Three lessons PR can learn from Disney Remakes

Three lessons PR can learn from Disney Remakes

The world of Public Relations (PR) is good at learning lessons from the triumphs and mistakes that come in all shapes and sizes, and Disney’s efforts to work its way through pretty much all of the classics and give them a makeover is no different. 

It’s not quite the whole new world that Princess Jasmine promised us. From the take on Sleeping Beauty with Maleficent in 2014, Cinderella in 2015, critically-acclaimed The Jungle Book in 2016 and Beauty and the Beast in 2017, to spoiling us with Dumbo, Alladin and The Lion King this year and The Little Mermaid and Mulan (a personal favourite) expected in 2020, it’s a long list – and I’m sure I’ve missed a few! 

Although the release of each new film is initially very exciting (although as a Netflix-binger I must admit that I have only seen a handful), the following feeling is dread. Should they not leave the old classics alone? What if they ruin the films that my childhood was based on? Are the very clever CGI animals impressive or creepy? (I’m still swaying towards the latter)

Despite how I might feel about them, the world of PR can definitely learn a lesson from Disney and its quest to bring the much-loved classics into the limelight once again. Here are three valuable lessons that PR professionals can learn from the mighty Disney.

1. Know your audience

Disney clearly knows its audience and what they want. A character in distress? Tick. A character to save the day? Tick. A happy ending? Tick. Catchy songs to sing to in the car? Triple tick. You’ll find these elements in all Disney films and it’s this winning formula that means audiences know what to expect from not only the original, but the remake. 

Additionally, Disney knows where to find its audience and how to best appeal to them. Instagram ads to publicise the latest film? Tick. Collaborations with well-known artists to get the songs to number one? Tick. Disney knows its audience well and knows how to give them what they want, which is why it’s likely the remakes will keep on coming. PR professionals need to take note here and really get to know their audience (either the business, consumer or journalist) before planning the next campaign – don’t second-guess what the winning formula might be, but take time to find out what your audience really wants.

2. Good things don’t have to come to an end 

We might never have thought dungarees or shoulder pads would make a comeback, but it just goes to show that trends can always come back into fashion (or to haunt us). We also probably thought that Simba and Mufasa would never be seen on the big screen again, or that the magic carpet would get another look in, but what do we know?! Disney has shown that good things don’t have to come to an end, which can be applied to any PR campaign.

A piece of thought leadership content doesn’t have to be issued to one publication and that’s it – it should have a much longer shelf life than that. Chop it up, use it for a feature, blog, social media post, infographic, video Q&A… the list is endless. And if that same topic comes back into discussions again in a year’s time then dust it off, give it a fresh perspective and use it again. Rebooting or upgrading content from the past clearly is gaining popularity, and as Rafiki told us in The Lion King, any story worth telling is worth telling twice! 

3. Evaluate and capitalise on success 

It’s no surprise that the original versions of The Lion King, Sleeping Beauty and The Jungle Book make the top 10 highest-grossing animated Disney films of all time; Disney clearly looked at which original films had been the most successful to figure out where to start. Disney knew it already had a captivated audience and that there was, therefore, a greater chance of them wanting to see the film again, with a bit of a difference. 

PR professionals can learn a lot from looking back at past campaigns and assessing what was successful and what could be improved. Can you capitalise on the success of the previous thought leadership article with another opinion on the same topic, to benefit from an audience that is already interested in what you have to say? Can you then back this up with a customer case study, to show your thoughts in action? Or, perhaps feedback from trade journalists can give you direction for the next campaign topic. Listen and learn from what’s going on around you and use that to keep the success going. 

Tale as old as time

We can either run from the past or learn from it – or use the stories of the past and tell them in a different way! It’s a tale as old as time, but PR professionals can learn a lot from Disney remakes – and putting these lessons into practice will make a successful PR campaign that lasts and lasts. 

What’s your favourite Disney film – classic or remake? Tweet me @Rhea_NeoPR and let me know!
Ashley Carr

Managing Director.