Disney Exploration Series: Exploring Marketing and Leadership

On Thursday I attended the introduction classes for the seminars in which I will be taking part this semester. The courses are part of the Disney Exploration Series. One explores marketing and the other explores leadership–both focusing on these topics in terms of how they do it at Walt Disney World.

Both seminars are led by the same instructor, David Horvath. David has been with Walt Disney World since his own College Program, where he was a park greeter at Hollywood Studios. After his program, he returned to school and after graduating with a degree in PR/Advertising, he took a management role at the Disney Store. Eventually, he moved back to Orlando for a role on the opening team at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, where he won the Partners for Excellence Award. After a few years at the resort, he spent a year teaching Traditions classes to new cast members. From there, he moved to Disney College Program recruiting, and finally became the first facilitator for the Disney Exploration Series.

Using his career path as an example, David explained that most cast members work their way up the ladder in a non-uniform way. They bounce around from positions based on what will be most beneficial to them at the time.

Because David is the instructor for both seminars, the first day was pretty similar for each class. After he introduced himself, he went over the syllabi and talked about how to make the most of our internships. His suggestions included:

  • Establish a relationship with your leaders.
  • Create a reputation; build your brand.
  • Seek out information. Use all of the resources available to you.
  • Attend social events.
  • Seek out VoluntEAR opportunities.
  • Network and be professionally prepared.

We wrapped up both classes with group activities.

During Exploring Marketing, we were asked to pretend we were marketing an entire planet in the future. What would it be called? What makes it unique? What is the demographic? How would we market it? This was a pretty interesting opportunity to get creative. My group decided to create a planet of virtual realities that would be marketed as an escape from real life. We compared it to The Matrix. After most groups presented their planets, David explained how our ideas related to the marketing of Disney Theme Parks and Resorts. Disney is marketed as “quality entertainment” to a few specific target markets. For the time being, he told us that the target market of Disney is families. David also told us that the way to begin a good marketing strategy is to start with an emotional tie.

During Exploring Leadership, we were given a typical schedule for a Guest Service Manager at Walt Disney World. Then we were asked to decide with our groups how we would prioritize each item on the agenda through out the day. All the while, David threw some curve balls at us that would hold up our plans–such as the attraction going down, or bad weather. This was an interesting way to see how stressful a day in the life of a manager can be. It was good to see what tasks would be most important for the operation of our location.

Overall, I really enjoyed my first day of class. I look forward to returning next week when we get down to business, and where the second class doesn’t have to repeat the first class word-for-word. Until then, have a magical day!

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