Gini Dietrich

Komen In PR Mess Because of Planned Parenthood Decision

By: Gini Dietrich | February 2, 2012 | 
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I was thinking I wasn’t going to jump on the bandwagon and talk about this, but it’s so disgusting to me, it has to be said.

What the heck is wrong with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure?

On one side is the charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which says it has raised $1.9 billion worldwide for breast cancer since it was created 30 years ago. Nancy Brinker started the foundation after Susan Komen, her sister, died of breast cancer.

On the other is Planned Parenthood, the 90-year-old organization that operates nearly 800 health centers nationwide. It bills itself as “America’s most trusted provider of reproductive health care.” Among its many services are breast cancer screening, contraceptives, and abortions.

Planned Parenthood says it performed 750,000 breast exams and breast care procedures in 2010, the latest year for which information is available. The organization says it has done four million breast exams in the past five years — 170,000 of them funded by Komen.

Not About Politics

The decision was “not about politics,” a Komen statement insisted.

The truth is Komen founder Nancy Brinker has strong Republican ties and Cecile Richards, who leads Planned Parenthood, is daughter of late Texas Gov. Ann Richards and has longtime Democratic Party ties. Also worth noting: This is an election year.

But it’s not about politics.

So Why the Cutoff?

Komen says it was forced to make the move by a new policy that prevents it from giving grant money to groups that are under investigation. In this case, the focus is a congressional inquiry launched last fall by Florida Republican Cliff Stearns, who is looking into whether Planned Parenthood is using federal money to fund abortions.

Planned Parenthood and its allies say Komen is simply bowing to the demands of anti-abortion-rights activists.

What Does this Have to Do with PR?

Just like the PR crisis Komen got themselves into when they partnered with KFC (yes, the fried chicken fast food restaurant) for breast cancer awareness, they’ve put themselves in the middle of another scandal with this move.

Even if it’s true they don’t give funds to organizations under investigation, and not because they’re “bowing to the demands of anti-abortion-rights activists,” they clearly did not think this one through.

Since this decision was made on Tuesday, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and even LinkedIn have been on fire with friends, colleagues, peers, and acquaintances saying they’re going to put their money somewhere else this year.

Komen has faced a massive social media backlash, with angry people flocking to its message boards and Facebook wall to announce that they will no longer donate to the breast cancer charity.

Many commenters on Facebook have complained Komen is scrubbing some of the more negative comments from its wall so they’re headed to Nancy Brinker’s wall instead.

In fact, a friend of mine posted a comment on her wall and took a screen grab of it, wondering aloud how long it would stay on the wall.

Turns out, not very long. It’s not there today.

The PR Lesson

We’re all going to screw up. We’re all going to have to make unpopular decisions. We may even make a very large number of people upset.

But deleting comments from your social media networks is not the way to build positive sentiment and rebuild trust.

You no longer are in control of your message or your brand. Truth be told, you never were in control; you just had the perception of being so because you couldn’t hear what your customers were telling others.

But now you can. And it’s time to not only monitor, but listen.

And not just listen, but really pay attention to what people are saying.

Perhaps there is a real and valid reason Komen has pulled their funding from Planned Parenthood. It really shouldn’t matter if it’s politicially driven or not.

What matters is they’re sticking their heads in the sand and pretending no one is upset by the decision by deleting the negative comments from their Facebook wall.

People are going to have a voice. Now they’ll start their own Facebook groups and blogs and discussion boards and Komen won’t have the opportunity to have a voice in the matter.

Wouldn’t you rather them have their say on your wall than somewhere else?

Only time will tell if it hurts the Komen funding (Planned Parenthood says they’ve had a spike in donations). For now, their days are totally screwed up because of the PR storm they created for themselves.

Thanks, Jeff Esposito, for convincing me to change the image.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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