Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my time with BrandJRNY in the Point Pleasant community was cut a lot shorter than expected. However unsatisfied I feel about this, I’m still very proud to say I played a part in this project. We are a community branding initiative breathing new life into West Virginia through creative strategies and branding efforts. This is a cause that I hold dear to my heart, as I myself come from a small town in West Virginia.
Being on the Brand Storytelling team, part of my job was to record conversations with community members during our “Share Your Story” events. I really enjoyed hearing all of their favorite stories, and within a minute or so, I usually felt like I had known them my whole life. There’s something truly special about West Virginians, and we all seem to be family wherever we go. I used to get nervous when interviewing people, but this experience has helped me a lot. Everyone was so kind that I truly felt myself getting more and more comfortable with every interview. This just reinforced that most people are decent, both inside and outside of West Virginia. Knowing that people are also usually eager to tell their stories, what’s the worst that could happen?
Here are a few pointers for interviewing for community storytelling, like the Share Your Story events that we held:
Eye Contact. People need to know that you’re listening, and natural eye contact is a great way to do that.
Backtrack or ask more detailed questions if you see potential/parallels. Don’t be afraid to follow up on any interesting topics.
Always ask open-ended questions that encourage people to answer with more than “yes” or “no.”
Stay positive, but try not to crack jokes. This isn’t a comedy club.
Read the interviewee; if they aren’t comfortable, try to help them out with a little positive encouragement.
In addition to Share your Story events, I also worked the virtual reality booth at the Point Pleasant Brand Launch. My favorite part was watching people smile as they slid the headset over their eyes. It seemed like the perfect metaphor for BrandJRNY as we’re giving small towns the resources they need to see the beauty of their community. It reminded me of the importance of institutions like WVU investing in their state, as some of those people may never have had the opportunity to use virtual reality before. I had never touched VR before this course, but I was always very interested in it. Now I’m pretty well-versed in Spark AR Studio to create face filters for Instagram, and I am even working on some AR filters for personal projects. I’m so privileged to have the opportunity to work with such technology, and only wish every kid who feels the same passion could have the same opportunities.
I see now that one part of our mission is encouraging people to remember where they came from and always to give back. This state is truly beautiful. When you grow up not traveling much, you begin to believe that where you are is too small and doesn’t have a lot of opportunities. BrandJRNY helps to remind people what their town is really like, and showcases the beauty of West Virginia for all to see.
My name is Logan Kinney and I’m a part of the Community Storytelling and AR/VR team for BrandJRNY. I start my day with black coffee and Rick James. You can usually find me in front of the mountainlair trying to find free food. - @call_me_kinney_