How Obama and Snapchat are helping this social media guru save the outdoors

Earlier this year, a group of rock climbers hijacked the White House’s Instagram account and started posting pictures of their adventures. Among them? The Outdoor Industry Association’s (OIA) social media coordinator, Katie Boué.

It wasn’t a breach of national security; it was part of OIA’s campaign to celebrate President Obama’s visit to Yosemite National Park, designated on social media with the hashtag #ElPrezatElCap. (El Capitan is the name of a giant granite monolith inside the park.)

“The White House saw how great our hashtag was doing, so they reached out to us and were like, ‘Hey, we want to do a climber Instagram takeover. Do you think that’s a good idea?'” says Boué.

Writer Johnie Gall and OIA social media manager Katie Boué wearing in their Danner boots. Photo: Brandon Scherzberg

Writer Johnie Gall and Outdoor Industry Association social media coordinator Katie Boué talk crossing boundaries through social media. Photo: Brandon Scherzberg

“I thought maybe I’d throw one of my own climbing pictures in the bunch, and they ended up using it. It was the coolest thing!”

The #ElPrezatElCap campaign was the most successful in OIA’s history, but it was just one of the projects that Boué collaborates on these days. The OIA is the leading voice of the outdoor recreation industry, with more than 1,200 members, and Boué is like the fun friend who invites you to the party.

It’s her job to engage with the outdoor community, and she does it well.

Outdoor Industry Association's social media manager, Katie Boué. Photo: Brandon Scherzberg

OIA’s social media and community coordinator, Katie Boué. Photo: Brandon Scherzberg

There’s an old adage that goes something like, “If you wait to do everything until you’re sure it’s right, you’ll probably never do much of anything.” It’s apparent within 10 minutes of hiking with Katie Boué that she’d heard that one before — then made it her mantra.

Boué’s boots, which she unpackaged only a week ago, are already covered in dirt. Her phone’s camera is perpetually firing, her Snapchat story constantly updating. Boué is a woman of action.

Boué Photo: Brandon Scherzberg

Boué testing out the waterproofing on her Danner Women’s Mountain 600 boots. Photo: Brandon Scherzberg

Take, for example, her foray into the industry. After spending a year living out of a van and chronicling her climbing adventures on her blog, The Morning Fresh, Boué found herself back in her native Florida, freshly single and unsure of the next step.

So, she packed up her things and moved to Denver, interviewed with OIA and started working for the company 10 hours a week.

“During my first week on the job, it was really apparent that this is what I wanted to do with my life,” she remembers. “I don’t think they were sold on the idea of social media when they hired me, but I asked my boss, ‘What do I need to do to be full-time?’ and five months later, I was.”

Gall and Boué in Little Cottonwood Canyon near Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo: Brandon Scherzberg

Gall and Boué talk all things social media during a hike in Little Cottonwood Canyon near Salt Lake City. Photo: Brandon Scherzberg

That gung-ho attitude hasn’t ebbed, either. Earlier this year, Boué decided she wanted to road trip around the country meeting face to face with OIA’s members, so she pitched what would become known as the OIA Roadshow.

She’s now in the last stretch of the four-month West Coast tour.

“I’m taking what we do on the road because our membership is all over the country — REI in Washington, Patagonia in California. It’s about building community and learning about the issues that are out in the field,” she explains.

“For example, I had been talking about wildfires all week when I was in California, then I hosted happy hour with [outdoor-apparel brand] Toad and Co. and we could actually see the smoke coming over the hills.

“You can’t do that type of thing from an office.”

Boué's Snapchats her Danner TK boots. Photo: Brandon Scherzberg

Boué Snapchats her lightweight Danner Women’s Mountain 600 boots. Photo: Brandon Scherzberg

Which brings her back to Obama. The attention surrounding his Yosemite visit brought the outdoor perspective to a whole new subset of people, says Boué, which is ultimately the goal of OIA: When more people care about the outdoors, there are more people invested in protecting it.

“Our industry is bigger than the automotive, oil and gas, and pharmaceutical industries — and that’s off research we did in 2012,” Boué says. “We’re huge and powerful, and we want to make the outdoors approachable, inclusive and diverse.

“It’s time to broaden the bubble and bring everyone in.”

Not that she’s taking herself too seriously. Boué may be a woman of action, but she knows social media is all about fun.

“Oh my goodness, is that a salamander?” she squeals, pulling out her phone. “I need to Snapchat this.”

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