In 2014 Annual Conference, 2014 Conference - Fun Stuff, 2014 Conference - Tuesday

By Heidi Taulman, APR


For an hour and half, 45 students learned from eight top Walt Disney World public relations professionals in Celebration, FL at the business center that houses the public relations and sales teams for Walt Disney World Resorts.  Discussion was led by International Public Relations Director Todd Heiden, who has been with Walt Disney World Resorts for 24 years.

The message was clear – it is all about the strategy and Walt Disney World Resorts focuses on the details.  Guidelines, rules, strategy meetings, several layers of editing and more ensures that the Walt Disney World Brand is received the way it is intended.  All of the public relations teams work together to make sure all communications are consistent, goals are strategic and messaging is consistent throughout every facet of the parks and stakeholders.

The backdrop of the presentation was two recent media events including the Grand Opening of Fantasyland in Dec. 2012 and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Event in May of 2014.  The grand opening event for media had 950 international, domestic and local media attendees and garnered more than 4K hits across broadcast and online mediums. They used video and photos to continue the rollout for the general public.

One of the challenges of the new Fantasyland shared by PR Social Media Manager, Jennifer Fickley-Baker, was the fact that the initial release about the new Fantasyland was five years before construction was to be completed.  Strategy discussions included how to keep audience engaged and excited about the new parks.  Cast members created a weekly blog series that revealed first rides, construction drawings, construction sites and videos, special props and more, that became the #1 blog in Walt Disney World Resort history.  Leading up to the grand opening press event, the social media team incorporated sneak peeks for community groups, live chats and character meet ups and other digital content to generate interest, engagement and excitement.

Manager of External Communications Andrea Finger discussed business corporate strategy and messaging to its community and government stakeholders about what the new Fantasy Land meant to the community.  The new Fantasyland would more than double the existing acreage from 10-21 acres, the largest expansion of the Magic Kingdom in history.  She discussed key messages such as job creation, gross domestic product and how expansion will affect local and state businesses.

PR professionals also shared their career paths and what lead them to Walt Disney World and away at times. They touched on the vast array of job descriptions that PR pros can expect, size of the teams, how they interact and working with nearly 70K cast members throughout The Walt Disney World family.

Many team members spent time in television and print broadcast before landing at Walt Disney World Resort.  There are several dozen team members with the public relations departments for Walt Disney World;  and the social media team also manages 90 contractor authors to help write materials.  There are also separate PR teams in each of the countries where Walt Disney World Theme parks exist.

Students engaged with questions about how Disney handles celebrities, media, story-telling, pitching media, bloggers and more.  FPRA Student members got firsthand knowledge and a firsthand look at a day in the life of PR pros with Walt Disney World Resorts.

See other photos from the trip here.


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