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The Magic of Disney Applied to Radio

This is the time of year when Holiday’s takeover, family memories are made, vacations planned, and resolutions written down as promises are made to yourself. Disney is marketing the Magic of the Holidays. Disneyworld and Disneyland are always special, but around this time of year, the splendor of the holidays magnifies the uniqueness of all thing Disney. There are many lessons to be learned from Disney’s entertainment parks. Which is why, when offered, I took advantage of the chance to attend the Disney Institute in Orlando.

The teachings of Disney are directly applicable to the entertainment world. Their rules fit perfectly with perfecting all things showbiz. The Disney Institute is a multi-day course that when executed in-person starts with suspending the belief that Disney hires employees. Disney hires actors and actresses and casts them into a role. No one wants to be a street sweeper. Approaching it as an actor who has been cast into a role, is much more empowering and creates a greater commitment to performing well. It’s a smart approach.

Traditions; When we arrived on “campus” we were told that Disney University would start with Traditions. This is where we were taught the history of Walt Disney and his brother Roy. We were told about the first mouse that was drawn, named Mortimer Mouse, before he later became Mickey. Decades of history are shared. They do that so that those who will work at the park understand the principles and objectives of the Disney family. How often do we spend time teaching a new hire about a station’s history or legacy as well as its purpose?

Everyone is an Actor; They have no employees. They have Cast Members. We were cast into roles. As a cast member, one’s role might be as a ride operator, a character, maybe you’re selling candy, or maybe you’re cast into the role of being a street sweeper. It’s a big difference between being a street sweeper and being an actor playing one. Why would we not cast all of our “Actors” and “Team Members” into roles? Wouldn’t it be great to take a new employee through a power point to provide that person with a better understanding of where they fit in, their role and what will be expected of them? You’re joining a team.

Stay in Character; The actors and actresses stay in character. Mickey puts on his head before any other part of the costume. Because the minute the head goes on, you’re now the character. Heaven forbid someone should see any character without their head. Same goes for personalities. When you’re out in public, and members of your community see you, stay in character. We’ve all heard the stories of a person driving a station vehicle making an obscene gesture at a driver that cut them off.

The Park is a Stage Area; Nothing should ever be out of place on-stage. For instance, everyone picks up trash at a Disney park. If you’re standing behind a ride, you might see a door that opens into the park, with a sign on it that reads “Stage Area.” The studio is our stage. No visitors in the studio. No personal calls. No focusing on social media that doesn’t have something to do with your show or the station. Stay in the studio.

Cast Members Know Everything; They’re never allowed to say, “I don’t know.” If the cast member is asked a question that they don’t know the answer to they’re instructed to call a park operator and find the answer for the guest. Radio should be the same way. We’re supposed to know the answers. It makes me crazy when I hear an on-air personality ask the audience for information that can be searched on-line. This also points to preparation. The better prepared you are the better you will sound on-air and the greater your connection will be with the audience.

Low Ride Out; When they add a ride to one of the Disney parks, the ride lowest on the list of “attendance” goes away. That’s so that the park is never cluttered. That’s why, unlike other parks where the line from one ride intersects with the line from another, you can move through a Disney park with little slowdown. Same for any show. You want to add a new Benchmark bit or a feature to your show? What goes away? Increasing the number of commercials or promotional messages … what goes away? Keep from cluttering the station.

It’s All About the Environment; They Don’t Sell Beer at Disneyworld or Disneyland. They do sell it in Epcot Center, but not inside of the part of the amusement park where there are mostly families with children. Who wants a bunch of intoxicated adults yelling at each other or their children as they drag them through the park? The application for radio is that you don’t offend your audience with inappropriate advertisers or promotions that are unsuitable for your target audience. Stay true to creating an environment that matches with your stations format. Can you imagine how much more money Disney would make if they did sell beer inside the park? It would ruin the atmosphere. Same goes for your station.

Exceed Expectations; We were told a story of how one of the transportation boats, trying to dock and unload guests, broke free of the mooring with a handful of visitors falling into the water. They pulled them all out safely, gave them Disney branded clothes to wear while they cleaned and dried their clothes, provided them all with new cameras and cell phones, or whatever other electronics they lost, and replaced expensive purses, even if they recovered what was soaked. They didn’t have to do that much for each person, but they wanted to do it so that the guests would tell the story of how they were cared for by Disney. Caring about the audience, sponsors and team members at this level should be the norm. It’s not enough to meet expectations. Exceed them.

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