Protecting the Herd: An Analysis of Public Relations Responses to the 2015 Measles Outbreak Originating at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park


  • Shelley Aylesworth-Spink University of West London


public communications, Disney, crisis communications, reputation management, vaccination, anti-vaccination, measles, disease outbreak, public health promotion


This case study reviews the public relations response when Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park were declared the epicenter of a North American measles outbreak in 2015. The case study highlights and analyzes public relations strategies and tactics by the state public health department and The Walt Disney Company under the backdrop of the amorphous yet growing anti-vaccine movement. Centered on the surprising yet predictable 21st century resurgence of measles in North America, this case highlights the positioning of a health crisis by a corporation with an iconic entertainment brand and the challenge of public communications by a public health department during a disease outbreak. As the outbreak unfolded, public health communicators faced the two-pronged problem of refuting the claims of anti-vaccination advocates just as they dealt with population health risks. The public relations actions by organizations involved helped them emerge relatively unaffected by the crisis. This case is ideal for communications students studying crisis communications and public relations campaigns involving messy societal issues and the varied interests of multiple actors.