The 3 types of content that drive Disney’s blog

OK, so you don’t have the star power of Tinkerbell and Mickey Mouse; you can still adopt Disney Parks’ approach to content.

Even if you do everything else right, your content marketing effort is doomed if your content doesn’t appeal to your audience.

For several years, to illustrate this point I have shown the Disney Parks blog.

The blog is authored by 100 Disney Parks staffers, from its CEO to front-line employees. Initially offering seven or eight posts per week, the blog now boasts that many every day.

I know what you’re thinking—how many businesses are lucky enough to have theme park attractions, motion picture tie-ins, and beloved characters serving as content fodder?

No matter. The principles that guide this blog apply to any business, regardless of how unsexy your business may be. As long as you have employees willing to blog and stories to share, you’re on your way.

Disney’s engaged employees who volunteer to be bloggers—the same concept behind the Southwest Airlines blog—are “passionately curious” and driven by a “what if? why not?” attitude, according to Tom Smith, Disney Parks’ social media manager.

Smith provided a detailed look at how the blog is run, the content that works, and the results the blog has brought the company at Ragan’s recent Social Media Conference at Walt Disney World Resort.

Three types of posts

The social media team focuses on three categories for posts, which can take any format, from photos and videos to narrative text and polls to animated GIFs and infographics.

The first: to humanize Disney. These posts introduce readers (many of whom are regular visitors to the blog) to the people behind the Disney experiences. One video, for example, detailed a new installation in the waiting area for the Haunted Mansion, focusing on remarks from the team that got the work done between the park’s closing at night and the next morning’s opening.

Other posts go backstage for a behind-the-scenes look at the Indiana Jones stunt show and introduce readers to the park florist and her work to prepare flowers for a day at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.

Purposeful storytelling is the second category for content. Rather than simply announce the renovation of Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom, the blog told the story of the construction.

Here, Smith explains the power—and importance—of storytelling:

The third category, “remarkable experiences,” offers readers opportunities beyond the blog. The social media team hosts a series of meet-ups, for instance, bringing fans to the park for exclusive parties and events (which, of course, they talk about and write about, further spreading the word of Disney Parks’ various attractions). Online, the experiences are just as remarkable.

“You’ll remember how you felt when someone answered your question at 11 p.m.,” Smith explained, noting that people are monitoring the blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, and other properties 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

(The blog serves as the hub for Disney Parks’ social media presence, with all content published there; then, it is distributed to other platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter, as appropriate for the channel and the audience.)

Every Disney Parks business unit is represented among the various posts. The blog provides a venue for news, stories, and information for which there are no other suitable channels. A Mother’s Day floral arrangement was featured in a blog post; as a result, the park sold out of the product for the first time ever. Another post told the story of a new book (about Duffy the Disney Bear); sales wound up exceeding expectations by 500 percent.

Planning is paramount

Setting up an editorial calendar was one of the best moves he ever made, Smith said. The schedule makes it easy to ensure everything that belongs on the blog gets attention, from scheduled events to news.

Disney Park’s celebrated Moms Panel is one source of ideas for content (the blog was launched in response to Moms Panel input), but the broader audience of fans offers even more insight.

Once, he noted, social media monitoring revealed that a lot of fans were talking about a Mickey Mouse birthday celebration scheduled for August, a milestone that nobody had thought to include on the blog. It was an epiphanous moment: Today, the searches that fans conduct are included in the content selection process. After all, if people are searching for it and it appears on the Disney Parks blog, the posts will rank high in the search results.

Although the conservative Disney corporation was uncomfortable with allowing open comments on the blog, the team fought for it. Since then, the team has received (and answered) tens of thousands of questions.

Adopting an increasingly popular approach to queries, the team forwards many of the questions to subject matter experts within the company for answers. The Edelman Trust Barometer continues to reflect the wisdom of using subject matter experts, as they produce higher degrees of trust than senior executives and official company spokespersons.

In addition to the three categories of content, Smith says he expects contributors to embrace three principles: Embrace novelty, know the “why,” and take risks.

Although your company might be part of the health care industry, a manufacturing organization, or a nonprofit, you have an audience with its own needs and interests, and you have your own stories to tell.

Adopting Disney’s approach for your content may not feature Donald Duck and Goofy, but the results will be just as stellar for your own organization.

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