Disney's, Stern's uses of internet during crises prove good ways to stay connected to public

It's hard to imagine a pair of media figures more different than Roy Disney and Howard Stern. One was born into prominence in the entertainment business; the other is a self-made broadcast titan.

It's hard to imagine a pair of media figures more different than Roy Disney and Howard Stern. One was born into prominence in the entertainment business; the other is a self-made broadcast titan.

One is a staid businessman who talks about his family's business values; the other is known for outrageous, profane antics. If there's any similarity at all between the great Walt Disney's nephew and the shock jock once known as the King of All Media, it's the savvy with which they're communicating to their audiences during times of great contention and crisis. Since leaving the board of the company cofounded by his uncle, Roy Disney has been waging a PR war against CEO Michael Eisner, who, Disney claims, is running the firm into the ground. Stern, on the other hand, has been a victim of the FCC's recent crackdown on what it deems indecent broadcasts. As a result, his targets have been commission members, especially chairman Michael Powell. What's striking about how both men have carried out their battles is that, despite the tremendous access each has to the traditional news media, both campaigns, in large part, rely on websites. By now, it's easy to take the internet for granted. But Stern and Disney have demonstrated that a communications strategy can be based around a website, as long as it's a full-throated one that engages visitors and prompts them to return. SaveDisney.com, for instance, is a clearinghouse for information on the company filled with news and opinion that's segmented based on the audience of which the viewer is a part: investor, shareholder, consumer, or family. Moreover, the website's casual rhetoric paints the media company as a national treasure. It's tagline: "Save Disney for Future Generations." Stern.com, as you'd expect, is much less serious. It posts information about the day's show, as well as its ongoing promotions. But the first thing you see at the top of the home page isn't information about "The Butterface Contest." It's a quote from former US Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan. Now, Stern has long positioned himself as a champion of free speech. But the FCC's current antagonism, raging since the Janet Jackson Super Bowl incident, has offered him the chance to reassert himself as a crusader along the lines of Hustler publisher Larry Flynt. He certainly uses his show to do this, even to the point that some carp that his crusade has gotten in the way of the humorous smut that made him famous. But the website offers a constant relationship with consumers and influencers who may not hear every show. It puts his First Amendment concerns in a broader context, ensuring that it's seen as more than complaining. Like Disney, Stern effectively uses the web as a way to keep in constant contact with his audiences, which is important given how fickle and fleeting the news media's interest can be.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in

Would you like to post a comment?

Please Sign in or register.