Annenberg alum describes his professional journey

A master storyteller · Ryan Jackson was taken by the Trojan spirit the first time he stepped on campus. He studied communications at the university and was recruited to work at Disney Consumer Products – Photo courtesy of Ryan Jackson

There was no other college like USC for Ryan Jackson, an alumnus who graduated with a degree in communications. Almost 10 years later, as the editorial chief of communications at Disney ABC Television Group, Jackson reflected on his love for the school and the lessons he learned during his undergraduate journey.

Jackson fondly described his memories of visiting the USC campus. The energy of the Trojan family and the Spirit of Troy immediately resonated with him — he recounts hearing the band playing, seeing the brick roads and tall buildings and watching the football team play.

“Even the colors of the uniform — all of that just spoke to me,” Jackson said.

Jackson admitted he was drawn to USC and its incomparable spirit, which other colleges lacked.

“I wouldn’t trade my USC experience for anything,” Jackson said.

While at USC, Jackson’s interpersonal skills were constantly tested; he was expected to manage group projects and work closely with other people, skills that remain largely crucial in Jackson’s professional life.

“The biggest thing about [Disney] is learning how to get along with varying personalities and get what you need — building your network, being agreeable while, at the same time, still speaking your opinion, being a team player,” Jackson said.

Although his career goals were originally different, his passion for storytelling eventually led Jackson to focus on communications.

“I wanted to be an animator actually,” Jackson said. “I was coming into an aspect of being a storyteller.”

Jackson, like many Trojans, was initially fascinated with the USC School of Cinematic Arts. However, through a roller-coaster of professional positions, including working as an actor for commercials in Japan, Jackson found himself at Disney ABC. At the company, Jackson utilized his talents to tell stories in diverse forms, ranging from writing and producing video packages to red carpet reporting.

“I would go to red carpets and interview Julia Roberts for the premiere of Mirror Mirror and the cast of [ABC’s] Castle,” Jackson said. “Eight hours of standing on your feet and editing — it was interesting for me to get in another aspect of the company.”

Jackson first started working at the Disney Consumer Products division, where he
covered new product launches, executive announcements and other company news for the internal website.

Jackson eventually was promoted to produce at Disney ABC, and he began pursuing his storytelling passions with an internalized role in corporate communications. In this role, Jackson produced multiple projects including “Home Office,” “Conversations” and “This Is Me.”

“I had one experience when I interviewed a woman from our Philadelphia news station, who helped rehabilitate female inmates,” Jackson said.

He reflected on his experience filming a documentary, where he visited prison for a story about how a Disney employee helped bring forgotten people back into society. This format was new to Disney, and Jackson pioneered the development of video packages that feature inspiring stories and employees’ tips for success.

“I remember not feeling very confident in the role,” Jackson said. “It takes at least six months for you to learn one role.”

He recalled the challenge of taking different roles, but he attributes his learning experience at Disney to constant observation and networking with successful professionals.

Today, Jackson oversees external communications at Disney and monitors the distribution of editorial content to traditional and converged media outlets. Always open to new opportunities, Ryan carries his passion for storytelling across different mediums in his position.

“Storytelling has always been a love for me, so back at USC I just knew I needed to get a job, and hopefully it was a job that I like,” Jackson said.

He was lucky, he admits, to have Disney as an opportunity that further developed his love for writing and storytelling.