At People of Alabama, we share the stories of everyday Alabamians in their own words in print and on Instagram and Facebook. We believe that everybody has a story and that those stories deserve special treatment.
Storytelling is an art in the South and it’s a tradition we want to help continue in digital spaces. With that in mind — and after seeing the popularity of our People of Alabama video series — we realised we had an opportunity to reach more audiences by expanding our series regionally across the South.
We launched All Y’all in early 2020 on It’s a Southern Thing, our Southern lifestyle brand. We continued finding people willing to share universal themes of humanity through their own lives and show the importance of the power of connection with others.
We kicked off the series with Lisa Thomas-McMillan, who is on a mission to feed hungry people, and her selflessness has made a huge impact in her town. Her donations-only restaurant has no menu, no prices, and no staff — just a desire to feed a tremendous need.
Based on her interview, we recreated parts of her backstory to show viewers that her passion for helping others stemmed from lessons she learned growing up and stayed with her throughout her life. We also hoped that it would inspire people with her message that serving other people is something we all can do and illustrate the fulfillment you can get out of life by helping others.
Viewers connected with her heartwarming story. Thousands of people shared the video and viewers from all over the world left comments sharing the good people are doing in their communities. Many others donated money to help her with her mission, adding up to thousands of dollars.
Creating connections between strangers
While producing other stories, we wanted to try another video approach to reach more people through the power of connection. In the South, most people are friendly and approachable, so we decided to see what would happen when we sat two strangers on our portable yellow bench and had them ask random questions to each other to spark conversation.
We asked our audience to help us come up with a name and a commenter suggested “Never Met a Stranger,” which we loved. We filmed the first video in a park right up the road from our office, and six strangers shared touching stories, laughter, and their answers to life’s big questions with each other.
Viewers commented with their own answers to the questions. Others asked us to bring the bench to their towns and volunteered to be paired with another stranger. We had plans to take the bench on the road and film similar interactions in cities across the South. Not long after, social distancing and sheltering in place became the norm.
Maintaining the connection while socially distanced
The desire to connect became more important than ever and we wanted to continue bringing people together. Since we could no longer film more in-person bench conversations, we created a way for people to get to know each other virtually with a digital version of our bench conversations. One of our All Y’all producers showed how Southern hospitality and warmth can translate digitally as he met seven strangers through video chat.
The All Y’all series has more than 3 million views across Facebook and YouTube and connected viewers with an amazing group of people and each other. From offering heartfelt and kind comments to creating a space for people to share good things in their lives and communities, we’re hopeful in a time of disconnection it provided a chance for people to feel less alone and inspired by people they wouldn’t normally come across.