We launched People of Alabama in 2017 with a simple premise we wanted everyone to take to heart: Everybody has a story.
The statewide portrait series highlights everyday Alabamians who are willing to share a bit of the struggles, triumphs, and lessons gleaned in their lives with our Instagram and Facebook communities. We share their stories in their own words and, more often than not, their stories are full of inspiration and often speak to the humanity that unites us all.
From stills to video
We wanted to find a way to bring even more attention to the thoughtful people who call the state home and introduce them to more audiences. Enter our People of Alabama video series, an extension of the stories we were already sharing, just done in an extraordinary way.
The videos show inspirational Alabamians as they truly are: superheroes, queens, beacons of joy. Take the Queen of Walmart, for example. She’s Marlene Young, a people greeter at Walmart in a small Alabama town of 2,500 people. Making other people happy makes her feel like a queen. That’s why she has worn a tiara to work at that Walmart every day for the past 20 years.
We published her video first in our series. People gravitated to her sense of humor, spunk, and heart. The response was incredible. It garnered more than 1 million views on Facebook and was shared over 5,500 times. It was exciting to see how far the video reached. One memorable comment came from a woman living in Italy who was touched by her story.
We gave a similar real-life amplified treatment to Eugene Hinton, a beloved elementary school custodian. A video of Hinton, affectionately known as Mr. Eugene, went viral after the school surprised him on National Custodian Day. Not all heroes wear capes, but he definitely should. He’s a superhero to faculty and students, so that’s how we envisioned him when we caught up with him to share more of his story beyond his viral moment.
Keeping it simple
With other videos, we used a simpler approach while still applying a cinematic style of storytelling. Tracy Wilhelm, an elementary school teacher in coastal Alabama, had a remarkable friendship with a goose who lived at a city park. They would often swim together in the bay, drawing onlookers who were amazed by their bond. Through video, we were able to show that their rich, long-term bond was much more than an amazing spectacle.
Overall, our storytelling technique was simply to dig a little deeper to get to the heart of what makes our subjects so special. Taking stories of everyday Alabamians and presenting their lives almost like a slice of a feature film made them interesting to larger audiences and increased our reach far beyond Alabama.