variety of fields. We have the top polymer science school in the country. We’re among the best in business, nursing and other fields, all the while hosting more than 300 arts events each year. When Roberts was asked at Miss Mississippi whether she’d prefer to be President or First Lady, she answered she be a poor First Lady, unable to sit back and let others lead.

We’re determined, sometimes illogically so in the face of what seems to be insurmountable odds. We’ve faced down Katrina and tornadoes in a way by extending our hands to our neighbors and having each others' backs—all while saying yes ma’am and thank you sir. We frequently do not get our due credit, but usually only because others' expectations are historically low and they just do not look our way or believe what they are seeing. That’s unfortunate, sure, but do not expect us to sulk around—we’ve got more three-run homers to hit.

You want to know the Southern Miss story? Just watch—our people tell it best.