Reporting for Duty is an original AARP YouTube series that has garnered 15 million views since its inception. It showcases how, by grit and perseverance, vets and service members overcome personal challenges and go on to teach, lead and inspire others. These stories strongly resonate with AARP’s community of veterans, active duty and military families, not only for showcasing acts of bravery and heroism, but because these characters continue to serve others long after their military career is over. They keep reporting for duty.
The first goal of the series is to connect with a key AARP audience: the veteran community. By seeking out new characters, Reporting for Duty provides great storytelling about the lives of veterans. While we focus on the 50+ community, our specific presence on YouTube allows us to appeal to the GenX community and beyond. Our second goal was to reach audiences and gain viewership outside the AARP veteran community by leveraging the tools of the platform. A third goal, for 2022 specifically, was to create a publishing cadence that would solidify AARP as a quality producer of veteran content.
The plan of action was to create a production schedule for 2022, with researched and developed characters. Many of the proposed stories were also chosen to premiere with an article for AARP’s website; this would allow for cross-promotion, for solidifying the AARP brand as a storyteller of veteran content, and for directing AARP members to the YouTube platform where the Reporting for Duty series would live. The roll-out of the videos was planned in coordination with many communications departments within AARP. Once a production plan was created for the episodes, a budget was determined, and the detailed development, production and post-production of each episode for 2022 successfully met the planned cadence of the roll-out.
Some of the key challenges we faced were:
1) Making sure to align our production process with the expectation of our distribution partners and mitigate any delays or production setbacks;
2) Keeping up with and adjusting to YouTube best practices, its algorithm and trends, as they are updated and change frequently. This impacts how we produce a video, decide its editorial style, upload, and even determine our metrics and analyze our results;
3) Finding meaningful and impactful veteran stories that can answer the question “Why AARP?”. The challenge is to identify stories for our audience, while also trying to achieve viewership on YouTube beyond our subscribers and core audience.
This series is unique in that it demonstrates one of AARP’s top strengths: support for the 50+ community and expertise in veteran storytelling. Additionally, many AARP departments value these stories and support the production of the videos for their use to promote other initiatives. We have found that we’ve tapped into a highly-engaged audience hungry for more.
In the past 365 days, the Reporting for Duty series captured over 2.7 million video views. Audiences are finding and engaging with the content long after its posted. Past episodes of Reporting for Duty always rank in our monthly top 5 performing videos. The continued promotional efforts behind the series contribute to its success.