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Taking PR Inspiration From the Launch of Disney+

The streaming wars have hit their peak.

On Nov. 12, Disney+ officially launched with more than 7,500 TV episodes, 500 movies and the promise of loads of content, bringing the entertainment giant to the forefront of the streaming world.

Even before its official launch, the service reportedly had more than 1 million subscribers. Estimates showed that Disney+ could attract 82 million by 2024.

For weeks, the new streaming service on the block has been the talk of the tech world, showing everyone just how powerful Disney’s public relations and marketing can be.

Any moves by Disney become major news, but this launch felt different, and it’s because of Disney’s plan.

In the PR world, you can take some hints from the launch of Disney+, even if you don’t have the backing of the world’s most famous mouse.

Here are some lessons we can learn from Disney, and how you can improve your own work with Disney+ in mind:

It’s all about the content

With demand for programming increasing every day, the likes of Netflix and Amazon are upping the ante. Both streaming services are spending billions of dollars each year to produce and buy the content their customers crave.

Disney, however, has a different strategy. For their launch, they’re simply releasing the hundreds of movies and thousands of TV episodes they’ve had stocked away for years. Rather than paying for it all, they already have what they need and, perhaps more important, what consumers want.

Here, Disney sets a great example for PR pros and marketers: Content is the key to everything you do.

Disney was able to launch their streaming service with a huge bank of ready-made content. Not only is it saving Disney money to have this content on hand, but it’s also allowing them to set their service apart with their unique brand voice and image.

Your team may not have blockbuster movies at its disposal, but without the ability to create your own original content, you’ll be spending money just to acquire what a group of creatives could already have been producing for you.

That’s why, at MediaSource, we put our content team at the center of our plans. Rather than purchasing generic content, your integrated team should be able to produce content that matches your brand, voice and quality.

Don’t get caught trying to scramble for content at the last minute. Put a plan in place and know how you’ll produce what your audience wants.

Leverage your relationships

A month before Disney+ launched, the streaming service got a major bump in pre-enrollment numbers when Tom Bergeron, host of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” (a Disney property) gave the new product a shout-out, telling his 7 million viewers that they could pre-enroll right now.

It’s a move that could only be pulled off by Disney. Netflix and Amazon don’t own network television channels, so they would have had to purchase an ad for that kind of exposure. But with their extremely broad pool of relationships, Disney can take advantage of dozens of situations like “Dancing With the Stars” to market their product.

Sure, public relations is far more than ads and exposure. But the lesson you can take from Disney’s strategy is to create relationships and partnerships that can help you in the future.

A good media relations team is an excellent example of this kind of relationship-building. By cultivating a working understanding with journalists — with whom you should build a foundation of trust — you’ll be able to work as partners, finding the right home for your client or team’s stories while still maintaining those relationships.

You may not be able to get a “Dancing With the Stars” shout out, but a Washington Post mention isn’t too shabby.

Use data to know your audience

Disney, a gigantic corporation, has access to an almost infinite amount of content. They even own Hulu, one of their own competitors in the streaming world.

But for Disney+, the company didn’t just release it all at one time. Instead, they used key data to target their most important audiences, and used their ready-made content to match what they saw.

More than 80 percent of streamers are either Millennials (ages 18-34) or Gen X (35-54). That means that the two biggest demographics for Disney+ will be people who have children and those who grew up in the ‘90s and ‘00s.

That’s why, for its early days, Disney is emphasizing nostalgia. They’re bringing back classic Disney Channel originals like “Motocrossed” or “Brink!” while putting their next “Star Wars” story exclusively on the platform. And for the children of these generations, they’re including classic cartoons and Pixar movies.

You may not be able to replicate Disney’s trove of nostalgia-inducing content, but you can emulate their approach.

Before you do anything, you should look at data to make your decisions. Who are the demographics you’ll need to reach? What are those demographics looking for? What pieces of your content — pre-made or in need of production — will reach those demographics?

That’s where analytics comes in, and it’s a crucial part of your equation. Without knowing what you’re trying to accomplish, you’ll be lost in various stages of the process.

So next time you’re strategizing, use your content, relationships and analytics to the best of your abilities and remember the Disney+ launch. It wasn’t magic — it was great public relations.

Lisa Arledge Powell is president of MediaSource, an award-winning communications agency that specializes in video production, public relations, social media and strategic insights, constantly securing national exposure for major brands. Connect with Lisa on Twitter: @LisaArledge

About the author

Lisa Arledge Powell


  • I really enjoyed reading this article about Disney+ and their successful strategies. Public relations practitioners should constantly be evolving their approaches and techniques. This timely article provided wonderful tips for doing so. Great job!

  • I love how you mentioned using data to understand your audience. This is something that companies like Disney do amazingly well. It is great to use such amazing companies as examples. Great work!

    -Ashby Brown, writer/editor at Platform Magazine

  • As a PR practitioner and a Disney fan, this blog was especially appealing to me. It is so interesting to see how Disney uses its content and data to build relationships with audiences and comes out with their new Disney +. Since Disney already has a huge bank of ready-made content. Disney’s content allows them to set their service apart with their unique brand voice and image. Disney has truly created a unique brand for itself, as well as maintained strong relationships with its fans. I’d say I’m pretty impressed by Disney’s PR professionals!

  • I think Disney was very strategic in their launch of Disney +! They were familiar with their audience and knew what their audience wanted! They targeted those who grew up in the 90s and 00s and would want access to watch the TV shows and movies that would take them back to their childhood. Disney + allowed Disney maintain and build upon the relationships with their audiences.
    They also did a great job with media relations. Before the launch, they were able to reach out to different outlets, like you mentioned Dancing With the Stars, which let people know about its launch and allowed people to get excited.

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