January Program Recap – Launching The World’s Most Magical Celebration

Article by Kendra Parson, Associate Director at The Moore Agency (FPRA member since 2021)

Surrounded by the beauty of the recently renovated conference room at the Florida Health Care Association, 50-plus attendees were all “Mickey Ears” during FPRA Capital Chapter’s January program to learn how Walt Disney World leveraged multifaceted communication strategies to mark its 50th anniversary as The World’s Most Magical Celebration, and how they were able to quickly pivot plans when faced with a global pandemic. In addition to sponsoring the meeting, bringing amazing swag and sharing their knowledge, Walt Disney World also sponsored the attendance of 15 PR, Communications and Journalism college students.

The presentation was beautifully delivered by Walt Disney World Resort’s Vice President of Communications Jacquee Wahler, who first visited Disney in her youth in 1972. In her current role, she serves as company spokesperson overseeing large-scale and proactive media outreach campaigns to further build the image of the nation’s largest, single-site employer and connect with broad audiences through the power of storytelling. She also leads the cultivation of relationships with local, national and international media and other key stakeholders.

During the presentation, Jacquee was joined by her colleagues who were in town for Disney Day at the Florida Capitol. The team explained that the 360-degree PR approach used for planning their anniversary celebration was five years in the making. It included cast members, the community and, of course, the media.

To recognize the cast members who had been with them the longest, Walt Disney World hosted a special event to recognize the 26 people who started with the company on opening day and are still employed today. In addition, the company created “We are the magic” signage, backdrops and keepsakes for all cast members to use. Another creative idea deployed that is great for a small budget was the creation of an anthem for the cast. Looking at how cast members can give back outside of the Magic Kingdom, they were encouraged to extend the celebration by volunteering 50 hours of service over the course of the 18 months leading up to the anniversary celebration.

Speaking of the local community, Walt Disney World created a specialty license plate and is donating proceeds to the Make a Wish Foundation of Central and North Florida. As of the January 18 meeting, license plate revenue had raised approximately $403,000. The company also donated $3 million to six nonprofits in Central Florida during the month of October. Local officials were invited to a sneak peek and shared their favorite mouse memories during a media event which was also attended by the six charities that received a donation.

How do you plan a 50th celebration during a global pandemic? Well, the media event was originally intended to be an indoor, live, 50-minute event and, as a result of the pandemic, turned into an outdoor, pre-taped, 35-minute showcase. Never fear, Disney found a way to make magic, by again engaging their cast members to assist with the event! The company hosted digital media trainings focused on managing the brand reputation and other topics, in advance to ensure they had enough team members ready to support media efforts. In fact, the trainings were so successful, this is something that will continue to be used moving forward. Digital versions of press kits and event guides were created to reduce contact and possible community spread. In addition, they used QR codes for media credentials and other codes that attendees could use to download fun extras, like phone wallpaper.

In addition to the amazing food and topics covered above, the Disney team shared videos showing a few of the celebration activities and attendees learned how the cast coordinated colors for each event to match the theme. Best of all, we played some trivia recapping what was learned for fun prizes. Who doesn’t love a little friendly competition and Disney gear?! Overall, the morning’s event was so nothing short of magical, and my only complaint was that it had to end.