Monthly Archives: December 2014


Why Disneyland Paris needs a sprinkle of pixie dust

Having recenlty returned from a Christmas family trip to Disneyland Paris, it was no surprise to read that the theme park had been reported to have received a €1 billion bail out a few months ago.

Don’t get me wrong, we had a great few days away and there is, without doubt, a magical feeling you get when you walk through the entrance, which is still the case for my 17 and 14 year old too.  However, the park looks tired and clearly shows a lack of investment and it’s therefore no suprise to read that it’s been losing money for years.

I can’t pretend to know how to run a theme park, nor do I have any idea of the cost of building rides and maintaining them, but here are my ten very simple observations as to where that huge investment could be spent to help restore my faith in the Magic Kingdom.

  1. It’s time for Michael Jackson to Beat It

In Discoveryland you will find what’s described as ‘A fantastic 3D film relating the adventures of Captain EO, alias Michael Jackson, featuring a rhythm-packed musical soundtrack and a whole host of dazzling special effects’

This film was made in 1986.   At the time, it was the most expensive film ever produced on a per-minute basis, averaging out at $1.76 million per minute and starred the biggest pop sensation directed by the guy that brought us Star Wars.  It didn’t get any better.  But what does that mean to kids of today? Michael Jackson sadly passed away over five years ago now and I understand the reasons that this attraction was brought back to the park as a tribute to him, but it’s time to move it on.  The film couldn’t look more dated and the ‘dazzling special effects’ look so basic compared to what we’ve come to expect with films such as Avatar and Gravity its almost embarrassing to watch.

  1. Did they not wanna build a snowman?

Wandering around the park are of course the famous five of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto but you’ll also spot the likes of Chip & Dale and … Mr Smee.  Where are the new heroes like Olaf, the snowman who stole the show in Frozen?  Disney need to stop living in the past.  The choice of characters you can meet still seems to be based on the ‘trying to live your childhood through your kids’ theory.

  1. Time to update the rides, Savvy?

I get that Pirates of the Caribbean was a ride before it was a blockbuster film, but would most kids going to the park know that?  So when you get to the ride, it makes no sense to me and must surely be huge disappointment to many not to see any reference to Captain Jack Sparrow.  Time to have a facelift.

  1. The not so Fastpass®

‘You can save time with Fastpass’, except that when you read your small print, ‘you may only have one Fastpass ticket at a time’ and despite Disney Hotel guests being able to enter the parks early, the Fastpass machines don’t open until 10am.  So choose wisely which one you want, because within minutes you are already only able to get into that ride say about an hour later.  By the time you have then used your Fastpass, the next one you try to use isn’t available until about 2-3pm, after which you’ll be lucky to get another one.  The system simply doesn’t work

  1. #nohashtagorwifi

Disneyland Paris has had over 14.2m visits in 2014, and almost every one of those must have been taking photos just as we were. So with the amount of pictures that were no doubt being uploaded to social media, the park could be trending online pretty much every day if they simply offered free wifi throughout it, which is not currently available, and perhaps ran competitions encouraging you to tag your photos with a hashtag where the best photos won Disney related prizes.

  1. Figaro Figaro Figaro

Far be it from me to tell Disney how to sell product, but I do find it odd that you come off a ride, say in Fantasyland, such as Pinocchio, and in the store you can buy a Lilo and Stitch toy.  I may have a vested interest in this one as my favourite Disney character is Figaro, Mister Geppeto’s cat.  I know, an odd choice out of all the characters there have ever been. But my point is, would there not be more chance of selling more product if, when you finished the ride you could perhaps buy a bigger selection of toys from that particular film?  After all, there are stores all over the two parks and in the Disney Village area where you can buy all the other stuff.   FYI, there was no Figaro on sale, and surprisingly, neither could we find a cuddly Olaf.

  1. Early Starts, but not for all the workers

Guests of the Disney Hotels benefit from being allowed into the park earlier than the general public, which is great, if all the rides were open.  But they are not.  For example, we made a bee-line for the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster in Walt Disney Studios, but that didn’t open until 10am, so instead made the long walk back to the main park to go on Space Mountain, except that ride had ‘technical problems’ and was therefore closed at the time.  Unlucky I guess, so instead we went to the Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast, but by 9.30am, it was already at a 30min queue, and of course you couldn’t use a FastPass at it was too early!  Open all the rides and make it a true benefit to the guests to get up early.

  1. These are not the rides you are looking for

Disney paid over $4bn for LucasFilm, so I get that it wants to see an ROI out of Star Wars.  But still having the original Star Tours simulator, which like the Captain EO film, is almost 30 years old, is just simply not worth queuing for, when your time can be better spent on amazing new and original rides like Ratatouille, which opened earlied this year.  Star Wars also seems an odd choice to show on the screens in the Videopolis area which, despite having a stage, had no live show on it.  Instead, across the screens they were showing clips from the animated series Star Wars Rebels.  This seemed strange, especially at Christmas time.  Surely kids would prefer to see the songs of Frozen playing whilst they are having their lunch, or something from Mickey’s Christmas Carol.  I don’t have the stats, and haven’t done the research, but I can’t believe too many kids under 10 would get excited by Star Wars Rebels whilst at Disney.

  1. Interactive Queuing

We were lucky in that the longest queue we had was 45mins, but the timing of many queues were shown as 70 minutes or more.  So how hard can it be to make that time pass a little faster by giving something for you to do whilst standing in the freezing December cold.  The impressive ‘Crush’s Coaster’ ride did get it right by offering a local wifi link enabling you to download a game onto your smartphone, which certainly helps.  So why can’t they do something similar on all the rides, or why not have screens above the queues showing scenes from the films, or the characters walking along the queue giving the kids a chance to take a selfie with Snow White, for example.  How difficult could that last one be?

  1. Disney on-demand

And finally, when you do crash out in your room, why not offer the chance to watch a Disney movie of your choice on your TV.  I’ve never understood why, in this age of Netflix, which does indeed have Disney films on it menu, why the Disney Hotels don’t offer an on-demand service of all the films available to show.


So there you have it.  My 10 simple marketing tips (and I had plenty more) for the people at Disneyland Paris on where to start spending their billion Euros.

In summary, as I said, we had a great time away, but perhaps Disney need to take a leaf out of their own song that has driven just about everyone mad in 2014 and that I can’t get out of my head since returning from my trip:

“the past is in the past! Let it go, let it go.”

Social Media to Social Business

This week, I was back in the studio recording the fourth #ciprcsuite podcast for the CIPR Social Media Panel on the subject of Social Business and was joined by Andrew Grill, Global Partner for Social Business at IBM’s Global Business Services, Ben Smith, Founder of and Emma Hazan, Deputy Managing Director of Hotwire PR.

You can listen to the full show below:

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I started by asking Andrew how he defines a Social Business, which he said is when you actually get social content and social media deep inside the organisation, i.e. within the HR department or supply chain area, rather than just sat within the marketing and PR departments.  Andrew defines a Social Business as ‘an organisation whose culture and systems encourage networks and people to drive business value’, and he makes the point that there is no mention in that definition of fans, followers, likes or influencers and that when he uses that language with the csuite, they ‘get it’.

Ben added that integration of social into the business is absolutely critical and highlighted a number of social campaigns from 2014, including ‘nomakeupselfie’ as well as work by brands such as KLM, that have had a positive impact on business, both potentially from a reputation and brand perspective and sales perspective.  He said the key is simple in that Social has to have a business impact and we’ve seen huge progress of that over the last 12-24 months.  The challenge, however, according to Ben, is in how that integration happens on a day to day level within large businesses.

Emma then discussed the kind of questions her csuite clients’ pose, which are about the value that social media will bring them and how they can measure it. She explained that there is an education required in terms of how to use the channels to communicate and said that having learned how to reach people with a message in 140 characters or less [for twitter] that it’s all going to change again as we will have to teach the csuite about an even smaller screen and smaller space to communicate with when it comes to the Smartwatch, for example, but it’s about having seamless content.  The csuite are also interested in the risks are about using social media but often ask about what to tweet, which she feels is ironic given most of the csuite she works with are born communicators, motivating and empowering people in the organisation and talking to customers every day.  She believes they are perfectly lined up to be on twitter but perhaps just need some support parameters from someone like herself, or their marketing or digital departments.

Emma’s mention of the Smartwatch sparked a discussion about the relevance of content from brands that appear in our various social media feeds, but Andrew said that despite having posted over 32,000 tweets in the eight years he has been on twitter, he is yet to find a brand that’s used that valuable content and pitched a [relevant] message to him.

Our discussion then moved on to the topics of Social Serendipity, Social Eminence and Social Collaboration.  Andrew firstly gave an example of Social Serendipity in how one tweet that he sent in January 2011 created a chain of events that resulted in him being offered his current job at IBM.  He explained that it’s all linked to Social Eminence, which is about being visible, relevant and seen as someone who knows what they are talking about, which, of course, if you do, then people will recommend you or want to get in touch.  To be fair to Andrew, that’s exactly why he was on the show, as I had been recommended to approach him to be a guest!

Ben added that Digital & Social has given PR a big opportunity to demonstrate its ROI because Social creates a digital footprint, which becomes trackable and undoubtable social eminence ties into that and you can then track your impact on whatever objective you are trying to hit.  He says the key is that PR people should be good at two way conversations and driving engaging content and so the PR industry should have a significant impact in this area.

With regards to Social Collaboration, Andrew summed this up by predicting that in the future, your value to an organisation won’t be what you know, it will be what you share, but it’s a massive cultural change to do that across a whole organisation.  He gave an example of how one of IBM’s clients, Tesco, who in the UK have about 320,000 colleagues, share ideas across stores via their internal social collaboration network.  He also stressed that if people are collaborating openly on an internal social network, then just as the likes of Brandwatch measure the external social, if you measured the same things internally, then you will see the ideas, trends and issues pop up.  An HR Director could then have access to a live dashboard to see where there may be problems in their company and that, according to Andrew, is the real power of Social Business.

I wrapped up the session by asking each of my guests to give an example of a classic mistake they felt companies make with social media in general and to name an organisation that they thought already acted as a Social Business.

The classic mistakes were:

  • Lack of social training in people that are tweeting
  • Connectivity between different parts of an organisation
  • Companies that treat twitter like a ‘social switchboard’

Good examples of organisations doing Social Business well were:

  • Boots, who have an enterprise social network purely for actually being social [or sociable], to share news about who is going out where and when
  • O2, who push the boundaries pretty hard in terms of the use of humour on their customer services
  • Hotwire [not nominated by Emma] following on from a story Emma shared in our discussion about how they collaborate across offices in multiple territories on brainstorms

You’ll just have to listen to the show to hear who gave which examples!

If you would like to contact me about this series of podcasts, then use this form, or twitter using #cirpcsuite

Social Media in Government Communications

Back in September, for my third CIPR Social Media Panel c-suite podcast, I had the pleasure of interviewing Betony Kelly, currently the acting Head of Digital Communications at the Department of Business, Innovations & Skills (BIS) and my CIPR Social Media Panel colleague Elayne Phillips who is Head of Strategic Analytics and Evaluation in the Communications Group at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).  The podcast also featured a contribution from Alex Aiken, the executive Director for Government Communications, who explained how all government departments are evaluating their campaigns.

As I am back in the studio this week for show number four, I thought it time to write up a blog post with the key points raised from what we discussed in the last episode – apologies for the delay!

Of course, you can listen to the full show below:

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Betony, kicked off the interview explaining how it was vitally important to get that direct connection with the very people her department is trying to reach with their communications and so Social Media allows them to be really reactive, immediate and reach people wherever they are to help answer the questions they want to ask, when they want to ask them, on the channels they choose.  BIS have experimented across lots of channels including Twitter, flickr, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram, in each case using the channels to the best effect.  She believes is a fantastic time to work in Government as there is a real passion behind digital as a powerful channel for Government communications and interestingly, having previously worked for HSBC, she has not found a lot of difference between the private and public sectors in terms of regulations and what you can and can’t say through social channels.

Elayne agreed that using some of the low cost channels is a great way for Government to test and communicate with the audience in real time.

Similar to BIS, where responsibilities include apprenticeships, minimum wage, science funding, zero hours contracts and exporting amongst many other areas and issues, Defra also has broad remit, including air quality, food safety, water quality, waste, recycling and flooding.  This means that their large followings present a challenge as there is therefore naturally quite a diverse audience to talk to, hence they have such a large number of specialist social media accounts.  However, they need to update them regularly to keep the engagement high and to achieve that, they don’t just post Government announcements, but will talk about articles of interest and ask people what they think about them to encourage them to get involved in debates.  What’s important, however, is to focus on business objective and be effective, so they constantly use social analytics to check where the engagements are taking place.

Alex Aiken talked about how each Government team has a performance hub, which works as a communications centre for planning and evaluation, and how he expects every department to track its performance against their department’s business objectives.  Elayne then explained how they use communications plan templates like ‘OASIS’ – Objective, Audience Insight, Strategy, Implementation and Scoring – and Betony added that one of the major achievements of the performance hub is it has allowed her department to stop doing things!  She said that they often get requests to do things because someone thinks it’s a great idea, but now they can show the data as to why it may not actually resonate with the audience and so can avoid wasting tax payers’ money and the team’s time doing those things that don’t provide real value.

Elayne then discussed how she uses AMEC’s Social Media Measurement Framework in Defra’s ‘Chip my Dog’ campaign, and you can see a video of her explaining the full case study below:

This showed how to map results from exposure and engagement right across to impact and advocacy, the latter of which saves tax payers money as Defra ended up getting seeing user generated content about the campaign being shared through social media, meaning positive word was spreading without them having to do extra work.

Betony went on to explain that if you wanted to find out what Civil Servants can and can’t do on social media, you can go to the Government Communications Service website to see the Civil Servants guidance to social media, which in summary, she said basically says “Don’t be an idiot”! I loved that!  She said that she knows what it is to understand propriety and the boundaries they are expected to conduct themselves within including the fact that they are expected to be ambassadors for their departments and the UK Government and she feels this is exactly transferable into brands and organisations.  Betony understands the blurring between personal and professional and said that if you are trusting your press office to go down the pub and have a conversation with a journalist, you need to trust them with a twitter account.  The challenge is making sure your senior team are keeping an eye on the channels and knowing what is being communicated by whom and whom.  She summarised this topic by saying that best practice is about being human and not being a robot – people want faces, they want people and want opinion.

Elayne then talked about Open Policy Making and how it improves policy as the various departments are consulting the public earlier and in very innovative ways to gather comments early on, which she thinks is very effective.  She added that this is a lesson that everyone and not just government can learn from in terms of getting closer to their audience.

We finished off the podcast by focusing on how Government can ensure we get the best impact and value for the tax payer from the communications teams of the various departments, which Elayne said is all about focussing on the outcomes, targeting communications, and making sure the messaging that people need to hear is what they are receiving, through the channels they want to hear it on, at the right time, when they can respond and take the action they are seeking to achieve, using actionable insight to improve the results on the next campaign.

If you would like to contact me about this series of podcasts, then use this form, or twitter using #cirpcsuite