The Komen firestorm, and flip-flop
The sudden reversal by the Susan G. Komen For The Cure foundation will likely not end the controversy over its temporary withdrawal of funding for mammograms from Planned Parenthood. Without taking a position on the decision itself, and on the reversal, as communications consultants we at CommCore have several observations:
· Why did they make the original announcement in the midst of a bitterly contested Presidential and Congressional election year in which Culture War issues such as abortion – which Planned Parenthood provides on-demand – are among the most divisive? Charges of caving in to political pressure are among those being hurled at Komen most often. We would have suggested waiting until after the election in November. Consider the landscape when making a controversial decision, and if possible, time it to minimize conflict.
· For Planned Parenthood this was what we at CommCore call a Flash Crisis. The equivalent of a recall for a drug company. While you can’t always predict the timing, you know things happen and you can always be ready with standby statements, key messages, important facts, etc. Planned Parenthood clearly had this in the ready because they were fast and relevant in their responses.
· Why did Komen make the original announcement before withdrawing funds from other organizations besides Planned Parenthood, an organization already under constant attack by conservatives and Right-to-Life groups? Komen president Nancy Brinker responded to charges of singling out Planned Parenthood by saying they were in the process of re-evaluating their mammogram contracts with “several” other organizations. We would have suggested waiting until those were lined up.
· Where was the impartial, beyond reproach vindicator for Komen? When you know you run the risk of being cast as the Bad Guy, make sure you have at least one high profile, credible ally ready to support you in the face of expected criticism. The only vocal support for Komen was, predictably, from Right to Life groups, which only furthered the appearance of giving in to political pressure.
What do you think about the Komen announcement, and the sudden reversal, from a PR and corporate communications perspective?