Kentucky to the World Wants to Share Your Story

By Sarah Levitch
Video Provided by Kentucky to the World

As the world remains in a state of flux, adapting to the everyday situations and questions presented by COVID-19, Kentucky stands tall as a model for excellence and greatness. Faced with challenges unlike ever before, the people of Kentucky have not only broken stereotypes but also proven to the nation that we take care of our communities, no matter what. Giving a platform and opportunity to further display these acts of compassion, Kentucky to the World wants to hear your story. As a non-profit organization, Kentucky to the World creates multi-media productions that find and elevate stories of excellence. Whether from individuals, organizations or communities, these stories work together to construct a new narrative for Kentucky on the world stage that isn’t beholden to old stereotypes. We spoke with Taylor Cochran, creative consultant, and Melissa Zoeller, public relations and marketing consultant, about Kentucky to the World’s mission and their upcoming video series. 


How have the operations of Kentucky to the World shifted in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Taylor: Luckily before all of this happened, we planned to take a step back as an organization and work on brand awareness. When the organization started, it was primarily a conversation and lecture series, and late last year we pivoted to be a more holistic storytelling organization. In modern times, a huge piece of that would’ve been our digital presence, so we began migrating our website from a brochure of the organization to long-form blogs written by our staff writer Michael Phillips. All of them have an illustrated component by our staff illustrator, archivist and researcher August Northcut. A lot of them also have video or photo components produced by Tommy Johns. Instead of chasing headlines, our organization is chasing archives. The biggest difference during COVID-19 has been rethinking how we continue with the brand equity we have while trying to do something innovative and relevant. How do we add something productive rather than being a handout?

Melissa: Our focus stays around the fact that these are unique stories no one else is telling about individuals that have strong Kentucky ties. Whether it be that they grew up here, work here or discovered something here. Our main goal is to keep it centered around the fact that most people don’t realize how many things come out of Kentucky. 

Tell me about the video series you’re working on.
Taylor: Our Education & Strategy Consultant, David Thurmond, came up with this idea with his niece. They were thinking about how this quarantine experience has affected so many different people in so many different ways, and during all of it, Kentucky has made national headlines for really, really good reasons for one of the first times in a long time. As well, Cuomo gave this speech that really spoke to Thurmond about reimagining the future. So, we spent a couple of weeks watching the community to see how everyone was responding to figure out what questions we could ask people. What we came up with was, let’s give people the most non-specific prompt we can. Let’s be the archivist here. Give us your stories. What has been exceptional to you? Has it been your neighbor doing this? Is it something that you did? What are you seeing coming out of Kentucky that you would like to tell the world about?

How will you be collecting and sharing the videos?
Taylor: All social media except for twitter. We’re @kentuckytotheworld on Instagram and Facebook, so tag our profile and use #kentuckytotheworld and #teamkentucky. 

Melissa: Governor Andy Beshear has been sharing the #teamkentucky posts in his daily updates. What we want is for people to make a small video of how they’ve been affected by all this or what unique things they’ve seen. We’re going to compile all those together as a video series and montage. Some of our community partners are the Muhammad Ali Center, Frazier History Museum, Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, Louisville Metro Parks Community Centers and Omni Louisville Hotel. We want to send this video montage out to them as well as the Governor’s office to share all these amazing things that people have done during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Taylor: There will be a companion blog about this project too. KTW’s Video Producer & Director, Tommy Johns, is curating a YouTube playlist for these videos. These videos are sort of flipping the script from looking at the greatness someone achieved to recognizing that greatness is already in Kentucky by listening to these stories. Kentuckians standing by each other is literally our state motto. We are in it for the commonwealth. 

How do you envision the final product?
Taylor: I don’t know if we’re putting a time limit on this, as much as there will be a natural time limit. At some point, submissions will become more relevant, or something will happen to add another storyline. We don’t really know what’s going to happen. We might release a few different montage videos rather than one big thing. 

Melissa: It’s very organic and open. What we said from the beginning was we’ll review every two weeks to see where we stand, just like we’re reviewing every two weeks in life. We’re in such a state of flux that we want to keep it going as long as individuals are doing these amazing things.