Office Hours: I'm executive director of integrated content strategy at Disney Branded Television. I'm Theresa Helmer.Featured
Hi everyone! I’m Theresa Helmer, executive director of integrated content strategy at Disney Branded Television. My current role was designed to accelerate racial and cultural diversity in creative content for Disney’s kids and family audience. I joined The Walt Disney Company in 2014 as a social media analyst in the Parks and Resorts division and have held other positions in Platform Strategy and most recently, director, Social Media Strategy at Disney Channel.Ask me anything about social media, content creation, strategy, media, and more!
Thanks so much for joining us @theresahelmer!Elphas – please ask @theresahelmer your questions before Friday, June 4th. @theresahelmer may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Hi Theresa, I would love to see bilingual and multi-cultural characters, that better represent our family. I’ve been working on some stories about celebrating both Mexican and American holidays (I earn passive income from creating materials for teachers). My question is, What do you think that alternative social media platforms, like this one? Are they in addition to FB, and other big platforms, or are people spending more time on alternative social media now? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Personally, I am really enjoying the quality advice here, everyone is so helpful, it’s not salesy. Reminds me of CH a few months ago, when people gave value freely and authentically. Sara
Hi @saratyler--appreciate the question. I think there’s always a place for alternative forums for people to gather under common interests. Since it really just depends on what type of community you’re looking for I think it’s great to have options like this.
Hello @theresahelmer! Your role sounds exciting... and complex → what does an average day look like for you? Are you mostly in meetings with people, alone strategising, both, something else entirely?
Hi @fio--The majority of my day consists of meetings. I do block out time for reading/watching materials for feedback and I make time for strategizing or working on projects and documents.
Great question @BridgetBogee I talked about my experiences in more detail on this recent podcast Asked by Ayana which is hosted by a dear friend Ayana Lage. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/theresa-helmer-on-becoming-executive-director-at-disney/id1559669014?i=1000522227921So much of my growth has come down to two key things: Championing Myself & Sponsorship. The Championing Myself bit comes in because I believe no one is going to care more about my career than I will, this includes making a thoughtful and strategic professional development plan that I shared regularly with my managers as well as setting goals an intention. I set annual goals each December to outline what I want to accomplish over the next year. I enjoy having tools to center my intentions and check back in on what did or didn’t happen. Sponsorship is a huge component to growth in any professional environment and I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work for leaders who walk the walk when it comes to advocating for me. I had done several projects as an Employee Resource Group leader that allowed me to engage directly with senior leaders within the company. I built relationships with these leaders over time so by the time the opportunity arose, I was well positioned and confident to engage the leadership team with my proposal for the job.
Thanks for joining us! With so many different types of diversity and cultures, what is your process for deciding how and when to prioritize content about each group? What are your biggest challenges, and how do you measure success?
Hi Ettie80--I'm happy to be here, these are great questions. Utilizing business objectives, strategy, and audience insights are part of the prioritization process. With these elements in mind, it helps guide teams in their content representation efforts. I work closely with the Disney Branded Television creative and marketing teams to identify opportunities for representation whether that be in our existing series or projects in development. The biggest challenge is the content development to execution process is lengthy; even when teams are driving toward common representation goals, the time it takes to get from idea to execution to viewable by our audience is long.
It seems a bit tricky to transition into creative strategy and content creation. Do you have any tips for someone who's looking to move into this space?
Hi Lavelle163--In my experience, I see these two as a symbiotic evolution of my professional journey. Because of the foundational knowledge I gained in content creation for social platforms, I had a baseline skills needed for developing strategy in those roles. Especially in the kids & family space you see a lot of the newest trends and what social norms young people are adopting so that directly influences everything you do. Building trusted relationships with key stakeholders is also important. When you showcase excellence in strategic thinking, organizational savvy, communication, and collaboration, those skills are incredibly transferable and valuable. I’d recommend getting to know people in the creative strategy space for networking and informational meetings to see what skills their teams look for and build from there.
Hi Theresa, amazing to hear about your current role and your journey. I think your role is such a critical one. Two questions I had were: 1) growing up, did you see or feel a lack of representation when consuming Disney content? Is that what led you to wanting to work with Disney? And 2) how do you handle situations where you maybe think things should be different but there is pushback from others on the team? I can imagine that not all diversity or representation initiatives would be taken positively so I’m curious to understand what your experience has been if that is the case. Thanks and wish you all the best!
Hi raiangie1--to your first question, I realized that there was a lot of work to be done in terms of representation across the entertainment industry and other forms of content and media (e.g. fashion, music).However, it wasn’t something I became conscious of until I was older, maybe college age. To your second question: feedback is a vital part of the process. There are many opportunities as we develop content for stakeholders to provide feedback, as well as open communication with creators and writers. I do feel that my notes are a valuable part of shepherding the final decision. Of course, notes from all stakeholders are not always able to be taken, but part of the creative process is that these thoughtful perspectives can shift how we approach certain topics.
Thanks for providing insight into your role @theresahelmer! What strategies do your team and The Walt Disney Company as a whole use to ensure associates across the company are aware of your organization's goals and wins? Do you refine those strategies for communicating with Disney Branded Television vs. Parks and Resorts vs. technology groups, etc.?
Of course, @ashleyerffmeyer! The Walt Disney Company is a massive global corporation so there are goals that are company-wide which inform goals at the individual segment level (e.g. entertainment/media, parks & resorts, etc. Each of these divisions have teams that work on goals specific to their lines of business. Synergy is a massive component across TWDC; there are many taskforces and cross functional engagements to ensure all parties are apprised of relevant initiatives.
Hi Theresa, when looking at content creation, how do you make sure to have diverse voices at the table? Also, how crucial is data analysis when it comes to content strategy?
Thank you for the question, @Beychu. There are a host of talent pipeline initiatives at Disney that aim to accelerate our efforts of diverse and authentic representation. For creative talent there’s Launchpad for writers and directors, The Walt Disney Television Writing Program, and Disney Television Discovers for writers, actors, and directors. There are also dedicated departments within our company that create initiatives to identify, hire, and develop talent from underrepresented communities. Of course, there’s always more work to be done but the collective focus, activation, and accountability from all levels of the company is encouraging.
Hi Theresa, thanks offering to share your insights. You current role sounds really interesting. I worked in kids content at the BBC for ten years. What do you see as the future opportunities and challenges in this sector? And if I can ask another question, I'm interested in what it's like working on a content strategy for such a large, global brand. I can imagine lots of competing stakeholder priorities as well as different user needs! How do you manage that and secure buy-in?
HI @theresahelmer, and thanks for being here. My daughter is graduating from Santa Clara U next week and is interested in a career just like yours! Any advice I can pass on to her for breaking in?