Who’s meeting with BMB bloggers: the CEO of Disney!

If I was any doubt of the growing influence of British mum bloggers (which – let’s face it – I wasn’t) then a recent trip to America left no room for doubt.

Along with Lulu of Family Affairs and Other MattersJenography was part of a UK media contingent attending the launch of the Disney Dream cruise ship. Our group also included journalists writing for the Independent, News of the World, The Telegraph and cruise experts shooting video and writing for sites.

The entire cruise was packed with media from North America, photographers, videographers and broadcasters, and we kept running into celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg and John Stamos (sooo much dishier in real life than he looks on TV). There were tours of the fancy restaurants and gee-whiz techno advances on board. (You can see our individual blogging coverage via the links below.)  (Update: I was remiss in not mentioning the host of bloggers Disney has previously worked with, who helped forged the great working relationship between the company and British bloggers. They were also avid supporters of this trip. See links below!)

Getting our picture taken with Mickey on Disney’s private island Castaway Cay (above) was pretty exciting. But getting the pictures below taken was way better than that.

The most exciting moment wasn’t the stars, the characters or the Disney hospitality – it was our one-to-one with Walt Disney Company President and CEO Bob Iger and Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. (Right: Me and Bob. I’m not copping a feel; that’s his lower arm you see between us.)

To put this in perspective, Iger runs the whole of the vast Walt Disney organisation – mention that you’re meeting him and employees swoon, journalists salivate. He wasn’t spending the day doing media rounds with one and all. We were told he was meeting bloggers only.

That’s how Lulu and I came to be seated at a table in the special “concierge” area of the ship with Bob and two American bloggers talking about how the Mouse plans to work with bloggers and up its social media game.

Dressed casually in a blue t-shirt, khakis and penny loafers, Bob described how Disney is working to engage and remain relevant to families, including sceptical, slightly jaded British ones. (The UK is “one of [Disney’s] most important markets in the world,” he said.)

“We don’t have to be edgier. We just have to be good,” Bob said, citing the examples of High School Musical and Pirates of the Caribbean as examples of Disney’s focus on quality and emotional relevancy while avoiding the sex and drugs…although rock and roll does get a look-in.

He described how Disney aims to use technology not only to entertain but to make the “Disney experience” more customisable. On the ship, for example, in the Animator’s Palate restaurant, a cartoon Crush from Nemo addresses diners by name. In the Oceaneer Club for children, a big screen on the floor features games that allow kids play in a group, using individually controlled floor panels.

Disney’s drive to work with bloggers is driven by the essential question “what is a trusted source?”. The company gets that blogs’ authenticity and personal voices are their biggest selling points.

After Bob said goodbye, Tom Staggs (left, with Lulu) sat down for a quick chat about how Disney cruises are tailoring the experiences to better appeal to both families as a whole and to family members individually.

That’s why you have not only a dazzling kids’ club but also a groovy no-adults-allowed teen club (with teen-only sundeck) and upscale restaurant and clubs for grown-up afterhours fun. “It’s gotta be a great fun vacation but let’s not treat the family as a single unit,” he explains.

Our session in the Concierge Lounge on Deck 12 (we passed both Whoopi and John Stamos on the way in; excuse us, guys!) was less John Humphries-style grilling, more love fest.

Naturally there are a reasons to like and admire one of America’s charismatic, most highly paid CEOs – the man who’s leading the premier family entertainment brand in the Western world and who speaks emphatically about the advantages of clean-cut amusements that “touch the heart”.

Yet it looks like Disney is also clued-up to the reasons why it should like British parent bloggers like us too. 

— Jennifer Howze (Jenography.net)

Read Lulu’s Disney Dream cruise review from Family Affairs

Read Jen’s review on Jenography

Lulu and Jen were guests of Disney and Virgin Holidays

More great posts from blogger/Disney projects

Dulwich Divorcee’s Happy Ever After

EnglishMum’s Disney parks part 1 and part 2

 Little Mummy’s 26 tips for families at DisneyWorld

Are We Nearly There Yet’s reports of the “Disney 7”

You’ve Got Your Hands Full talks about mum bloggers hitting Disney

 Diary of a Desperate Exmoor Woman – reality bites after Disney

Jane Alexander’s picky parents’ guide to Walt Disney World

Have a Lovely Time’s coverage of mum bloggers hitting Disney in 2009

I’m sure we’ve missed loads more so post them below!

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About Jennifer Howze

Jennifer Howze is the Creative Director and co-founder of BritMums. She blogs about family travel at Jenography.net, tweets at @JHowze and Instagrams at @JHowze. Previously, she wrote the Alpha Mummy blog at The Times and as a journalist has contributed to The Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The Wall Street Journal, Travel & Leisure, Budget Travel, CNN.com, Allure, SELF and Premiere, among others. She won The Maggie Award from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America for a health article in Seventeen magazine.

16 Comments

  1. 02 February 2011 / 15:37

    Wow! That’s so interesting too, where better to get ‘real’ feedback from than real people that will be taking these holidays.

  2. 02 February 2011 / 17:25

    What an AMAZING experience. PS — did you plan the matching T-Shirt with Bob?

  3. 02 February 2011 / 17:48

    Has he ever been seen in the same room as Anton Du Beke?
    Disney were one of the first companies to work so hard with bloggers weren’t they? It was interesting when they first did on that trip that we went on a couple of years back now, they were fully aware of the perceptions of Disney by some people and chose to tackle them head on. The head of PR at Disney in the UK has to be the most outstanding PR I have ever worked with, just a complete natural, I know people may think I’m saying that to brown nose, as it were, but anyone who knows me, knows that’s not my style. I am very grateful to Disney for the opportunities it has brought bloggers and their families, having also experienced a Disney cruise on a press trip, that time with PA and The Independent among others – boy do they know how to treat people. x

  4. 02 February 2011 / 18:42

    Fantastic, it looks like you had a great time! x

  5. 02 February 2011 / 20:38

    It seems like Disney has a model that others should follow. You almost make me want to go on a cruise!!

  6. 02 February 2011 / 21:15

    I’ve added some links from previous blogger trips to the post above. Disney is proving themselves to be top-notch in forging a way with social media. They are also melting stone-cold British hearts that we thought were immune to Disney’s charms.
    And yes, Bob and I did coordinate shirts. You don’t get to be CEO without being ready for photo ops.

  7. 02 February 2011 / 22:31

    How fantastic is that??? I am so incredibly jealous. Not least because I met John Stamos when he visited Winnipeg about 30 years ago and have had a teenage crush on him ever since.
    I recently went on a superb adult-only Disneyland Paris trip (courtesy of Disney and Eurostar) to check it out for ReallyKidFriendly.com. I have to admit I was a bit of a Disneyland skeptic but after precisely one minute of being in the park, I was an absolute convert. More so when Captain Jack Sparrow kissed my hand (..swoon..). Have been trying to convince hubby to take us on a cruise since then so thanks for helping me out by making it sound even cooler!
    BTW I’ve just posted a 50% off Disneyland Paris offer on my website with 7 quick tips on visiting with under fives: http://www.reallykidfriendly.com/disneyland-paris/

  8. 03 February 2011 / 07:19

    I’ve worked with Disney a lot since I started blogging – they gave me the chance to go to the Jake Gyllenhaal/Prince of Persia press conference *swoon*, go to soem amazing screenings (which made me very popular with the offspring), they’ve invited me on lots of trips, and most recently travelled with them to Disneyland Paris. I was invited and really would have loved to have gone on the cruise but it clashed with No 1 Son’s birthday – it looks like you had a whale of a time (sorry!). What I really love about Disney is that their social media manager, and in fact their whole their press team, totally get the concept of bloggers and blogging; they are brilliant at social media outreach and they are all an absolute pleasure to deal with.

  9. 03 February 2011 / 11:03

    Hi Jen – here are some of the Disney reports from Have a Lovely Time, I hope these may be interesting/useful, Have a Lovely Time was started because of the interest in bloggers from Disney and at the same time we realised that we could ‘put something back’ by accessing more review trips for other bloggers as well as boosting a charity:
    Our Disney cruise:
    http://www.havealovelytime.com/2009/12/disneycruise.html
    How theme park food is changing by Camilla Chafer reporting from Disney food festival:
    http://www.havealovelytime.com/2009/11/disneyworld.html
    English mum on the gourmet delights amid the hidden Mickeys:
    http://www.havealovelytime.com/2009/05/englishmum-on-disney-food-gourmet-delights-amid-the-hidden-mickeys.html
    How my heavy heart melted by Disney magic (main piece after our review trip) with tips for taking toddlers to theme parks
    http://www.havealovelytime.com/2009/05/how-my-heavy-heart-was-melted-by-the-disney-magic-plus-top-tips-for-taking-toddlers-to-theme-parks.html

  10. 03 February 2011 / 11:17

    Thanks, Linda. It’s great to get as many reviews surfaced as possible, for any Brits other there thinking of going over. I’m already thinking about when I can go back with the whole family to explore even more!

  11. 03 February 2011 / 11:20

    Liz – you’re spot-on about the social media team. It’s interesting to see a company like Disney – that like most big businesses WAS playing catchup – now leading the way.

  12. 03 February 2011 / 18:05

    Oh Liz, i remember that Prince of Persia outing – I had been to see the sneak preview at Disney in Hammersmith, sans Jake 🙁
    I think the other thing they do well is that they make it remarkably easy to write about them – all the info and assets (images etc) are easily accessible, and every one of their staff has been very approachable and helpful, and quick to respond to queries. In fact they always look like they’re having a great time too – makes me wonder whether I should pack it all in and go get a proper job working for them!

  13. 03 February 2011 / 21:48

    Another Stamos fan? We should hold regular viewing parties/tequila slammer nights.

  14. 07 February 2011 / 12:56

    I wrote recently about cruise ships and ocean liners and how it is my dream to go on one but of course with two little ones in tow, it’s a dream that gets pushed to the bottom of the pile – one day, one day. This sounds like the perfect solution, what a fabulous idea.

  15. 09 February 2011 / 05:03

    It’s too bad I didn’t see you on the trip, Jennifer. It would have been nice to run into one another.
    Glad to hear you had a wonderful time!

  16. 09 February 2011 / 21:23

    Aw, it would have been great to meet up. Hopefully there will be a next time.