I’m always amused when someone who knows very little about branding can take a local election and consider it a national news story about one of world’s largest companies. In this case, OJ Blogger Greg Diamond’s attempt to use candidates backed by IEs in which the Walt Disney company contributed to that supported a slate a candidates in the recent Anaheim city elections.
Greg even posted a helpful tip list for news networks as to why this story should be covered. I just hope he’s a better lawyer than a PR guy.
First things first. The Walt Disney Company is a large multi-billion dollar multinational corporation with business interests in theme parks, motion pictures, television, radio, TV networks, publishing, theater and performing arts, videogames, retail merchandise, toys, restaurants, cruise ships, destination vacation packages. They have a major presence in the US, Europe, and Pacific Rim nations.
If you’ve been to Disneyland recently, you’ll notice that diversity is reflected in customers who bought a ticket to get into the park. All races, ages, genders, from all over the US and all over the world, Disneyland’s customers — the ones who pay sales taxes benefitting Anaheim — don’t seem to know or care about the racial makeup of the Anaheim city council.
The Walt Disney Company’s “products” are branded for diversity with virtually every ethnicity represented across is vast array of programs, storylines, characters, and the company’s management team and employees represent all races, creeds, colors and sexual identity. The company is colorblind and its efforts for diversity in employment are among the finest in the United States. So the notion that because a slate of candidates supported by an IE Disney contributed to is primarily Caucasian is somehow terrible branding is pretty laughable.
According to DiversityInc., Disney is better than most companies at promoting Latinos into management. The site, which tracks business diversity initiatives, says promotions for Latinos into management is 31percent higher than the other companies listed in the Top 10 and 75.6 percent higher than the Top 50 for the company’s Top 50 Diversity rankings. Disney’s management team has 28.8 percent higher than the Top 10 and 55.6 percent higher than the Top 50 when it comes to having Latinos in management.
Speaking to Diversity Journal in May, Chief Diversity Officer Paul Richardson offered these comments:
“As a company, we work intentionally to attract and retain employees who reflect the diverse world we live in and serve,” said Disney’s Chief Diversity Officer Paul Richardson.
Under Richardson’s leadership, Disney has launched multiple D&I initiatives including an executive Diversity Council, numerous resource groups, the annual Women’s Leadership Conference and Disney’s successful Heroes Work Here veteran’s hiring program.
“We understand that developing the most creative, innovative, and engaging entertainment experiences for an increasingly diverse marketplace does not happen by chance,” Richardson said. He emphasized it requires an ongoing, sustained commitment of senior executive leadership, a corporate culture and work environment of trust and employee engagement, and the highest standards of personal accountability to drive and sustain business results.
The company’s approach focuses on the diversity of its workforce, inclusion and opportunity within the workplace, and leveraging global diversity to grow the company and engage diverse communities. “To understand and meet the needs of diverse consumers, fans, guests, and viewers, our opinions, products, and perspectives must include a multitude of ideas, sensibilities, and experiences,” Richardson said.
While developing a talent base reflecting the marketplace it serves, Disney has a longstanding commitment to the Military and a model program for transitioning veterans into the civilian workforce. Its Heroes Work Here program is a company-wide commitment to recruiting and supporting veterans and their families. The company has hired more than 6,000 veterans in the past four years and through its Veterans Institute is serving as a model to other companies around the country for building their own veteran and military hiring programs.
Disney doesn’t recruit candidates to run for office. In local elections, in places where Disney has a geographical business interest, Disney can choose to support candidates who are supportive of the company’s business initiatives. In the current election cycle, if the candidates all supported by Disney were black, Disney would still support them. If they were all Latino and backed Disney’s goals, Disney would support them. If they were Martian (but eligible for office) and supported Disney’s goals, Disney would support them.
Greg provided a list for Network News to cover. Let’s review:
THIS IS A REALLY EASY STORY FOR THE NEWS NETWORKS (at least the ones not owned by Disney) TO TELL.
- Anaheim is moving towards a majority Latino voting population (not relevant to the Walt Disney Company’s established record on diversity in hiring which is well documented).
- Latinos are more interested in improving their neighborhoods than subsidies (based on the election results so far, this is not true; unless Diamond gas surveyed every Latino voter in Anaheim, at best this is hearsay about what he hopes is true)
- Disney put up an all-white — I don’t think Latinos are going to claim Steve Lodge at this point — slate. (this is FALSE; Disney didn’t put up a slate at all. Individual candidates ran on their own.)
- The main opposing slate (apologies to Robert Nelson, Donna Acevedo-Nelson, and Leonard Lahtinen) was all Latino and Filipino. (This is the first point that is true).
- Disney will have spent, oh, I’m guessing about $1.2 million on its slate. (Disney contributed $1.2 million to an IE that backed candidates in Anaheim and Irvine and spoke out against candidates in both cities; other developers gave nearly as much).
- The other 20 or so candidates combined? Maybe $200,000? (Including Howard Ahmanson who backed Jose Moreno and Tait slate candidates despite being very anti-gay. Again, this doesn’t prove racial discrimination).
- If Disney bought this election to keep whites in power and browns out of power, it loses the PR game. Bigly. (Spoiler alert; they didn’t buy an election; they backed candidates via an IE. And there’s no evidence that support from Disney was done under racial grounds at all).
So NO, this isn’t a story that rises to the interest of national news; it barely goes to the level of local TV news.
Votes are still being counted in Anaheim; two seats are too close to call. But Diamond and others were convinced Lucille Kring was so vile that there’s no way she’d be re-elected.
They were wrong.
I’m not going to predict the outcome of the races still up in the air, but I will say while there was lots of money spent in Anaheim (and in Irvine). At the end of the day, it’s people that vote. Voters will decide the races too close to call. Most voters do not attend Anaheim city council meetings. Most voters don’t read political blogs. I don’t believe most voters pay attention to political mail. Many vote their gut.
I’ll again point to a post I did last year which cites Disney as making $17 million in charitable contributions to Anaheim and Orange County annually — far more than any other business in Anaheim. Not enough? How much is enough?
If the anti-Disney slate takes power with a new set of demands on the city’s largest economic engine (cause they are), imagine the cry of pain if Disney were to reduce their charitable contributions by half? It’s still be significantly more than any other business in Anaheim, but to equate Disney — the corporation — as racist for backing a slate of candidates who “aren’t brown” is stupid on its face and makes assumptions easily disproven — even in a court of law.