Tip of the Day

Host Better Meetings for Better Results

Yesterday with one of our clients, we hosted a virtual whiteboard session, a fairly standard practice for how we run meetings now. It’s amazing how much more effective those virtual whiteboard meetings are than your standard “go around the room” Zoom meetings. 

With a small group of 8 people from across the department, we started the meeting by framing a few very specific challenges… 

  • “How might we excite fans after they purchase a Football Season Ticket for the first time?”
  • “How might we educate fans after they purchase a Football Season Ticket for the first time?”; 
  • “How might we continue to educate fans after they renew their Football Season Ticket?”

You may be tempted to combine these questions into one. But by separating them out, distinctly different suggestions arise. With the virtual whiteboard session, we put a silent activity timer on the screen, and the virtual post it notes start flying. 

Since everyone can contribute at the same time, and removed the ability for people to ramble on about one idea, we get a high quantity of ideas. We can expand on quality for only the ideas that really catch our attention. Though it might be counter-intuitive, the constraints in this session serve to create MORE ideas. The timer creates a sense of urgency, and limiting the idea to a post-it notes forces clarity of thought. 

After just 15 minutes of brainstorm, we had over fifty distinct ideas across the three questions. That speed allowed us to quickly move toward mapping when in the customer journey they should get that communication, moving us towards building a larger communication calendar.

Screenshot of the Virtual Whiteboard session
Screenshot of the Virtual Whiteboard session

Creating deeper emotional connections with your tribe often starts by looking within. Do your current systems & processes empower your employees to engage with customers, or are they roadblocks for your employees to overcome?

If you even thought to answer “roadblocks,” we’re here to help. Pro sports teams and college athletics departments around the country use us as a guide for connecting deeper with the people they serve. If you’re on a journey to better engage your customers and employees, drop me an email at davidm@engagemintpartners.com and we’ll see if we can help.

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Flip the Switch

$208k for a LeBron replay? NFTs Explained

Our guest today is Jesse Schwarz, who set an NBA Top Shot record earlier this year, paying $208k for a replay of a LeBron James dunk. If that makes no sense to you, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered in this episode. 

Today’s episode is a little out of the ordinary, where we dive deep into non-fungible tokens (NFTs). NFTs have been all the rage in 2021, but if you still don’t understand them, Jesse and I try to break it down in this episode. It’s not your standard explanation of NFTs, as we try to unpack how you and your sports & entertainment organization can use NFTs to drive more revenue and deeper engage your fans. 

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Flip the Switch

How Fandom is Evolving w/ Zoe Scaman

Today’s guest has been one of my favorite follows on Twitter over the past year, Zoe Scaman. Zoe runs her own strategy studio in the UK, called Bodacious.

At Bodcacious, one of Zoe’s bigger projects she’s working on right now is with Luka Doncic, the Dallas Mavericks, and Mark Cuban Experiments, or MCX for short. We’ll dive into this a ton in this episode. 

Before Bodacious, Zoe was the Global Head of Strategy for the Ridley Scott Creative Group. If you look at her career, you’ll see she’s dabbled in so many different areas, working for international brands, as well as agencies of all sizes. That’s given her a really wide range of things she’s interested in, and she has an uncanny ability to connect insights from one industry into another. This makes us love her, obviously, because that’s what we focus so much of our time on in this show. 

For today, we’re really going to be diving deep into Fandom. And no it should be no surprise, that much of how fandom is changing today is based on the evolution of the creator economy. If you’re not familiar with the creator economy, have no fear, we do some definition setting in the episode.

Show Notes:
7:32     Fandom vs. fans with an affinity

9:51     FazeClan and the birth of amateur content creation

14:00  Breaking down fandom levels with Marvel Cinematic Universe

19:17  The strategies for developing content for various audiences

23:13  The NBA exemplifying cultural crossovers

25:40  Examining the adjacent cultural genres to sports

30:05  Takeaways from MCX and the NBA

34:55  Monetizing experimentation in your organization

38:30  Reaching the Gen Z audience

42:56  Building a content creation team

44:56  Creating content for niche audiences

48:40  Lessons learned from Ocean Spray

53:03  NFTs and the impact on collectibles

Where to Reach Zoe:
Twitter: @zoescaman
Subscribe to Zoe’s Email Newsletter

From Frameworks to Flywheels
Faze Clan, Fandom and the New Brand Flywheel
FaZe Clan – Website |  Twitter | Instagram | YouTube
Bleacher Report’s Game of Zones
Adjacent Content – @LeagueFits | @BRKicks
Building a bulldog’s brand with Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster
Team JuJu merch
Juventus Fan Tokens
Dallas Mavericks’ Roll up with MCX
The Ocean Spray story
Kings of Leon NFT album

This episode is brought to you by:
Know exactly who’s working in your venue.

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Tip of the Day

7 Reasons Why You Should Create a Feedback Program

A first of its kind customer experience program in college athletics just launched today at Penn State. 

For the last few months, members of the EngageMint team and Penn State Athletics team have been working on this. We’re excited to see the big impact it will have both externally & internally.


It’s not a new concept by any means, but it is one of the first in college athletics at this scale (that we know of). To form the group, we talked to a few other sports & entertainment organizations who have built something similar, including the WWE, Atlanta Hawks and the Indiana Pacers. 

Imagine it as an expanded fan council, focused more on quantity & frequency of feedback, rather than quality and depth. We’ll have a diverse group of 2k fans who volunteer to be surveyed on a frequent basis, on a wide variety of topics, throughout the year. The goal of the program is to increase the frequency at which we communicate with superfans, and allow them to have a little more ownership of the experience they are so passionate about. 

The program is a testament to Penn State’s investment in innovation and trying to become more customer-centric every day.

Here are some of the impacts from this program I’m excited about:

  1. It should deepen emotional connections w/ fans by allowing them to weigh in on department decisions… that doesn’t mean we’ll always do EXACTLY what fan sentiment tells us, but we’ll always listen & provide updates.
  2. Strengthen trust with fans through transparency. We’re taking a “You Said, We Listened” approach, sharing key insights from the surveys with the group. We’ll try to be just as transparent about what’s NOT being done with the data as what is.
  3. Breaking down silos internally by allowing all departments to submit survey topics. If the food and beverage team wants to understand pregame eating habits, we’ll run a survey on that. If the development and fundraising team wants to understand fans’ deeper motivations towards charitable giving, we’ll run that.
  4. Surveys will be focused on specific, focused topics, but we’ll share that data across the department to make better decisions as one team. It shifts the entire department to become more customer-centric by making decisions grounded in data.
  5. This allows us to make smarter financial investments by testing how the market feels before committing resources to specific projects. Rather than merely thinking a Pet Club is a good idea and investing time and $ into the intiative, we’ll run a survey to understand PSU fan relationships with their pets before spinning our wheels on a project the market had no appetite for. (That’s a hypothetical example, I love Pet Clubs because people irrationally spend $ on their pets.)
  6. The experimental nature of the program becomes a vehicle to shift the department culture towards “done is better than perfect.” Too often in traditional industries, everything has to be perfect before it goes out, which often does more harm than good. With this frequency and high touch, we’ll inevitably make a small screw-up at some point. And we’ll have to recover. But we won’t let that risk detract from our desire to build genuine relationships with fans.
  7. The speed and frequency will force us to improve the efficiency of internal approval processes & workflows and increase employee empowerment. I believe a hassle-filled employee experience is often the biggest barrier to delivering an exceptional customer experience.

Penn State Athletics is already one of the best organizations in the sports & entertainment world at delivering incredible fan experiences, and I’m excited to see them take it up even one notch more. 
For more learnings from this project, or to see what else we’re working on, subscribe to our newsletter. Working on something similar? I’d love to hear on Twitter@davidmillay.

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Tip of the Day

Get Your Customers Involved

The best part about this new Lego set is that it was created by a fan.

I discovered Lego’s Ideas website today. It’s a community hub for Lego “superusers” to level up their passion and involvement with the brand. In a nutshell, users can submit their own designs and ideas for new Lego products. If their idea is turned into commercial production, the designer gets a small piece of the resulting sales.

The website has a few different components, but the part I felt most organizations with fans can adapt is the “Contests” aspect. Lego issues out a contest, or a theme that it wants superfans to crowdsource. One such theme might be something generic, like “SHOW YOUR LOVE FOR SPORTS BY USING – YUP YOU GUESSED IT – LEGO BRICKS!” or it may be specific like “HOW DO YOUR HOLIDAY STAR WARS™ SCENES LOOK?” 

The contest lists out the specs of what Lego is looking for; number range of pieces, specific design elements, entry deadlines, how the entries will be judged and qualified, etc. Members of the community then either build a design with real legos or design the set digitally and submit their entries. After members submit their designs, other members can make comments on the designs. When the design is chosen, the winners are awarded Lego specific prizes. 

The 10k club is the other area of the Ideas website I loved. Users can upload random product ideas, and users can “support” the idea, similar to a Kickstarter idea. It’s simply applying a crowdfunding concept to the world of Legos. If 10k+ people upvote the idea, Lego will take the concept under review, and decide whether or not it’s feasible to turn the design into a real project. Once it is, the designer gets a small piece of that revenue from the end product. 

It’s a great indication of where customer experience is headed.

Your biggest fans no longer want to passively consume the brands they love. They want to participate and help curate experiences of their own, for themselves, and for others to enjoy. Rather than leading with “how can we make more money from the customers who love us the most,” the thought is to lead with value creation. Lego has clearly asked the question, “how can we get superfans to become even bigger fans,” and the answer is to get them involved. 

The same applies to your customers. Think about the dialogue you have with your customers. Is it truly two-way communication? Are you merely providing updates and responding to their gripes on social media? Or are you inviting them to help shape the future of the organization they love so much? 

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Tip of the Day

Six Steps to Create Your Service Culture

We went deep on our latest podcast episode talking about customer service and how to create a service culture within your organization. Shep Hyken, our guest for the episode, covered his six steps for creating a service culture, listed below. Tune in to the full conversation to learn more. 

1. Define your customer service vision

A customer service vision helps to define the expected level of service your customers should experience when doing business with your company. It helps to shape the experiences of both your employees and your customers. To provide a positive experience to your customers, it is important to have a clear vision of what you want your customer service to be.

2. Communicate the vision

When you want to effectively communicate your vision, you want to create a document that is memorable. The more memorable the vision document is, the better. You want to summarize your vision in a single sentence. Get a group together of senior leaders from all different areas to write your vision statement, and then restate it in different ways to make it memorable.

3. Train to the vision

Many organizations make the mistake of training their employees once and checking the box. Training around customer service must be a constant and evolving activity. Customer service skills are foundational, but employees can always use a refresh. More importantly however, is the way you train your employees to respond and anticipate your customer’s emotions while interacting with your policies and processes. Adapting your customer service vision to real-life, everyday practices is the most overlooked aspect of customer service training.

4. Be the example

When I worked at Disney, we really tried to live the philosophy of “the extent to which you show genuine care for your employees is the extent to which they will care for your customers.” If you’ve been working long enough, you’ve probably had a leader who doesn’t practice what he or she preaches. When employees see that expectations don’t apply to their leaders, they follow suit and ignore those expectations themselves. No matter how clear and engaging your customer service statement is, if leaders don’t live by it, you’ll have fancy words on the wall and behaviors that don’t match.

5. Defend the culture

When there is lots of change in your organization, one of the key activities should be to defend the culture that you’ve worked so hard to design. The change could be a new organization-wide software, it could be a new senior leader. The change might even be a global pandemic. When those internal or external pressures are its height, that’s truly the time to defend the essence of the culture while evolving.

6. Celebrate the culture

Celebrating culture is an effective way of showing your employees and customers that you value their contributions and appreciate their work. Too often, I see organizations function on opposite ends of the spectrum. On one end, you have organizations that only celebrate numbers and metrics. On the other end, you have organizations who attempt to celebrate culture, but end up having awards so vague that no one really understands why that person won “employee of the month.” Both can be equally frustrating. One of the best ways to celebrate corporate culture is to design and identify key behaviors that create your culture’s ideal employee, and celebrate when those behaviors are exhibited.

For more, check out the full conversation with Shep here.

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Flip the Switch

Amaze Your Customers w/ Shep Hyken

Our guest today is Shep Hyken, a customer service and experience expert and the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations.  Shep works with companies and organizations who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. His articles have been read in hundreds of publications, and he is the author of “Amaze Every Customer Every Time,” “Moments of Magic ,” “The Loyal Customer,” “The Cult of the Customer” and “The Amazement Revolution.” 

Shep, KG, and David cover everything from designing an organization’s purpose to how customer service has changed for the future due to the pandemic.

Show Notes:
(07:53) Learning customer service at age 12

(11:02) “Without customers, you don’t have a business”

(15:25) Marketing creates repeat customers; loyalty is a connection

(18:49) Crafting genuine and transparent mission statements 

(21:46) Purpose statements in practice – lessons from the Ritz-Carlton and Disney

(26:05) Creating mission statements that clearly articulate your values

(29:51) Shep’s Six Simple Steps to Create a Customer Service Culture

(31:52) Unpacking Step #3: Train It

(37:16) The shortest customer service speech in the world

(39:13) “I’ll Be Back – How to Get Customers to Come Back Again and Again” – Shep’s next book

(43:55) Looking outside your industry for inspiration

(45:15) Customer service is not a department, it’s a philosophy

(47:23) Rapid Fire Questions


Additional Notes:

Purchase Shep’s Books

  • I’ll Be Back: How to Get Customers to Come Back Again and Again
  • The Convenience Revolution
  • Amaze Every Customer Every Time
  • The Amazement Revolution
  • The Cult of the Customer
  • Moments of Magic
  • The Loyal Customer
  • Be Amazing or Go Home

Shep’s Book Recommendations:

The Effortless Experience by Matt Dixon

The Experience Economy by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore

How to Connect with Shep:


Shep’s Customer Service newsletter

Shep TV on YouTube


Today’s episode was sponsored by CheckdIn.  Know exactly who’s working in your venue.

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Disney’s Formula for Success

In our latest podcast episode, we sat down with Disney Parks & Resorts legend, Lee Cockerell.

For ten plus crucial years during Disney World’s growth, Lee was the EVP of Operations for the entire Florida property. His responsibilities encompassed a diverse mix of operations, which included 20 resort hotels with over 24,000 Guest rooms, 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, 5 golf courses, a shopping village & nighttime entertainment complex (Downtown Disney, now Disney Springs), the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and the ancillary operations support functions.

Think about those massive responsibilities…

The amount of revenue that flowed through Lee’s operations was insane. We’re talking about billions of $ each year. 

The number of industry revolutionizing initiatives over those years is far too large to count. From Disney’s Animal Kingdom to Disney Fast Passes, Disney’s Magical Express, and those are just off the top of my head.

The number of visitors to the Central Florida Disney theme parks alone, went from an estimated 29 million guests per year when Lee started in 1990 to an estimated 45 million guests when he retired, a 50% increase. 

Yet in our conversation together, he mentioned none of these things. Instead, we focused on the experience of his employees, or Cast Members, as they’re called at Disney. 

The highest honor of recognition that can be bestowed upon someone in the world of Disney Parks and Resorts is to get a window on Main Street. We’ve written about this before. Each window has a unique story that only insiders know. Lee’s window lists him, not as the EVP of Operations, but instead, displays his role as Editor of the “Main Street Diary.” 

As Lee explains at the very beginning of our conversation together, the Main Street Diary was a weekly internal publication he created for his 40,000+ Cast Members. The goal of the publication was to reinforce key messages from leadership, recognize employees for delivering great service moments, equipping Cast Members with knowledge they could share with guests, and more. With over 40,000 employees, it would have been impossible for Lee to get to know each and every Cast Member on his team. But the Main Street Diary allowed his team to feel like they knew Lee. And it gave them a direct line to Lee, because he put his direct contact information in each publication.   

The Main Street Diary story and Lee’s focus on employee experience are not IN SPITE of his enormous financial obligations. Quite the opposite. Lee focused on employee experience BECAUSE of the enormous financial obligations. He realized that if he focused on revenue first, it would lead to short-term success and long-term failure. Rather, Lee approached revenue as a result of doing all the other things right.

On page 7 of his book, Creating Magic, Lee outlined a simple progression he called “Disney’s Formula for Success.”

The formula works in the form of steps, starting from left to right. Most organizations mistakenly begin with the fourth step, first… a recipe for short-terms wins but long-term disaster.

The formula for long-term, sustained success, works like this: 

  • Leadership Excellence – Intensely focus on leadership development. Invest time and resources in improving your leaders’ ability to lead.

  • Employee Experience – We had a saying back at Disney that I believe in wholeheartedly. It went, “the extent to which you genuinely care about your employees is the extent to which they will care about your customers.”

  • Guest Satisfaction – By exceeding a guest’s expectations, you can drive more revenue. The trick here is to avoid merely meeting expectations and focus on exceeding expectations.

  • Business Results – When we think of business results and customer experience, business results we cared strongly about at Disney were intent to return and intent to recommend.

It’s a model that I’ve seen applied to successful businesses in almost every industry imaginable. Think of your own favorite companies, and you’ll quickly realize they follow a version of this formula for success. If it works for companies like Amazon, Chick-Fil-a and Disney, it can certainly work for you.

To learn more about Disney’s Formula for Success and Lee’s approach to leadership, tune into the full conversation with Lee here.

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Flip the Switch

Leadership Lessons from a Disney Legend

Our guest today is with Disney Parks & Resorts legend, Lee Cockerell. In this episode, we focus on leadership, customer service, and time management,

Lee Cockerell retired as the Executive Vice President of Operations for the WALT DISNEY WORLD® Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, a position he held for ten years. His responsibilities encompassed a diverse mix of operations, which included 20 resort hotels with over 24,000 Guest rooms, 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, 5 golf courses, a shopping village & nighttime entertainment complex (Downtown Disney, now Disney Springs), the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and the ancillary operations support functions. 

Leadership Lessons from Disney Legend Lee Cockerell

1:02 The legendary Main Street windows and the story behind Lee’s window 

5:35 The Main Street Diary – Lee’s consistent communication strategy with all Walt Disney World® cast members

9:13 The 8-minute podcast 

12:15 Disney’s Chain of Excellence & how you get results

17:39 Talent is the name of the game 

22:39 The behaviors and characteristics of successful leaders at Disney

24:05 The leadership test and building complementary teams

28:14 Lee’s Legacy – Disney Great Leader Strategies & Creating Magic 

30:50 From what to how – implementing Disney Great Leader Strategies

35:39 Leading through external pressures on the organization

40:33 Lee’s top three leadership strategies 

43:00 Balancing and managing your time

45:50 Deciding what to delegate

48:29 Rapid fire round



Lee’s Book Recommendations

The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

Good to Great by Jim Collins

Having Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen

Learn from Lee


Morning Time Magic time management planner

Cockerell Academy

Creating Disney Magic podcast

Lee’s Books – Creating Magic, The Customer Rules, Time Management Magic and Career Magic

Connect with Lee




Other References


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Tip of the Day

International Women’s Day 2021

In our industry that tends to be dominated by men, we wanted to take a moment to applaud all the fantastic female leaders. To celebrate these leaders in the sports & entertainment industry, we’re highlighting the amazing women who have blessed the microphone on our podcast. Click on their names to tune into their episodes.

Elisa Padilla, Former CMO of the Brooklyn Nets and Miami Marlins 

Steph Smith, Head of Trends.co

Kami Testa, Guest Experience Program Director, Phoenix Suns & Mercury

Jahaan Blake, Founder of J. Blake Group; former Director of Fan Experiences, Chicago Cubs 

Jill Marchick, Vice President of Consumer Insights & Engagement, Indiana Pacers

Erin Sheehan, Senior Director of Guest Experiences, San Diego Padres

Linda Logan, Executive Director of Columbus Sports Commission

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