Walt Disney has inspired many business owners and executives, but the Disney Parks team has learned to embody its founder’s approach by considering two questions.
“‘What if?’ and ‘Why not?’
“We [always] ask ourselves these questions,” Disney Parks’ editorial content director, Tom Smith, told eager marketers and PR pros during Ragan Communications’ fourth annual Social Media for PR and Corporate Communicators Conference. “We took this newsroom mentality that’s driven our blog and other channels, and [we’ve] spread it through marketing. That’s the genesis for our culture of content blog.”
In his keynote address at the Disney event, Smith said his team’s keys to the magical kingdom of content have come largely from putting their audience first.
“People drive everything we do,” he said. “We are audience-centric. Find out what your audience wants and how to get it to them. Come up with different strategies to take complex topics or inside [information] and bring it to the audience’s level; make it easier to understand.”
When it comes to strengthening your organization’s content, Smith advises taking a three-step approach—and says it all comes back to your audience.
“We’re not moving forward without people, not trying new things without people, and we’re people driven [because] they make us curious,” he said.
PR pros looking to enchant readers with heartfelt, relatable content should follow three tips from Disney Parks:
1. “Always move forward.”
For Disney’s content team, momentum begins with a “good story” and “an army of authors.”
Smith calls storytelling “the secret of the Disney Parks blog”:
Our secret is in the story. We have hundreds of authors—from horticulturists to vice presidents—and we use them [all] as bloggers. Every business unit is represented on Disney Parks’ blog. We’ve expanded across units, and now it’s a force. Our authors are taking personal stories and weaving them into a narrative to make magic. We humanize our company through [our] blog.
Humanized content is something all readers seek, Smith says. From giving behind-the-scenes glimpses of a new Disney World exhibit to creating a relatable character for a Web video, the Disney Parks blog offers engaging content in a variety of forms.
Though varying your content’s approach will take time, start by establishing a strong editorial calendar and adopting an all-hands-on-deck mentality.
2. “Try new things.”
Play with your email marketing tactics or launch a new storytelling medium—as Disney Parks will roll out this month with “Inside Disney.” Smith says that “new is the name of the game.”
Here’s how he described a recent endeavor that proved wildly successful at Disney Parks:
In 2010 we wanted to give our fans something back. They were really enjoying some of our content, so we created our first wallpaper. It was a success; we doubled down, and got some great Disney artists to do these. Now, each month the wallpapers [we offer] are the top five most-searched term on our website. It’s on-demand content that we’ve created, and it’s highly sought after. It’s a reward for our readers.
Open up your content, and give your audience a variety of opportunities to engage with your organization through text, videos and photos that you post online.
Using your content to show that you’re willing to connect can increase readership and build audience loyalty.
3. “Always be curious.”
Story, video segment and photo ideas often start with a single person’s curiosity.
Within the walls of Disney Parks, Smith says, some of the brand’s most successful efforts have stemmed from a staff member’s willingness to see an idea come to fruition.
Smith advises letting curiosity drive your content. If your employees’ insights or audience’s questions or comments spur ideas for consumer outreach, follow up on them and see where the leads take you.
When it comes to successful content, Smith says, his team follows Walt Disney’s advice:
Around here, however, we don’t look backward for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious, and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.