AARP’s Real People, Real Stories series celebrates ordinary individuals from diverse backgrounds whose actions have made an extraordinary impact on themselves and a wider community. The series continues AARP Studios’ longstanding tradition of powerful profiles on Facebook but with a more templatized, quicker-turn approach.
From the outset, our goals were to ramp up production of these age-positive, human interest profiles; develop a pipeline for authentic, multicultural voices; and create a storytelling vehicle that inspires, connects and uplifts viewers to choose how they live as they age. Our hypothesis was that by finding and telling stories that speak to underserved audiences, and meeting them where they were – on Facebook – we could generate initial interest with a target audience and then expand the story’s impact to resonate with all viewers who appreciate compelling narratives and inspirational storytelling.
In order to accomplish our goals of not only creating a series of age-positive human interest profiles, but doing so in a timely manner we needed to come up with a templatized style for the series both in its look and story outline.
Each video features a central character that aligns with AARP’s social mission and includes an originally filmed interview and b-roll. Before deciding on what characters to focus on or stories to tell, we designed a set of criteria that a “Real People Story” must meet. An AARP Real People, Real Story profile must have three core tenets: it must be a people-driven human interest story that connects, inspires, and uplifts; it must have a clear and lasting impact on the individual and a wider community; and it must be able to answer the question “Why is AARP telling this story?”.
“Why is AARP telling this story?” is our most important tenet when telling any story, especially our Real People Story Profiles. Whether highlighting a caregiving issue, or illustrating ways to be healthy and fulfilled as you age, our stories should connect with our core audience and highlight AARP’s social mission. Our Real People, Real Story profiles allow audiences to engage with AARP on their own social feeds.
Intentionally crafting diverse and multicultural narratives was another vital aspect of meeting audiences where they are. In choosing our subjects, it was important to have purposeful representation from multicultural groups. For some of our Hispanic/Latino subjects who felt more comfortable speaking Spanish, we interviewed them in Spanish and added English subtitles to the final video. This approach allowed us to authentically and comfortably capture our subjects.
Since this is a social-first video series, we knew graphics and text-on-screen are a vital part of the storytelling experience, particularly for “sound-off” viewing. So, we created a unified graphics package and “story guide” rules to allow for more consistent storytelling, including hooking viewers at the top with a key message and visuals. We devised an incubation period to test this new concept with five stories and adhered to strict pre- and post-production schedules. Based on the feedback and metrics from those five stories we continued to develop and hone the series making it what it has become today, the top engaged video series on AARP’s Facebook page.
This series has exceeded goals and has connected with our audience. We were successfully able to ramp up our production in one year, creating 30 episodes since the launch of the series in Sept. 2021 through the end of 2022. Additionally, this series has developed a viable pipeline of stories featuring diverse and underrepresented voices. So far, nearly 70 percent of our subjects have a multicultural background, and our top five highest viewed Real People, Real Story videos in 2022 all featured multicultural subjects from the LGBTQ+, AAPI, African American/Black, and Deaf communities.
This series is a standout performer on AARP’s website and social media accounts. The 30 episodes in the series have reached over 23 million people, garnered nearly 6.5 million views and generated more than 850,000 engagements in one year. Fourteen videos have over 100K views each. Real People, Real Stories also has the highest average views across all series on Facebook for AARP.
We’ve found that the stories are resonating with viewers. This emotional impact has been demonstrated through comments such as, “What a beautiful soul, you have to be who you are meant to be, I hope you inspire many young souls to find their true self” and “Beautiful! Gives us all hope for future health and continued activity.”