Ridgway, a former public relations official with Disney for more than 40 years, shared stories from his succesful career promoting the company and helping it become the world’s most recognized entertainment brand.
In the early days, Disney did next to no advertising, relying upon Ridgway’s ingenuity to spread the word about the wonders that awaited within the park. It was a strategy that worked well. And it was supported by partnerships with businesses and individuals, or as Disney preferred to call them, “participants.”
His hint for getting the word out to the media, “Have something worthwhile for them to see.”
He also advocated establishing a friendly relationship with the media. “Go out and meet with the press.”
As to the Internet and social media, it’s a valuable tool, he says, but it’s a mistake to try and control it.
The greatest crisis he faced? There were two: the death of Walt Disney, because the family did not want to upset the public that was vacationing in their park; and the gasoline shortage which the media said would curtail driving vacations and hinder the public from traveling to Disney World.
Favorite Disney movie? There are three: “Beauty and the Beast”; “The Jungle Book”; and “Mary Poppins.” He especially liked the “Mary Poppins” stage show.
Best memory he took away from those 44 years: the opening of Walt Disney World.
Ridgway will also speak at a special program in Mancini Hall Monday night (March 15.)