As you may recall in late January of 2012, the Susan G. Komen for a Cure Foundation reportedly cut its ties with women’s health organization Planned Parenthood when Susan G. Komen revoked $650,000 of funding necessary for the company’s free breast cancer screenings and prevention services. Rumors and allegations began swarming the dispute as to why the SGK foundation made the decision. As CBS News reported, Planned Parenthood reacted to the news by claiming the funding cuts came as a direct response to increasing political pressure regarding the issue of abortion felt by the Komen organization. Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America stated, “We are alarmed and saddened that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation appears to have succumbed to political pressure.” As details of the case began surfacing to the public, it became increasingly difficult to refute this opinion.
In the following days, the firestorm that came as a result of Susan G. Komen’s funding cut decision had turned the situation into a full blown public relations crisis. When the news broke to the public, Susan G. Komen foundation relied heavily on its public relations team to turn the public’s opinion around, or at least neutralize it. However, Komen’s PR department did practically the opposite, managing the crisis in one of the worst ways possible and thus making the situation one of the year’s biggest public relations fails. So what exactly went wrong with Komen’s PR approach? Almost too many to name, but let’s go through a couple key mistakes:
1. Susan G. Komen for a Cure founder Nancy Brinker was extremely slow to respond to the issue– in the wake of a public relations crisis, perhaps one of the biggest mistakes a company can make is responding to the issue in a delayed manner. The way I see it, the longer a company waits to respond to a controversial or negative situation, the guiltier they look. The Susan G. Komen situation was no exception to this, with Brinker waiting an entire week to respond– A week that was crucial in swaying the public’s opinion of the situation. By the PR team advising Brinker to wait so long before publicly speaking about the incident, the Komen Foundation sacrificed it chance to control the situation.
2. Once the Susan G. Komen Foundation did finally spoke about the incident, they only beat around the bush. After about a week of silence from the company after the controversy swept the nation, people were eagerly awaiting Komen’s response. However to everyone’s disappointment, The Washington Post stated the organization only spoke about Planned Parenthood’s renewed eligibility for grants, failing to answer perhaps the most important question: why did the Komen Foundation make the decision to defund Planned Parenthood in the first place? Other than a public apology from Brinker, Komen’s public reaction to the crisis provided next to no closure for foundation supporters, only further disintegrating the company’s credibility.
The Komen foundation seemingly realized these lofty mistakes, as they ultimately reversed their decision to cut Planned Parenthood’s funding down the road. Sure seems like a whole lot of hassle just to end up in the same place, doesn’t it?