'Timing was our biggest challenge' - Behind the Campaign, Disney Parks & Resorts 'Journey to the Magic'

Lydia Lancaster, senior PR manager at Disney Parks & Resorts, talks us through the company's recent podcast campaign.

Giovanna and Tom Fletcher at Walt Disney World
Giovanna and Tom Fletcher at Walt Disney World

What was the campaign in a nutshell?

At a time when travel was restricted and borders were closed, we had to think of a way to keep the magic alive for consumers at home. Walt Disney Travel Company launched its first owned star-studded podcast, ‘Journey to the Magic’, hosted by long-time Disney fan and podcaster, Giovanna Fletcher. Joined by five celebrities across the series, the guests talked all-things Disney holidays and shared their top holiday tips.

How did the idea come into being?

Like many travel companies, we had to rethink how we did things over the past 18 months. Taking media and influencers to experience the Disney Parks is a large part of what we do, so we had to pivot our approach due to COVID-19.

This is where the idea of an owned podcast for Walt Disney Travel Company was born. A way to bring the Disney magic to those in the UK, while speaking directly to our audience to drive brand love and inspire travel when it was safe again.

What ideas were rejected?

No ideas were rejected as we had a strong vision for the podcast from the get-go. It was more of an evolving project, which included name changes for the podcast, the inclusion of all of the brands we market in the UK (Walt Disney World, Disneyland Paris & Disney Cruise Line), and making sure that the content was entertaining and sparked joy for the listeners.

Briefly describe the campaign planning and process

The podcast was created in-house by the Disney Parks & Resorts PR team. A taskforce was also set up with experts from across the marketing team to maximise the opportunity and drive awareness through multiple Disney channels. The idea was originally presented back in July 2020 and the team worked tirelessly over the next 12 months to bring it to life.

To promote the podcast, our PR agency W Communications created an activation plan to amplify each episode throughout the series. We also used owned channels and tapped into our celebrity guests and parenting influencers.

What were the biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

Timing was our biggest challenge, alongside working through the constraints of the pandemic as the second lockdown delayed the original launch date. Nearly five months after we originally planned to launch, the new timing worked perfectly, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

How did you measure the results and what were they?

In launch week the podcast rated number nine in the UK iTunes charts and number one for its category of Culture and Society. The podcast stayed within the top 20 for three weeks as new episodes were released. We had never even considered that it would chart so highly as a branded podcast. The social reaction showed us this was exactly what our audience needed to inspire future travel.

W Communications has so far secured over 30 pieces of coverage, including a triple-page spread in Heat magazine, Sun online, iNews and Hello! Magazine, with an influencer campaign about to launch.

What's the biggest lesson you took away from the campaign?

Creating a podcast in-house is a huge challenge. We did everything from securing talent and contracting, storyboarding, creative and executing the amplification plans around it. It was out of our comfort zone as an in-house PR team at times, but it was our constant goal throughout the pandemic. We’ve learned many new skills along the way and I believe it is a testament to how my team has reacted and pivoted to the pandemic by thinking outside of the box.

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