Tuesday, 14 February 2012

PR Disaster

This week we were asked to look at Public Relations dilemmas and how social media could be used as a potential solution.  There are a few disasters to choose from, but one that is so charged, I can’t forget about it is the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s  decision to pull funding from Planned Parenthood (PP) .
The Foundation has pulled at least a couple of beauts recently, actually, and I feel compelled to touch on both.
For anyone who doesn’t know, the Foundation funds breast cancer screening (look at mandate) and appears to be one of the heavies behind the ubiquitous pink ribbon.  "As the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists, we’re working together to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures.” The most recent and famous blunder – pulling $ from Planned Parenthood (PP) –is thought to have potentially affected poor women who depended PP for breast cancer screening. 
January 31, The AP reported that Komen for the Cure has decided to halt grants to Planned Parenthood that were used for breast cancer screening for low-income women. According to the reports, this decision was made in December and communicated to Planned Parenthood, which urged Komen to reconsider. Komen, citing a new policy that prevents grants to organizations under investigation, said because Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-FL, is investigating whether government money was improperly spent on abortions, the decision to pull the funding was final.
On top of the unfolding public relations calamity, the rationale didn’t even make sense. They were still funding organizations whose programs were under investigation
Immediately, Planned Parenthood swept into action. They posted this compelling piece and rallied their supporters to replace what they said that Komen had denied those most in need.
The results were swift and spectacular. NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg immediately tweeted his intentions to donate $250,000 and supporters rallied.
Komen, somehow, had not anticipated the negative response. They were silent as their supporters and those of PP raged on among themselves and the world.  An awkward justification appeared on You Tube , facebook posts were deleted (!!)before Komen retreated and returned the funding to PP. What a mess!
Komen had not considered the potential fallout from the situation. Someone was not talking to their communications team!
The point is, that Komen was completely unprepared and blundered in their communications strategy. 1) they had none 2) they were silent 3) they deleted FB posts , etc.
Underlying all of this of course, is the tension in the US between pro-lifers and pro-choicers, which we may not be so aware of here, but I doubt we would forget for a moment if we were living in the U.S.
PP on the other hand, was ready and did everything right to get the people on their side.
I feel compelled to mention another puzzling strategy of the foundation because it involves an atrocious contributor to ill health among North Americans, (not to mention chickens). The Komen Foundation invited Kentucky Fried Chicken  (KFC) to sponsor their fight against cancer.  What an odd choice KFC is full of hormones that are implicated in breast cancer,it is fried, which is also associated with poor health and cancer,  and that it is  not generally in any way connected to wellness.  
I think the Foundation needs help.

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