Let me start by saying I love Disney. My family took fairly regular annual pilgrimages to Disneyworld – and even as an adult I kept going. We grew up on Disney movies and became animation snobs, even today preferring the beautiful depth and detail of Disney‘s style over all others. I still have all of my Disney figurines because I kept them to hand down to my children (that I assumed I would have.) We celebrated my mother-in law’s 60th birthday at Disneyland, all 13 of us, including custom matching Mickey T-shirts that only at Disneyland didn’t seem dorky to wear as a group. So, it’s with great disappointment that I think about what transpired over the last week between Disney and Mom Bloggers (and with a tinge of fear to even write about it, this is Disney after all.)
For months now excitement has been building in the mom-blogging community over the impending Disney Social Media Moms Celebration in Disneyworld in March 2011. Details came sporadically through Twitter – a save the date that explicitly stated registration would be on a first come, first registered basis, a vague time line for registration, and finally the actual registration date and time. When that time came the floodgates opened, servers crashed and mom bloggers everywhere were stuck looking at a twirling orange circle in place of real registration page with pure panic setting in. When I was finally able to register the registration process included giving all of my social media stats as well as the names of my advertisers and affiliates. In the end your ability to register was not a guarantee of conference admission anyway. The completely opaque process left many bloggers frustrated, angry and disappointed and Disney with a treasure trove of information. This would’ve been fine if that data was being used to “verify” my stats as the confirmation email implied, but I don’t think that was the case at all. And actually left me feeling pretty used.
Last year Disney invited the bloggers they wanted and they caught a huge amount of flak for seeming exclusive. This year was supposedly open, but I believe that they knew exactly who they wanted to attend and the open registration was in fact a farce. I received the rejection letter that stated “Unfortunately the conference reached capacity before your registration could be confirmed.” That would be fine if people who were literally registering at the same as I (and I mean I was on the phone with them!) didn’t get in. But they did. And I’m glad they did – but I wish I hadn’t spent 1 1/2 hours of my time trying to register for something that I never had a shot at being a part of.
In the end I don’t blame Disney for wanting to have a specific group of women at their “celebration.” When I look at the women I know who are going they are my friends and colleagues – women I would put at the top of any list I was making – what I wish is that Disney had just been honest. Take a page from The Sun Valley Conference and be open about the fact that you are inviting the select few who you want to invite. There’s nothing wrong with that. Will people feel excluded? Sure. But so what? Not every business owner gets to go to Sun Valley. But they do know what it takes to get there and they can aspire to it. The awful process Disney chose turned mom blogger against mom blogger, made people feel bad for being chosen and others resentful that they weren’t. That’s the most unmagical outcome imaginable.
(By the way I know many people (or PR reps) will say “why air this publicly?” and not just send a private email and to that I say that this conference is about social media and if these conversations can’t happen in that world then companies truly do not understand the power and use of social media at all. I think mombloggers everywhere are eager to hear answers)