Could this be the best summer camp video ever?

Making great camp marketing videos is so important!

Birch Trail Camp for Girls just released their new 2015 marketing video and it is AWESOME.

[We're totally biased, of course, because we were involved in the production of the video but even if we weren't we'd still LOVE it.]

BTC's director, Gabe Chernov, came to me this past winter and said that he'd like to be the one to create the video that I've been talking about in so many of my presentations. (such as 10 Things Every Camp Should Do On YouTube)

I've been so inspired by how photographer Sue Bryce's promo video so clearly talked to her ideal client.   It was focussed on the life of a woman who would love to have her portrait shot by Sue - it wasn't a video about Sue at all.  Because her client could see herself in the video she would be much more likely to purchase a session from Sue than another photographer who's video is all : ME, ME, ME, BUY FROM ME.

The elements that make this video a success:

  • It's narrative (it has a story) so people will watch longer that 60-90 seconds.  I don't know how to say this any plainer: your camp video is too damn long!
  • The music pulls you through the story with a great melody and a wonderful message.
  • It's high end.   Yes, you absolutely can create great camp marketing videos on an iPhone (so long as they are SHORT). This video, however, shows what you get when you're ready to invest in video as a marketing tool.
  • It's emotional.   Yet another camp video of sailboats, kids swimming and your oh-so-clever-grouping of multi-ethnic kids hugging... not emotional.  Boring.
  • It surprises you.  The camera work includes some great angles to really immerse us in the story (I loved being there to see the UAV camera work!).
  • It plainly shows the ways that Birch Trail Camp transforms the lives of the girls and young women that go there.

 Check it out:

What elements of this video do you like or dislike?  Leave us a comment below!

CampHack: Found at a Camp for Visually Impaired Children

Creative Method for Keeping Blind Campers Safe

I spoke at the annual ACA Wisconsin Educational Event at the Wisconsin Lions Camp.   Lions Camp folks were super-nice to us all and were very kind to me!   It was such a cool opportunity to spend the day sharing ideas with brilliant camp people (and so nice to meet so many #CampPros!)

Check out what they have done at Lions Camp.  Many of their campers are visually impaired.   In order to make their life at camp a little easier, the camp has put wind chimes outside the doors of many of their main buildings.   What makes this so S-M-R-T is that each building's chime is tuned to a different chord!   

You want to go to the dining hall... listen for Cmaj.  Health Centre (sorry... Center) - there's F#.

What I don't know is if the chord names are know.   How cool would it be if the chimes were in the key of G (G, C, D chords) - they would be in the key of 90% of the camp songs ever written!

Listen here:

An Open Letter to Cairn's S.T.A.N.D. Campers

A Cairn Camper grins during a   S.T.A.N.D. exercise

A Cairn Camper grins during a 

S.T.A.N.D. exercise

For a wonderful week in August, I was privileged to spend time with the Staff and Teen Campers of Glen Mhor Camp, one of the Cairn Family of Camps in Muskoka, Ontario, Canada.  It was a glorious week filled with learning, love, and laughter.  How impressed I was with these young people who were so eager to share, to express themselves, and to support one another.  

It was our pilot program of S.T.A.N.D. and I really had no idea what to expect.  Everything was planned and ready to go and it all seemed to flow together rather nicely in my head but I had truly no idea how it would all turn out.

The setting was breathtaking and the camp’s programming was awesome.  Even the weather was perfect (well except for that one incredibly hot day - you know, the day we celebrated Christmas during our morning hour of S.T.A.N.D., complete with hot chocolate, hot Christmas cookies, surrounded and squished in by Christmas decorations, and it had to be over 100 degrees!). Despite the heat, the camp staff was so engaged and eager to help make it a positive experience, and the campers were incredibly receptive to grow and change and make their mark in the world.  

Some of the amazing things I witnessed? -   campers greeting one another, introducing themselves and starting great conversations; folks holding doors open for one another, asking people to join their groups, and helping each other out without being asked; everyone graciously congratulating the winners and appreciating one another’s efforts in competition; folks discussing difficult issues with maturity and depth, and campers and staff brainstorming ways in which they will leave their legacy.  

In fact, one of my favourite stories came on the first full day of camp.  After our session on Social Graces, a cabin of young men (true gentlemen actually) saw the food truck arriving just before the lunch hour.  They asked the senior staff member if they could cut their program time at the climbing wall short so they could help the kitchen staff unload the food truck.  

On the last night of camp, we had a great opportunity through a generous camp alumnus named Donovan “Bocca” Romanyk.  His production company, Where It’s At! TV, came to camp and broadcast a one hour live-streamed show in which campers talked about what they had learned through S.T.A.N.D., how they were going to put their new skills and knowledge to work, and showcased some of their amazing talent.  It is hard to put into words how proud I am of these teens.  They absolutely blew me away.

These campers and staff made my first experience running S.T.A.N.D. exceptional and phenomenally inspiring. In the words of Natalie Merchant, “I want to thank you for the generosity, the love and the honesty that you gave me.  I want to show my gratitude, my love and my respect for you.  I want to thank you”.

I dedicate this first installment of S.T.A.N.D. online to all of them.  

“Thanks for the evenings, friends.”

Click for more S.T.A.N.D. Leadership Training articles.

Summer Camp Photographer - Camp Kintail

Camp Photos for Marketing Purposes

Camp Kintail is an ever growing Presbyterian Church Camp on the eastern shore of Lake Huron.  Kintail is my first summer home - as many long-term listeners and readers will know I grew up there (so did my mom & her brothers and my grandparents).   It is always a special time for me to get to go back to Kintail and shoot for them every year.

If you are interested in professional photography to help improve the image of your website, blog, newsletter or brochure please contact me.

A "HINT" to Avoid Cancellations - Joanna Warren Smith

Summer camps are reporting last-minute cancellations

They do happen because of illness or summer school, but the cancellation without justification can be avoided if you nurture your relationships with campers and their parents right before camp.

Even though you are in high gear now, it's worth the effort to ...


  • SEND A 'CAN'T WAIT TO SEE YOU AT CAMP' NOTE.  Campers love getting snail mail, but if that's not possible, send a camper email to parents requesting that 'they print it out for their camper.'  Age-specific comments about the great times ahead with a terrific visual or two can help campers feel more comfortable about their approaching adventure.  The language of the first-time camper note should be different from the one sent to returning campers.
  • PRIORITIZE 2013 PARENT CALLS & EMAILS.  Go on heightened alert to respond immediately to each communication from a current family.  If their concerns or questions are not addressed instantaneously, they may get 'cold feet'.
  • REMIND FAMILIES OF ACCESS.  Even though you have said it repeatedly, it is comforting to parents when you send a focused email that gives details of how to communicate with you during the summer.  Send this just before their child comes to camp, be certain to give an emergency number and define a truly urgent situation.

Please do what you can to avoid the possibility of developing a cancellation trend.

Have a great, safe summer... 


Need an objective perspective on any aspect of camp?  Give me a call at 310-451-1876 or email

(Note from Travis:   We are so thrilled to be posting the always brilliant HINTS from camp consultant Joanna Warren Smith!  If you don't already you should sign up to receive theses HINTS in your email - in the right-hand column of Joanna's website: 


A "HINT" to Increase Retaining Campers - Joanna Warren Smith

Training Your Summer Camp Staff to Help You Keep Campers Coming Back

(Note from Travis:   We are so thrilled to be posting the always brilliant HINTS from camp consultant Joanna Warren Smith!  If you don't already you should sign up to receive theses HINTS in your email - in the right-hand column of Joanna's website:

hint for retaining summer campers from Joanna Warren Smith.

hint for retaining summer campers from Joanna Warren Smith.

Imagine if you will ...

A camper is walking down a path with a favorite counselor.  They are laughing, talking and bonding in such a special way that when you see them, you smile because these relationships are what camp is all about.

The lively, engaging conversation continues; the camper looks up fondly at the best role model in the world and eagerly asks, "Are you coming back to camp next summer?"  And the counselor quickly responds "No, I'm going to grad school."

Please know that the camper who asked the question will likely not be back because in that response, the counselor took away a "personal" reason for the child to return.

Now, I don't advocate lying to campers but we must encourage counselors to realize their impact on children.  It's essential for them to see how the ramifications of a response to a tough question can be mitigated.


  • RUN A SHORT INTERACTIVE SESSION FOR ALL STAFF.  Act out the above scenario and let counselors come to their own conclusions about the impact on the camper.  If they see it, rather than get lectured about it, they are more likely to understand your intention.
  • PROVIDE EASY RESPONSES.   Encourage counselors to anticipate the question and be ready with authentic responses like "I love camp so much, I want to come back every year."  Or "Camp is the best place, I always want to be here, don't you?" And remind counselors that if they do have negative reactions about camp, they should be shared with leadership ... not with campers or their parents.
  • FOCUS BACK ON THE CAMPER.  Guide the counselor to move the child to thinking about what can be accomplished in the next summer.  "You'll be a Pathfinder next year ... I bet you're looking forward to that canoe trip!" Or "You'll get your third year pin next year, right?"
  • PRACTICE.  Give leadership and staff the opportunity to role play a number of times to let everyone become comfortable with the question and their responses.

Retention can be increased with this one simple focus.  Give it a try!

Want some other last-minute retention techniques?

Give Joanna a call at  310-451-1876  or email