Amid the Hollywood strike, Disney is looking to hire a senior executive to “lead crisis communications response efforts,” as well as other senior communications experts to “retain” and “motivate” employees, according to company job postings reviewed by The Intercept.
One posting offers up to $337,920 for a vice president of public affairs to lead a “communications team to assist senior executives in preparing for media events” and “interviews.” “This role is a standard public affairs position with our Disney Parks, Experiences and Products business segment that has existed for more than 15 years,” a Disney spokesperson, who asked that he not be named, told The Intercept. “It’s not new and the opening is the result of an internal move.”
The posting follows a disastrous July 13 interview by CNBC of Disney chief executive Bob Iger, in which he called the actors and writers strikes “very disturbing,” their demands “not realistic,” and coming at “the worst time in the world.”
The interview was widely panned as a catastrophe, with the Hollywood Reporter calling it “infamous” in an article titled “Unpacking Bob Iger’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good PR Week.” The same week, one day prior to the interview, Disney announced that his contract was being extended to 2026, raising his target annual compensation to $31 million. The eye-popping sum drew cynical comparisons to the statistic that only 14 percent of actors represented by the SAG-AFTRA guild earn the minimum $26,470 necessary to qualify for health insurance, per the union’s chief economist.
“We’re unrealistic when he’s making $78,000 a day,” SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said of Iger during an interview with Sen. Bernie Sanders. Drescher went on to chide his CNBC interview, remarking: “He stuck his foot in it so bad that you notice they’re not letting any of the other CEOs open their mouths.”
Small surprise, then, that Disney is looking to hire a communications executive “with the goal of enhancing and protecting reputation” by “manag[ing] reputation research.” The applicant, the job posting goes on to say, will “develop [a] reputation campaign calendar” as part of a comprehensive plan that will include paid advertising as well as earned media.
The messaging isn’t just external. The same job posting stresses the need to “retain/motivate employees” with “strategic executive engagement plans intended to drive the business narrative.”
Another job posting, for a senior specialist in employee communications and engagement, describes what seems like a sophisticated effort to interface with employees: “You’ll interview employees, develop promotional campaigns, and advise on the best communication vehicles to reach employees.” The posting also alludes to the development of an “internal crisis communications response playbook.”
Though the job postings don’t explicitly identify the source of their concerns, the actors and writers strikes has left Disney short-staffed, after the firm had already laid off 7,000 employees by May. Disney has reportedly been frantically hiring replacements, including from foreign countries.
Iger is far from the only executive to plant his foot in his mouth. On July 11, Deadline published an interview with a studio executive who said of the strike: “The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses.”
The comment drew swift condemnation from many, including actor Ron Perlman, who posted a heated video response to his Instagram account. “You wish that on people?” Perlman said. “You wish that families starve while you make $27 fucking million a year for creating nothing?”
The actors and writers strikes represents the first such joint strike in over half a century, since 1960. The writers, represented by the Writers Guild of America, have been on strike since May 2, with the actors union joining them on July 14.
Demands by the actors and writers unions include protections against AI, in which Hollywood studios are investing lavishly. Netflix recently offered up to $900,000 for a single AI product manager job, as The Intercept reported.
By contrast, in one case, actors were offered just $300 for scans of their likeness to train AI databases.
Update: September 1, 2023, 6:27 p.m. ET
This article was updated to include a comment from Disney that was received after publication.