How to Create Engaging Video Marketing Campaigns - An Interview with Steve Markle (OARS)

1 August 2022

Get a glimpse into what you can expect from our latest course "video storytelling to inspire adventure travelers" with this interview of Steve Markle, the Vice President of Sales & Marketing at OARS, a whitewater and adventure tour operator. He gives his insight on how they create their successful video marketing campaigns and how you can create content that people enjoy.

“I arrived here in 2002. OARS had already been doing video marketing for almost 30 years.” Steve tells us the challenges he found with their old marketing strategy, “Back in those days, they were charging prospective travelers a shipping fee to receive a promo video of a trip, that the traveler then had to send back after they watched it. As a young marketeer, I just thought ‘This is crazy.' Moreover, those videos were overly focused on promotion, not telling a story, but just trying to sell.”

Markle explains how OARS developed their unique video marketing strategy and why they focus on content that wasn’t just about their tours such as “How to Pack a Cooler for Camping”. “Those pieces of content were really designed to turn up in the search engines for people that might not be looking for a river trip, but are presumably campers and thus good candidates for the type of experiences we offer. Some of them will come back afterward, or turn into leads. This is the more functional aspect of our video strategy.”

“When it comes to storytelling, we never really had a strategy laid out. We always saw river trips as a way to inspire people to take more care of the environment.” Markle talks about their 2014 award-winning film, titled  “River of Eden”, which was created to raise awareness about the threat of pollution from a copper mine into a river in Fiji. Markle explains, “It’s that content that people want to see, content with which they can connect and that tells a great story. A clear advantage of story-driven content is that you can reach many people without having to pay for advertising like is the case with promotional videos.”

Though creating video content at the same level as OARS might seem daunting, Markle says it’s achievable for anyone. “I think an important tip is to start small, especially if you’re on a low budget. Just create some content, it doesn't matter if it’s the best quality and start experimenting with it. Try to find out what works for your audience. When I started in 2002 we had almost no budget, but we went out and created some pretty cheesy videos. But it allowed us to capture some inexpensive footage and learn the ropes from there.”

“I wish I could tell you there’s a strategy, but often you just need to keep your eyes open and think about the people that might have a story to tell, and think about the different aspects that make a story interesting, like character development and conflict. Ultimately, the key is to work together with talented video storytellers, so I reach out to people that are a good match with the story based on their credentials. And I give them the freedom to bring their own ideas to the table. If you do that, magic can happen.”

The Adventure Travel Trade Association’s (ATTA) new OnlineEDU course entitled “Video Storytelling to Inspire Adventure Travelers” delivers over six and a half hours of on-demand video. The five-course track also features three expert interviews, five hands-on exercises, and five downloadable resources. You can enroll in the Video Storytelling to Inspire Adventure Travelers course here.