Gini Dietrich

Komen In PR Mess Because of Planned Parenthood Decision

By: Gini Dietrich | February 2, 2012 | 

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. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • ginidietrich

    @susanborst I gave in to peer pressure to write about it

  • JeffRice63

    @ginidietrich I believe the human race should have planned parent hood.

    That’s the world’s problem. 2 many of us.Virus.

  • annaphallactic

    Great post, Gini! Another aspect of this is that, if the pro-life websites are right, Komen has also halted funding to stem cell research organizations:

    In light of this, can Komen still claim that defunding Planned Parenthood wasn’t ideologically driven? Heck no.

  • rustyspeidel

    Amen, amen, amen.

    • ginidietrich

      @rustyspeidel Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • jenzings

    Karen Handel also retweeted a snippy tweet ( ) and then deleted it a bit later. Not exactly how to handle something like this.

    I’m disappointed, but not really surprised, at the way SGK is handling the social media aspect of this. They’ve been more about image than authenticity for a while, IMHO.

    • ginidietrich

      @jenzings WOW!!! WOW. I’m speechless.

  • Even if their reasoning is true, that they don’t give funds to organizations under investigation – then they should stick to their guns & take the heat for the policies they instituted. Don’t delete social media postings if its in response to your outlined policies. Show some back bone and stand behind your policies or stop and take a look and consider changing them if you cant take the heat.

    However, this to me goes against everything SGK has stood for in my eyes. SGK to me was a fund to help ALL women get the screening they need to prevent & hopefully one day find a cure for a disease that ravages women, women of all classes and income levels.

    Breast cancer screenings and women’s health should not be political, and in doing this, SGK is adding fuel to the fire. Taking women’s rights away is not a way to fight for the cure and bring women together nor does it empower women.

    • ginidietrich

      @sydcon_mktg I agree with you on all points. It’s disturbing there are now a potential 170,000 women who won’t get screening. I’m pretty sure that will cost our nation A LOT more in the longrun if they have breast cancer that goes undetected.

      There are unpopular decisions we’re all going to have to make. I’ve made some on a much smaller scale and had to stand up to criticism. But, if you know the strategy is right and you’ve worked through ALL potential backlash with your PR team, you can stand up to the criticism.

  • M_Koehler

    This whole situation is a giant mess, I find it funny that this policy is fairly new for Komen. I’m wondering if this was enacted for them to use as an excuse to sever ties with PP. I’m also wonder what this is going to do here at my place. Every year we partner with SGK in a massive campaign. it makes no sense to me how pet food and breast cancer awareness are related but anything to help the cause is good? With my company’s strong right leanings they’ll probably support this severing of ties.

    It’s very disheartening. and @jenzings is right, they seem to be more about the image then anything else lately. Sad sad sad.

    • ginidietrich

      @M_Koehler@jenzings The problem is, in today’s digital age, image IS about authenticity.

      • M_Koehler

        @ginidietrich @jenzings And that’s not necessarily a good thing.

  • Pingback: Deleting Negative Facebook Comments is Risky | Media Emerging()

  • mjkoehler

    @ginidietrich I’ll be interested to see how this shakes out with us and our yearly campaign with them. I’ll let you know what I hear.

    • ginidietrich

      @mjkoehler I’d love to hear what you learn

  • I know you want some debate, Gini, so let’s do it! This will be fun. There are many people out there who applaud the Komen decision. Of course those who don’t are the most vocal and visible. But don’t you think time will prove out whether this is really a crisis or not? Over time, this move could generate donations from people who never gave because Komen gave to Planned Parenthood. A crisis is about reputation. Don’t you think it’s possible this move could bolster their reputation with many people over time?

    • ginidietrich

      @JoelFortner I don’t think it will bolster the reputation of Komen. I do think it will bolster the reputation of Planned Parenthood. I also don’t know if donations will be down at Komen because of this and I do know the social web is made up of a very vocal minority.

      Where I have the issue is not letting people have their say. It’s worse to delete negative comments than to let them sit there unanswered.

      • It would be great to be on the inside of Komen to learn how they believe this will impact their target market in the long term or the direction they want to take the organization. That’s a big piece to this. But yeah deleting comments is just silly and anti-trust building. It’s also a sign of some level of panic within the organization.

  • ferodynamics

    You wouldn’t give money to a serial killer, even if he’s the best at breast exams. The real PR disaster is Planned Parenthood: baby-killing factory, McDonaldization of murder, let’s kill as many babies as possible in the name of “health” LOL.

    • ginidietrich

      @ferodynamics I really would like this conversation to be about PR and the crisis that’s been created, not about the politics or whether or not you believe in either organization. If it were the American Red Cross not giving funding to a hospital, you wouldn’t comment about a baby killing factory. Let’s keep it up a level and talk about whether or not, in today’s digital age, it’s OK to delete comments from your social networks.

      • ferodynamics

        @ginidietrich Out of my 50,000+ comments I delete all the time, especially illegal activity, it’s called editing.

        • @ferodynamics @ginidietrich Isnt it more a form of censorship since you are deleting or “editing” comments that are not your own?

        • ferodynamics

          @sydcon_mktg@ginidietrich It’s not censorship because it’s my blog. I’m ultimately responsible for whatever is published on my domain because the registration has my name on it. I’m a big advocate of domain registrations. Stand behind what you publish.

        • jenzings

          This goes to the need to have a solid, understandable social media commenting policy in place before an organization or business “opens for business” on social networks. It’s fairly commonly accepted that an org or company can delete threatening/profanity-laced comments, etc., but should not delete comments that are simply critical or negative. The smartest thing to do is have the rule/rules in place, so people understand the rules of the game. If you have moderated comments, say so, and explain what might get a comment edited or deleted. Etc.

          @sydcon_mktg @ferodynamics @ginidietrich

        • ferodynamics

          @jenzings @sydcon_mktg@ginidietrich Yes, threats, profanity–and gang activity. Also, I believe “facilitation of criminal activity” will be a bigger issue in the future for social networks, looking the other way while your users exchange illegal products/services, etc. Then there’s the matter of SEO. Your entire domain can get pushed into a “bad neighborhood” or a less desirable category because one viral post overwhelms your SEO strategy.

        • ginidietrich

          @ferodynamics @jenzings@sydcon_mktg I agree with that. I don’t agree with deleting comments that are critical or debate the issue. If I did, I would have deleted @ferodynamics initial comment. Instead, I welcome the debate and rounded thinking.

        • ferodynamics

          @ginidietrich @jenzings@sydcon_mktg If you did, then I could publish the original (deleted) comment to my own blog, linking here with an explanation of what happened. One of the many benefits of registering a domain for yourself.

        • ginidietrich

          @ferodynamics But that’s the point. You would take the comment and republish and make me look like an asshole. Instead we can have the debate here, like grown-ups, and have the value of others seeing it. It hasn’t gotten nasty or unprofessional or threatening or violent. They deleted comments that were none of those things. I know. I left one. And mine was deleted. As were those of nine of my friends.

        • @ferodynamics @ginidietrich @jenzings@sydcon_mktg Like Gini, I’m most concerned about the manner in which SGK is trying to sanitize comments on their social properties. If you moderate comments, make that well-known in your commenting policy. I have a skeletal commenting policy on my blog that says, in effect, don’t be a dick and remain respectful of others who chose to comment, else your comments will be edited and/or deleted.

          Deleting comments as a means to preserve brand integrity is counterproductive.

        • ferodynamics

          Getting censored is not fun. I love how blogs protect free speech vs. forums/social networks.

          The damage is done now. Maybe this charity needs reputation management, like for example.

        • @ferodynamics Well, we’re all bloggers here so that’s our frame of reference. Are you saying that forums & social networks go about ‘free speech’ differently from blogs? Can you explain?

        • ginidietrich

          @ferodynamics They do. But they’ll recover. They did with the KFC thing. And that was pretty bad, too.

        • ferodynamics


          Yes a different approach, social networks have been able to stand back and let users do pretty much whatever they want–this was on the line with SOPA. It seems social networks will spend the money to selectively remove content if they feel enough pressure. News Corp. hired people to screen every image uploaded to Myspace. Twitter finally caved to pressure because of terrorists using their service? Forums are more hands-on (locking threads, I have seen individual post edits too) but again it’s mostly time and money and business driving these decisions. At the end of the day, social networks and forums are profit-focused: let’s get tons of free content from “users” who do all the hard work for us! Just ask the billionaires at Facebook if they have a clean conscience.

          Another related issue is the power to edit (your own) comments if you change your opinion about something the next day, or next year. Another reason I love blogging and (so far) Google Plus.

        • @ferodynamics @sydcon_mktg @ginidietrich Actually it is still censorship whether it is your blog or not. The distinction lies in whether you are a public organization soliciting donations and community support or just a private citizen.

          As a private citizen you may choose to dictate what is or isn’t discussed on your blog but the honest answer is that you are engaged in censorship.

          But that is sort of a separate issue.

        • ferodynamics

          @TheJackB @sydcon_mktg @ginidietrich I feel what you’re saying and truthfully I have struggled with some comments I have deleted. For example, at some point I felt compelled to automatically block any comment with the word “crack” (not the noun but the verb) because I know for a fact that “breaking into computers” is illegal, at least in the US. Does this mean I need to censor comments about cracking? Probably not–but I don’t have a team of lawyers standing behind me either so I sleep better at night deleting comments like this.

        • jenzings

          @ginidietrich Did they really recover from the KFC debacle, though? I know that’s when I started thinking they had jumped the (pink) shark (well, that and suing anyone who uses “for the cure”). For years I’ve become more and more annoyed at the number of virtually nonsensical pink crap in October. The styrofoam container on my sliced mushrooms? Really? I’ve shied away from purchasing those products, and now, with this, I have a reason to refuse and actually seek out other products. Is this smart marketing?

          The other thing SGK probably did not consider is how many of their corporate partners are now looking at them and saying “well, this is now politicized, we don’t want to touch this with a 10-ft. pole”–and, I wonder if any of those organizations or companies are headed by pro-choice advocates–SGK has now given them a *reason to bolt.* This is just seems like a short-sighted decision that could have some very real, long term ramifications for them.

        • @jenzings @ginidietrich I to have been wondering how many companies who are SGK supports will now back away due to the political turn this has taken? Breast cancer is not political, it doesnt care if you are Democrat, Republican, Independent or dont even vote. It attacks anyone, at anytime. Politics has its place, and breast cancer screening & finding a cure is not it.

        • ginidietrich

          @jenzings The one that made me shake my head was the NFL partnership and creating pink sports clothes for the girls. I’ll keep my orange and blue, thank you very much.

        • brianyyz

          @sydcon_mktg @jenzings @ginidietrich You are right, it should not be political. But they have made it political by doing this, and there will be (and has been) fallout from this decision.

        • @ginidietrich@jenzings Me too! I want my authentic Blackhawks jersey, thanks…a true fan wears their teams colors with pride.

        • ginidietrich

          @brianyyz @sydcon_mktg @jenzings Oh they definitely made it political. Which is why the “it’s not political” statement from their communication director is so funny. I feel sorry for her.

        • @jasonkonopinski Nice commenting policy, Jason! I may have to borrow it, verbatim. 😉 @ginidietrich @jenzings @sydcon_mktg

        • @EricaAllison @ginidietrich @jenzings@sydcon_mktg I don’t mince words. 🙂 And truth be told, the ‘Don’t be a dick’ comes, rather famously, from wilw

  • jeffespo

    @ginidietrich did you use the comic with it? Please say yes?

    • ginidietrich

      @jeffespo I didn’t see the comic until just now 🙁

      • jeffespo

        @ginidietrich booooooooooooobooooooooooooooboooooooooboooooooooooooobooooooooooooobooooooooooooooobooooooooooooooobooooooooooooboooooooooooo

        • ginidietrich

          @jeffespo LOL

        • jeffespo

          @ginidietrich yeah one more character and it would have been a bunch of boob after each other

      • kristinargreen

        @ginidietrich @jeffespo I want to see the comic!

  • pocojuan

    @ginidietrich Komen inside hatchet job is self inflicted PR mess. They deleted 4K neg comments from FB; VP Policy RT’s flame thn deny’s it

    • ginidietrich

      @pocojuan Totally agree

      • pocojuan

        @ginidietrich YES @NancyLeeGrahn: Thank you @karenhandel 4 making women angry enuf 2 bring even gr8r support 4 women’s reproductive rights

      • pocojuan

        @ginidietrich FYI PP needed $700K – Planned Parenthood actually raised $3 million in the wake of th Komen funding controversy:

        • ginidietrich

          @pocojuan I know…it was great for them

  • John_Trader1

    Obviously, SGK hasn’t been keeping up on their Spin Sucks blog post daily reading or maybe they would have known long ago about social media best practices. I have walked in the SGK 3 Day for the Cure event the last couple of years and I don’t plan to this year because of this. This is the ultimate consequence for their mishandling of this debacle.

    • ginidietrich

      @John_Trader1 I wonder how many of you will be out there? I know a friend is riding for AIDS this year and she almost gloated about all of the donations she’s gotten because her friends don’t want to support SGK now.

      It’s just astounding to me they won’t let people have their say. They’re going to have it somewhere. I’d rather it be on something I own.

  • HeatherTweedy

    Given the vitriolic nature this debate has taken on in many spheres, I would imagine that it has been very difficult for SGK’s community manager to determine what should and shouldn’t be deleted. However, in these situations, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and leave up whatever isn’t a true violation of an organization’s social media policy.

    Deleting negative, but not offensive, comments, posts, etc., seems to come from the belief that the page is a space for the organization to talk to it’s members and not with. That’s always a dangerous assumption. Honestly, I’m a little surprised that they weren’t more prepared for the inevitable backlash.

    I’m very interested to see what their donations look like this year. The decision to partner with Planned Parenthood certainly cost them support from conservative groups and potential donors. It will be interesting to see if SGK gets the same upswing in support that Planned Parenthood is currently seeing.

    • ginidietrich

      @HeatherTweedy I was wondering if you were going to comment! I saw you liking comments below.

      Like you, I’ll be interested to see if this has any effect on donations. Probably much to my dismay, it will not. But the thing that really bothers me is, whenever you make decisions like this, you HAVE to have the “what’s the potential backlash” discussion. And be prepared to let people have their say without deleting the comments.

      • HeatherTweedy

        @ginidietrich Agreed!

        A key part of their next steps has to be to show where that money is now going. After watching the AM news coverage, it doesn’t seem as though that was part of their talking points and that’s a big miss.

        • ginidietrich

          @HeatherTweedy Sigh…if only we ruled the world.

        • @ginidietrich@HeatherTweedy More wine and more shoes for everyone!

        • ginidietrich

          @jasonkonopinski @HeatherTweedy Now you’re talking!

        • @ginidietrich@HeatherTweedy I’d be happy with a new pair of Mark Nolan boots & bourbon. Mmmmm, bourbon.

        • HeatherTweedy

          @jasonkonopinski@ginidietrich More shoes, wine and bourbon?! I would definitely live in that world!

  • I know SGK is a non-profit but they are a powerhouse org with a ton of influence. By making the decision not to help needy women get screenings, because the only place they can go is under fire politically, seems to go against their mission wholeheartedly. They are only making matters worse by deleting comments instead of answering them to advance the discussion in a positive way. Digging a whole one deleted comment at a time is not the way to get people to forgive you for making an absent-minded decision.

  • I know SGK is a non-profit but they are a powerhouse org with a ton of influence. By making the decision not to help needy women get screenings, because the only place they can go is under fire politically, seems to go against their mission wholeheartedly. They are only making matters worse by deleting comments instead of answering them to advance the discussion in a positive way. Digging a hole one deleted comment at a time is not the way to get people to forgive you for making an absent-minded decision.

    • ginidietrich

      @Anthony_Rodriguez Exactly. Yes, yes, yes. The interesting thing…I just read an article that said Planned Parenthood raised more than $400K yesterday. Which is more than SGK funded. So maybe they did them a favor.

  • Greed, Corruption, and Social Media Blunders… The corporate American Way. Evidently, NPO’s are no exception. Stories like these either make me weary of running for office, yet make my resolve stronger thinking I can change the way dirty politics are.

    In my opinion, if a company values their reputation, they better damn well get someone who knows wtf they’re doing on Social Media Platforms. SGK should have just hired you to mitigate the damage! Thanks for writing this Story, Gini, apparently I was under a rock because I didn’t even know this was going down.

    • ginidietrich

      @SociallyGenius Do you volunteer for any candidates running for office? If not, you should. It will really make you understand how dirty politics truly are. It’s not unlike anything else…it’s who you know. It saddens me.

  • Neicolec

    Well, I’ve hardly heard of Komen, as it’s not the kind of thing I follow. And now, my main association with it is a negative one. That’s not the kind of PR they want, I’m sure!

    • ginidietrich

      @Neicolec No, I would imagine not. But Planned Parenthood has greatly benefited. They raised $400K just yesterday.

  • I agree with your advice of leaving comments that are valid criticisms up, but I don’t know if the majority of SGK’s supporters, or the public at large, have an opinion on it at all. Like you said, it will cause people to start making their own groups and take the discussion elsewhere, but there is already backlash against SGK and it wouldn’t be hard to find an alternate place to discuss it even before the first comments were deleted. If the people who care about or even notice comments getting deleted off of SGK’s Facebook page make up 1 percent of the total number people who are upset about the decision, I would be surprised.

    Whether or not the decision to cutoff planned parenthood was politically driven, the backlash and discussion is and SGK owns that now. Like you said, the social web is a very vocal minority, I don’t think the effect on SGK’s bottom line will be as pronounced as the Internet would have you believe. I also think that political leanings are likely driving the outburst of “marketing” articles over the last 2 days. Even though it’s not true and its a result of my social circles, it seems like there are 10 articles about SGK’s marketing to ever one article about the decision itself.

    8 out of those 10 admit Left leaning political views that favor Planned Parenthood, so even though the posts are about marketing, I get the feeling that there is a lot of emotion driven by political ideas pushing them. If this was a good move though, wouldn’t 8 out of 10 articles covering it admit a Right leaning ideology? I know you’re often truthfully candid about intentions, your own decision making and psychology, and I know you tried to tow the line on marketing here Gini, but do you think that posting this had anything to do with your political views?

    I think a good way to try and recover from the perspective of public image would be to set up a replacement service with the donation money. Either send screeners out to public locations, or use a different organization with existing infrastructure to do it. Double the donation, get 340,000 women screened this year, and move on. Make it very public, and address every message on Facebook with a free screening, now being provided at health departments, private practices, etc.

    • ginidietrich

      @etelligence Your last paragraph is brilliant! No one could be upset about the 170,000 women who won’t get screenings if Komen takes that advice. Very well said!

      • @ginidietrich @etelligence Am I the only one who sees problems with the numbers?

        I read something yesterday about 170,000 breast exams. The problem is Komen only gave Planned Parenthood a little around $600,000. under $5 per exam? Really?

        There’s more to those numbers. I’d like to examine both sides under oath to get the full story.

        Both sides appear to be spinning things to their benefit (big surprise).

        • ginidietrich

          @Sean McGinnis@etelligence The 170,000 exams is during a five year period. I think the $600,000 is annualized.

        • @ginidietrich @etelligence The other thing that NOBODY is mentioning, is that Planned Parenthood has a one BILLION dollar annual budget. $500k is a pittance. IMHO, both sides are playing this for political gain, because it sure as shit ain’t about the money,

        • @Sean McGinnis I think you’re 100% right Sean. Is it keeping anyone from getting screenings? Probably not. I think people get bored when they don’t have an Internet cause to join. What’s good to fight for on Reddit today? The backlash is so overwhelming though, I was suspicious of SGK before this. A political dispute involving abortion, money and breasts? This perfect storm was meant for the Internet lol.

        • ginidietrich

          @etelligence @Sean McGinnis But that’s not really the point. At least not here. The point is in how it was all handled…or not handled. I’m writing about it in my Crain’s blog post today. Business leaders HAVE TO start thinking about consequences of all their actions now. Before the social web, there’d have been some protests, but it would have been controlled. SGK is trying to take that same tact with the web. And it’s not working.

  • laurietewksbury

    @spinsucks Great post of Komen’s PR mess. Thanks for the insight. #NewhouseSM4

    • SpinSucks

      @laurietewksbury You are so welcome. Thank YOU!.

  • What I haven’t seen/heard is an effort from Komen to get ahead of the issue/storm and offer their side of the tale.

    If I was them I would make a greater effort to make their constituents feel like they are being heard. Deleting valid criticism isn’t going to work. I have never known people to be pacified by being ignored and or told to shut up.

  • There are many cross-currents at work here that have nothing to do with their PR decision now – but could be driving what is going on. Then again, their own PR machine’s inability to deal with thins in the past may be catching up with them.

    The outpouring of hatred for the Foundation is clearly far more than this decision. I have seen friends on the left and right demonize them lately – so this seems to be much bigger. I feel that people have been refraining from criticizing the organization in the past because it looked socially bad for them, but are now on the bandwagon. It feels as though years of bad will are all coming back to haunt them now. It has as much to do with the KFC situation and maybe hundreds of other things – including simple jealousy and angst against the big gorilla in the pink ribbon world.

    That has nothing to do with their recent mist-steps, but might have a lot to do with many smaller mis-steps over the years.

    If this is indeed true, it makes the typical fantasy approach you take even more interesting – what if you were hired today, right now, to fix this mess? Being more open about this strange thing called “politics” (the art and science of human interaction) is a start. Not scrubbing their wall would be good. But there is probably much more that has to be done.

    This may have had to happen someday. Planned Parenthood has been demonized in whisper campaigns in certain circles that work off of demonizing various groups and people (Acorn, Saul Alinsky, etc) so this particular issue was inevitably going to create a storm to one group or another no matter how it was dealt with. It’s the depth and viciousness of the response, on many political sides, that suggests there is a lot more going on here.

    • ginidietrich

      @wabbitoid There definitely is a lot more than not scrubbing their FB wall to be done. I really like the suggestion @etelligence offers in his last paragraph. Take it away from politics and offer all women free screening.

  • RebeccaAguilar

    Someone share this with me on Twitter.

    Excellent, excellent blog!

    • ginidietrich

      @RebeccaAguilar Thanks Rebecca!

  • DBMC

    Exactly MT @ginidietrich: It’s not about politics or funding. It’s about their decision to delete negative comments

  • write4unj

    Thanks for writing about this. I was so disappointed in SGK when I heard the news — I really thought they were above politics and just about supporting women in need. My daughter and I used to do the SGK walk in Washington, DC. However, we found the whole process getting more and more commercial every year and so we’ve been giving our money to other cancer organizations instead. The American Cancer Society’s “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” is a good organization to support. Perhaps they will step in and help Planned Parenthood.

    • ginidietrich

      @write4unj It doesn’t look like Planned Parenthood will need the help – they raised $400K yesterday. But that’s really not the point. The point is SGK really stepped in it and is trying to control the conversation…not very well.

      • write4unj

        @ginidietrich So here’s another fascinating twist: This puts a different spin on the whole story — talking about not controlling the message (or not putting the right message out in the first place). Makes me even less likely to support Komen in the future.

        • ginidietrich

          @write4unj Uh oh. I am headed over to read it.

        • write4unj

          @ginidietrich And now it’s all over, ending not with a bang but a whimper as Nancy Brinker says they weren’t being political and never meant to cause such a fuss. Really? Do any of these organizations think through what they are doing and how it will affect them? I know that the saying used to be any publicity is good, even if it’s bad publicity, because it gets your name out there. But I think it’s really going to take SGK time to recover from this. It really is a whole new world of marketing out there.

        • BexAllen

          @write4unj @ginidietrich I held an informal poll on the DeFund Komen facebook page (I’m sure it’s disappeared far down in the comments by now) on whether people would support Komen again if Handel and Brinker resigned. Not a single response in the positive. Not that Brinker would resign anyway, but it will take years for Komen to recover from this. And no one’s even mentioned “Pink Ribbons,” which is being released shortly!

        • ginidietrich

          @write4unj I have a blog post in my drafts that will be published next week about what Komen should have done to avoid all of this. They have a PR firm, but they’re a consumer agency. So I know Komen didn’t even think to bring them in on this because it’s policy, not consumer. But had they hired experienced crisis PR counsel a year ago when they were debating all of this, they would have gone through EVERY scenario and Brinker would have been prepared to answer critics. It’s too bad. This really could have been avoided.

  • MikeSchaffer


    Fantastic, as always.

    My wife and I are longtime donors to Planned Parenthood, among many other health and equal rights organizations. So there’s my bias right up front.

    If there were political motives involved in Komen’s decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, this is even more of a bone-headed move. True, PP is under investigation. True, PP is a controversial organization to some people.

    But, by Komen publicly pulling their support of PP, they are only galvanizing the donor base for PP and turning off their own donors. I’ve heard more than one person say they will never donate to Komen again.

    Looking at this strictly from a PR perspective, their big play ends up hurting them and helping the organization they want to cut ties with. Instead of being cheered for standing by their values, the buzz is all negative. Sad.

    • ginidietrich

      @MikeSchaffer They essentially just said, “We’re a pro-life breast cancer awareness organization.” So if you’re not pro-life, you don’t get help. And, not only that, but we’re going to delete anyone who debates that fact.

      • MikeSchaffer

        @ginidietrich “We care about boobs. The rest is up to you.”

    • ElissaFreeman

      The most ridiculous part of this whole debacle is, as you say, the public pulling of their support. If that doesn’t smack of bowing to political pressure, then I don’t know what does. You really have to wonder if Komen has a) really clued out PR counsel or (b) decided not to listen to their PR counsel and forge ahead. In many of these bone-headed situations, I often think there’s an agency or an in-house PR pro secretly banging their head against the wall.

      • ginidietrich

        @ElissaFreeman You KNOW there is someone banging their head against the wall. I know Planned Parenthood has agencies across the country and each local firm is taking full advantage right now.

        • jenzings

          @ginidietrich @ElissaFreeman Have you read the Atlantic article? Specifically (emphasis mine, if my tags work):

          “Hammarley explained that the Planned Parenthood issue had vexed Komen for some time. “About a year ago, a small group of people got together inside the organization to talk about what the options were, what would be the ramifications of staying the course, or of telling our affiliates they can’t fund Planned Parenthood, or something in-between.” He went on, “As we looked at the ramifications of ceasing all funding, we felt it would be worse from a practical standpoint, from a public relations standpoint, and from a mission standpoint. The mission standpoint is, ‘How could we abandon our commitment to the screening work done by Planned Parenthood?'” But the Komen board made the decision despite the recommendation of the organization’s professional staff to keep funding Planned Parenthood.”

        • ginidietrich

          @jenzings@ElissaFreeman This leads me to believe their agency (which I’m learning is a consumer firm) didn’t know this was going to go down. Likely they were called in a panic when all hell broke loose. This is why it is SO IMPORTANT to find agency partners…not vendors.

        • ElissaFreeman

          This explains so much! I can[t tell you how many C-suiters drink their own kool-aid. You need a PR agency/internal pro to provide clarity – and more importantly a reality check. Everyone needs a bucket of cold water thrown over their heads every now and then. From time to time I’ve purposely phoned up my PR agency to ‘talk me off the ledge’. A dispassionate, level-headed expert in crisis comms can make all the difference for an organization.

    • Has anyone figured out how many organizations who received funds from Komen were cut-off due to being under investigation? If Planned Parenthood is the only organization affected, or the only organization that received anything more than small funding, it seems more blatant. Looking at this from a totally neutral viewpoint, after reading what KOmen said on their site it seems to me that they believed Planned Parenthood may have been diverting some of their funding to pay for abortions. It makes me feel like I’m part of an Internet of puppets sometimes that never knows what really happened, and 2 sides are always grabbing for the strings.

      • jenzings

        @etelligence Exactly one organization was cut off. The “change in policy” to eliminate/halt funding was done specifically to target PP, according to several former employees, one of whom quit over this:

        The interesting thing is that the way the investigation portion is worded, I think it’s entirely possible that an IRS audit could trigger a stop to funds. It doesn’t say what kind of investigation would stop funding. I wonder if they thought of this.

      • BexAllen

        @etelligence Only PP was cut off. SGK continues to fund a unit at Penn State, which is obviously under investigation. How stupid do they think we are?

  • citygirlblogs

    @mikeschaffer Heartily concur! Won’t be doing the Komen 5K unless some changes are made. Brinker’s video did not assuage my concerns.

  • jenzings

    @ginidietrich Whoa, did you see this?

    • @jenzings @ginidietrich ack safe to click?

      • jenzings

        @HowieSPM @ginidietrich LOL, sorry–I should have said more, like, wow, Mashable post says they got hacked. Sorry!

        • @jenzings @HowieSPM @ginidietrich I was totally just going to link that image here. #tooslow

          When will organizations learn to not piss off the internet? 😉

        • @jasonkonopinski @jenzings @ginidietrich I bet this wouldn’t happen in China! 😉

    • ginidietrich

      @jenzings Oh jeez! There are some days I wish I knew how to hack. That would be kind of fun (albeit illegal) to do!

    • @jenzings @ginidietrich now this is clever. Copying the entire site and changing one small thing, it’s hard to say how long it was redirected without having access to site stats. I guess if you won’t let them say it on your Facebook page they’ll come and say it right on the top of your domain lol

  • ginidietrich

    @uglyshirt Complete and total disaster

  • ginidietrich

    @alicechunt Which ends up costing the tax payers more money

  • ginidietrich

    @hriefs Ha. Thanks!

  • ginidietrich

    @debmorello Hiiii!

  • My sister worked for NY Family Planning which had Planned Parenthood as part of the work they over saw. I even went to DC (7 hr drive each way) for the Fight Stupak rally (it was awesome and I learned I can just waltz right into the office of my US Rep unannounced to lobby!). I don’t like the pro-Life lobby only because they tend to be pro-birth and pro-death (how many voted and supported the Iraq war?) and how many want funding cut for childrens care, healthcare (s-chip etc) Another PR issue.

    And I have blogged about the lame pink lids from Yoplait program which really creates waste and dumb overhead costs vs giving all to SBK.

    So I guess I will still with the American Cancer Society. Just hope they don’t kill baby seals LOL

    Our country is really ridiculous.

    • ginidietrich

      @HowieSPM Our country really is ridiculous. And it’s an election year, which makes it worse.

  • Great post Gini. I’d estimate at least 30-40 of my Facebook friends have been posting rants about this. All say they will never again support the organization. I’m active in the cancer community and sit on the board of a cancer research non-profit. To cut funding that helps poor people whose needs match the mission of your organization boggles my mind. It’s a nonsensical move and being handled poorly by the organization. They of course have the right to make whatever political moves they choose….but the public has the right to respond by letting their organization sink like a stone…and I hope they do – by continuing to give generously to fight breast cancer through other great organizations….and there are many. The big PP numbers you site from yesterday show that people are doing exactly that.

    • ginidietrich

      @Marc_Luber The issue is exactly what you say – the public has the right to respond. And they’re not letting them do that. It’s deeply disturbing.

  • ginidietrich

    @MolliMegasko You said pisses. LOL!

  • dbinkowski

    @jenniferwindrum @ginidietrich same PR firm, maybe?

    • jenniferwindrum

      @dbinkowski @ginidietrich My gues is NO firm. Ha. Ha.

      • dbinkowski

        @jenniferwindrum @ginidietrich after asking around I’ve confirmed it is the same firm for both companies. Sad.

        • jenniferwindrum

          @dbinkowski @ginidietrich OMG, seriously? Now THAT makes an even bigger cluster. Interesting PR angle there to write about, eh?

        • ginidietrich

          @dbinkowski @jenniferwindrum Nooooo! They really have an agency? Surely they’re banging their heads up against a wall right now.

        • dbinkowski

          @ginidietrich @jenniferwindrum i say that’s some stellar interagency synergy being created there 😉

    • ginidietrich

      @dbinkowski @jenniferwindrum Or maybe no PR firm?

  • JoelFortner

    @miss_melinda09 Appears tough now but I’m interested in response and long-term reputation management. Not everyone is against the decision.

  • ginidietrich

    @cubanalaf There you are!

    • cubanalaf

      @ginidietrich Hey Miss Thang 🙂 I might be up in Chicago soon. Hang out?

      • ginidietrich

        @cubanalaf YES!!!

  • ArthurAnswers

    [Comment deleted]Just kidding!!! haha. It’s really bad to go deleting comments from others. It’s one thing to retracts your own statements, It’s another to silence the voices of others. Anyone who thinks they can get away with that is considerably disillusioned.

    • ginidietrich

      @ArthurAnswers Totally agree. In today’s digital age, it’s ridiculous to think you can delete a comment and it won’t show up as a screen grab on the front page of USA Today.

  • Hi Gini,

    jumped on Twitter 3 seconds after watching the CEO of Komen lying on her interview with Andrea Mitchell this afternoon on MSNBC.

    She’s full of crap; it’s all about politics—which ends up being about religion-which ends up having absolutely nothing to do with Breast Cancer.

    These people…the rich ones who get to be on TV and dish out their BS must think that the average guys (like me) are freaking clueless.

    Her non-profit just become non-credible.

    Just because she has a new board member that’s Pro-Life.

    Our country is screwed. We’re all screwed.


    • ginidietrich

      @FranchiseKing LOL! Now, now Franchise King. Let’s talk about the PR and social media implications of all of this. Did SGK become non-credible because they deleted social media comments? Or did that just add fuel to the fire?

  • polarscribe

    The long-term impacts of this are not going to go away.

    Unless there is a public repudiation of this decision and, honestly, the resignation of the pro-life, anti-gay, right-wing VP they hired, Karen Handel, the entire permanent public image of Susan G. Komen will be irrevocably shifted. They are politicizing themselves, clearly claiming the mantel of “right-wing breast cancer foundation.” Pro-choice folks and the LGBT community need not apply. (Just Google for what Handel has said – she opposes gay adoption and calling LGBT relationships “not what God intended.”)

    If that’s where SGK wants to go, that’s fine, that’s their choice. But they will reap the whirlwind – SGK will become anathema to a large spectrum of potential donors.

  • Komen_Cowards

    Pink + Politics x Poison = KOMEN FAIL

    • ginidietrich

      @Komen_Cowards And you just proved my point. Give people a say and they’ll have it. Don’t and they’ll create accounts like you did. I don’t understand why this is so hard for people to understand.

  • polarscribe

    The long-term impacts of this are not going to go away.

    Unless there is a public repudiation of this decision and, honestly, the resignation of the pro-life, anti-gay, right-wing VP they hired, Karen Handel, the entire permanent public image of Susan G. Komen will be irrevocably shifted. They are politicizing themselves, clearly claiming the mantel of “right-wing breast cancer foundation.” Pro-choice folks and the LGBT community need not apply. (Just Google for what Handel has said – she opposes gay adoption and calling LGBT relationships “not what God intended.”)

    If that’s where SGK wants to go, that’s fine, that’s their choice. But they will reap the whirlwind – SGK will become anathema to a large spectrum of potential donors. Doesn’t matter how they try and spin it, cutting off Planned Parenthood is a transparently political move with significant consequences.

    • ginidietrich

      @polarscribe I actually agree with you, but this isn’t about politics! It’s about the mess that has become worse because they are censoring people.

  • Gini, at what point does “analysis” cross into opportunism, and become an excuse to get more blog readers, Twitter followers & Facebook likes? I’m not trying to imply that’s what’s going on here, but after reading all the marketing & PR blog posts in the past year about Penn State, Exxon, Netflix, Rep. Weiner, BofA, News Corp, etc., it leaves me pondering that question.

    • ginidietrich

      @jono.smith There certainly is some of that goes on. Some are accused of link baiting and the like in order to increase their social shares. I’m pretty cognizant of it, which is why it took me three days to write about this. I actually wasn’t going to, but the PR mess kept getting bigger and bigger. Our vision for the blog is to be the professional development for PR and marketing pros. If I feel like I can provide a professional lesson in something that’s happening in the news, I do it. There are plenty of case studies I don’t write about (Carnival Cruise is one sitting in my drafts, but I don’t think that’s a PR issue so much as an operations mess).

  • Narciso17

    That @ginidietrich is Preaching the #Truth Abt @KomenForTheCure’s #PR Mess (Lesson: Don’t Hide)

  • ginidietrich

    @sydcon_mktg Even the ones who are calling me out

  • SueSpaight

    @TeresaBasich Thanks Teresa! Reading it right now… @ginidietrich

  • BexAllen

    There’s the other problem in that they think their former supporters must be very dumb… As Komen continues to fund an organization at Penn State (under investigation) and receive sponsorship from Bank of America (also under investigation). It’s amazing to me that they thought they could do this quietly after PP gained so many supporters this summer… Cecile’s original e-mail must have hit at least a hundred thousand.

    • jenzings

      @BexAllen Do you have any citations for the Penn State/BofA items? That’s very interesting to me. If that’s true, then I think they are in a world of trouble for not evenly applying this new “rule.”

      • BexAllen

        @jenzings From HuffPo by way of Mother Jones:

        For the BoA stuff you don’t have to do much searching on the Komen site. BoA even offers pinkwashed credit cards and checkbooks. BoA has been under investigation since the summer.

        • jenzings

          @BexAllen Fascinating. Thanks. It occurred to me that the way the rule is worded, anything from a state or federal tax audit, to an employee whistleblower suit, to any number of other things would be valid reasons to cut off funding. If they aren’t going to apply the rule evenly, I expect their PR problems will mount. They might end up spending a great deal of time notifying organizations of suspended funding, then putting it back in place, etc. This is the Law of Unintended Consequences at work.

  • ginidietrich

    @iFusionMktg LOL!!

  • Late by a day and look what I missed. Kudos to you for taking this head on. I wasn’t going to stick my neck out, as you, because I’m so pissed off and disgusted by the entire debacle, as well.

    At the end of the day, who loses? Women. Both organizations have done a spectacular job of helping women with whatever type of healthcare service they require (it’s none of our business what they seek when they walk through the doors).

    When you have two powerful women’s groups with equally powerful brands dividing down the aisle it speaks of rotten. Komen has now created the perfect storm to divide Republican, Democratic, Catholic, Libertarian, Agnostic, and BlahBlahBlah WITH their common threads of the affects of cancer. Since when does disease cross a party or religious line? Bullshit.

    • jennwhinnem

      @Soulati | PR Girl, this is a great way to put it. Women lose out. It’s typically poor women (and men!) who seek out PP services – but don’t get me started, I don’t discuss this stuff too publicly. Because Facebook is private.

      That said, great lesson, Gini.

      • ginidietrich

        @jennwhinnem@Soulati | PR I have a blog post in my drafts folder about what they should have done. Had they brought their crisis counsel in a year ago (instead of this week), they would have gone through all of these scenarios. They would have been prepared with the right messaging and Brinker would have been confident in answering the hard questions. They wouldn’t have even had to reverse their decision. It’s too bad.

  • Officials are resigning at SGK, up to 3 of them so far. These women on the board, etc I am sure got involved into SGK to help women, ALL WOMEN, and this goes against what they believe in.

    • @sydcon_mktg What a flippin’ cluster.

    • ginidietrich

      @sydcon_mktg I have a ton of respect for people who stand up for what they believe. Like the American Airlines CEO who resigned during the bankruptcy because his tenured pilots weren’t going to get their pensions.

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  • inL_A

    Gini, good article. Although, it does matter that it is politically driven. I believe it was one congressman, Cliff Stearns (R-FL) that launched an investigation into Planned Parenthood. This representative is a religious ideologue who has given cover to Komen to pull their support from Planned Parenthood. Charity and politics, especially dirty politics, don’t mix.

    • ginidietrich

      @inL_A I agree it is about politics. But this is a PR and marketing blog so we leave politics out of it.

  • ginidietrich

    @jennwhinnem You have a cameo in today’s Gin and Topics

    • jennwhinnem

      @ginidietrich whoo!

    • jennwhinnem

      @ginidietrich where is it??

      • ginidietrich

        @jennwhinnem It publishes at noon, silly

        • jennwhinnem

          @ginidietrich oops!

        • ginidietrich

          @jennwhinnem LOL

        • jennwhinnem

          @ginidietrich HA I also forgot you’re in a different time zone!! #gojennygo

        • ginidietrich

          @jennwhinnem It’s up NOW

  • SteelToad

    Between continuing to fund Penn State in apparent violation of their own guidelines, the fact that only 20% of their donations goes to research, or their remarkable claim that the VP of policy had nothing to do with this policy, it’s enough to make you mad enough to shoot something. Luckily Komen endorses a handgun.

    • ginidietrich

      @SteelToad A pink one, in fact! The sad thing is this could have all been avoided. They still could have cut the funding to PP, but done it in a way that didn’t create a PR nightmare. It’s too bad.

  • Komen reverses; restores funding to Planning Parenthood…breaking news and a culmination of the most amazing national circle jerk I’ve ever seen play out in two days.

    • ginidietrich

      @Soulati | PR That just goes to show they didn’t have a real strategy for doing it. I don’t want to be Ogilvy right now.

  • saving4someday

    Thanks for stepping into the discussion GIni. What annoys me even further is that now SGK Foundation is trying to spin it so that it was a choice not to fund PP because they don’t directly provide mammograms. So, if that was the case, why all the talk about investigations? I think they’re grasping at straws, trying to make it ‘not so bad’.

    Or could it be that SGK doesn’t want to lose 3 top directors?

    Whatever the reason SGK wants to believe, the fact will always remain that it started out as a political statement.

    • ginidietrich

      @saving4someday The problem is they weren’t prepared. They got caught with their proverbial pants down. So, instead of having messaging ready and a strong strategy behind their decision, they kept coming up with the latest and greatest reason…none of which really matters.

  • Robert_Rose

    @ShellyKramer waving hi to you from on the road!

  • BexAllen

    EXCLUSIVE: Ari Fleischer Secretly Helped Guide Komen Strategy On Planned Parenthood

    Also, Olgivy is the firm currently trying to help them through this mess.

    THIS why you don’t seek PR advice from people who are rabidly partisan, right or left-wing!!!!

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