Norman Ng

Posts Tagged ‘Communications Strategy’


In Communications Strategy, Public Relations on August 5, 2011 at 15:37

Disney and Mickey Mouse still remains relevant today – including to over 160 milliondisney related groups on facebook. This article explores how innovation in communications strategy can give enterprises that magical kingdom’s touch.

3 things enterprises pray will not happen – Competitive takeovers, shareholders dissatisfaction, and board members waging war. This was what exactly Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, witnesses in his tenure. Yet in his helm, Bob brought supernormal shareholder returns, and successfully manages to innovate the iconic Mickey Mouse, aged 83 this year, to hundreds of millions worldwide.

Some key leadership & communication strategy pointers that enterprises can learn from Disney in staying connected and relevant to their target audiences:


1. Technology is a Friend, not a Foe

Bob reverse the climate in Disney which viewed technology as a threat, rather than see its many opportunities, they moved on, with the principal of “respecting tradition, but making sure that it continues to evolve”. Relating to enterprises, we’ve heard this debate countless times, “Should our government department / private enterprise use facebook? twittter? etc…”. More importantly, we should ask ourselves if the safe, conventional approaches in approaching technology has adequately rewarded stakeholders, staff and clients? Could we have been more innovative in the process? Innovation, and a calibrated adoption of technology and communications are essential ingredients for enterprises to stay relevant. Yet adopting social media is merely half the answer. Just like any team sports such as soccer, having players as “execution tools” are just as important as having a game plan (strategies), therefore, continued effort must be put in to invest towards a coherent, integrated and sustainable communications campaigns.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

Bob mentions that many of Disney’s business decisions are creativity-based, there’s bound to be a fair amount of failure. They don’t wallow in failure, but they move on. Enterprises / government agencies have near zero zero tolerance for errors and failures. This is unrealistic. While not everyone is in the creative industry which may have higher tolerance for failures, the point is to start accepting “reasonable” levels of trail and errors, honest mistakes. I’ve witnessed enterprises jumping at every negative comment online, requiring large board / director meetings, with Corp Comms / PR directors apprising everyone on the “situation”. It’s ok to fail sometimes, stakeholders want to know that enterprises don’t loose sight of the forest just because of a tree. So if there’s public whipping onlines on your enterprise regarding honest, unintended mistakes, have the moral courage to tell management that some mistakes were made, but it does not require intervention by the PR / Corp Comms folks to avert a reputation crisis.

3. Adapt to Divergent Audiences

While I was a tad disappointed that Disney’s upcoming theme park in Shanghai was not going to feature the traditional Main Street USA walk (awesome memories there with my wife), I applaude the move. Disney recognised the need to reflect local cultures – avoiding cultural imperialism. So in enterprise communication strategies, never take a cookie cutter approach, blindly adopting what every other media savvy enterprise are doing – have a facebook page, roll out youtube channels etc. The fundamental question is – what are your audiences like? Who are they, what are their cultural / local behaviours like? You’re not going to penetrate the market and engage audiences if you have not done your homework. So spend good efforts in consumer / audience behaviours. Adopt social media monitoring and analysis, and then, decide if employing technology / social media communications is effective. Augment, and adapt different communication mediums to different audiences. That’s how mickey mouse engages differently, where Disney’s CEO engages mummy bloggers, and chinese audiences now. Disney adapts to them.

Disney’s road to its current success was not easy, it took risks, guts and gumption. But enterprises too can replicate their successsful strategies in continually engaging stakeholders and audiences – Know your audience, be prepared to take risks and make mistake. Because reputation building, and shaping the perceptions and experiences of stakeholders don’t come overnight. Above all, it takes adaptable, measured communication strategies to steer a big ship like Disney over to the shores of Shanghai.

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