What Disney movies say about public relations

Aladdin, Ariel, Tiana and more gave this young PR professional an early education about public relations.


Regardless of age or coolness factor, the enjoyment of watching Disney movies is undeniable. I’m talking about the classics—the movies with the Disney princesses whose hair never seems to get tangled or messy. The movies from your childhood that still have you belting out every line of the songs, even if you’re way off pitch. As a recent public relations graduate, I was not fully aware of what public relations entailed. After learning about the industry and figuring out what PR professionals actually do (and don’t do), I realized that I’ve been learning about PR my entire life. Turns out, Walt Disney and Disney Corporation have produced movies for decades to help educate children and adults on how to be effective public relations professionals. Don’t believe me? To drive the point home, I’ve broken down some examples of PR lessons derived from several Disney favorites: “Aladdin” – a new look can make all the difference When promoting a company or organization, an updated look can make all the difference. Companies don’t always need a complete rebranding, but sometimes getting your company noticed by the public takes an innovative approach. Aladdin, with the help of his Genie, created a new image for himself. He didn’t get an entirely new face (a rebrand), he just changed his appearance and motives to appeal to his target audience (Princess Jasmine in particular). He went from shirtless, street rat to well-dressed “prince” seeking the princess’ hand. His natural character is what won people over, but he was given a second chance with his new and improved brand. “Emperor’s New Groove” – Your attitude can affect your work Power can go to people’s heads, and can lead to superiority complexes. Belittling and big-headedness don’t work well in life, with co-workers, and certainly not with clients. Even if you’re great at your job, if you are difficult to work with people tend to resist. No one wants to work with an Emperor Kuzco—the young leader who thought he knew it all. Upon his change into a llama he learned some life lessons, and the audience learned some PR lessons: Attitude can lose you clients and friends and even change you into a llama. “Pocahontas” – Passion drives results Most professionals do the best work when they are passionate about their subject. If you have a real passion for non-for-profit PR, media relations, or a particular brand, you probably devote the most time to it, and put in 100 percent. Pocahontas, a passionate young girl, prevented a war between her people and the Englishmen. Because of her passion she was able to communicate her beliefs and get the result she wanted, no matter what it took. Getting involved in a project or a client that you are enthusiastic about can give you the fire to do your best work possible. “Tarzan” – Be adaptable As a public relations professional, you’re going to be put in situations that can be uncomfortable. If you work at a PR agency, you have to be able to jump from client to client with expertise. Being able to adapt to an environmental change, as Tarzan did, can make you a valuable asset to any organization. Tarzan was a human who adapted to living in the jungle with apes. He used his head and taught himself things to make his life easier, such as tree surfing and spear making). Whether it’s adapting to a client’s needs, a situation, or a new job, public relations professionals need to find their inner ape. “Little Mermaid” – Take risks As PR professionals, we are driven to follow the rules and stick to the given guidelines. However, as you advance your skills in the public relations field, taking charge and changing the game can lead to great rewards. Ariel took a risk to follow her dream of walking among the humans. The redheaded mermaid taught us that calculated risks can pay off in unexpected ways. Sometimes you have to cross your fingers, close your eyes, and just “kiss the girl.” “Princess and the Frog” – Don’t be ashamed of a little help At most agencies and companies, PR pros are assigned to a team that works with a client or project. This is because, in most cases, a team can provide better results than one individual. Teams bounce ideas off each other, can proofread each other’s writing, and lighten the load when people are too busy to complete a task. Tiana, the “princess,” wanted to open a restaurant all by herself. She thought she didn’t need any help. At the end of the movie, she realizes that there is no shame in asking for help every now and again. Just as one of her gumbo recipes, every ingredient is important—like every member of a team. “Hercules” – There are always two paths to the finish When you start a project, campaign, or even a blog post, the way you start and the way you want it to end may not always be the same. We usually start something one way, but along the way we have to roll with the punches and find another route to our goal. Hercules thought the only way to become a god was to be a hero. He later learned there was another path for him. Sometimes we need to trust our gut and step back from the project to find new ways to achieve our goal—and that is the “Gospel of Truth.” As Walt Disney has taught us, every story has a lesson that can be applied to our lives, both personal and professional. PR pros should consider heeding every warning Ariel, Hercules, and Aladdin have taught us. Matthew Dougherty is currently an extern at Social@Ogilvy in Atlanta, as well as a proud Anderson University (@AndersonU) alum.. Follow him on Twitter @matt_door_t. A version of this story first appeared on the BLASTmedia blog. This story first ran on PR Daily in September 2012. (Image via, via & via)

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