Angelina Jolie’s Brave Announcement

Screen Shot 2013 05 14 at 9.37.25 PM 150x150 Angelina Jolies Brave Announcement The New York Times editorial started off sentimentally, with superstar Angelina Jolie writing of how her mother died young, at just 56 years-old, and before she had a chance to meet all of Jolie’s six children. Soon, though, it was clear Jolie was making a shocking announcement: she had recently undergone an elective double mastectomy after learning she carries a genetic mutation linked to significantly higher incidence of both breast and ovarian cancer.

The decision to have her breasts removed without a cancer diagnosis was surely an anguishing one for the 37-year-old Jolie, considered one of the world’s sexiest women. In the editorial, she explained her decision-making process and went into detail about the procedures. She addressed the emotional impact that mastectomy can have on a woman, and the critical role that partners (in Jolie’s case, the actor Brad Pitt) play during this difficult time. By saying she “started” with breast removal, she also hinted she may continue with more prophylactic surgery, such as a hysterectomy.

In all likelihood, Jolie could have kept mum about this life event. However, she said, she chose to go public to raise awareness about the genetic testing available to women and to give reassurance to those agonizing over the same decision. As one columnist at National Public Radio noted: “Someone will think about having a mastectomy and remember that Angelina Jolie had one, and she wasn’t embarrassed, and she still felt pretty, and she told everyone that it can be survived.”

THE PR VERDICT:  “A” (PR Perfect) for Angelina Jolie, whose announcement was a flawless example of using one’s celebrity platform in a constructive and selfless manner.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: The way an announcement is made can be crucial to how it is perceived. Ms. Jolie shunned a huge press conference or one-on-one interview in favor of writing a thoughtful editorial in one of the world’s most venerable publications. In doing so, she was able to express herself fully and eloquently yet also remain protected from a barrage of follow-up questions. Perhaps most importantly, by writing the op-ed she made her announcement more about a health concern shared by many women and less about Angelina Jolie. Well done.

The Cure for the Susan Komen PR mess

The Susan G Komen for the Cure Foundation, one of the most prestigious breast cancer charities, is in very hot water.

susan komen2 The Cure for the Susan Komen PR messThe Komen Foundation partners with the equally well known, albeit more controversial charity, Planned Parenthood. Komen partly funds Planned Parenthood’s program that provides women with breast cancer screening programs.

Planned Parenthood is also the nation’s largest provider of family planning and abortion services and is routinely in Congressional crosshairs.   With Planned Parenthood under congressional review yet again, Komen grew nervous about potential bad publicity from renewed congressional interest, took fright and withdrew its funding support for breast cancer-screening.

Komen now faces a wave of online attacks from its own donors and blistering media coverage.  Both characterise Komen’s decision as caving in to outside political interests and scarifying women’s health.

The PR verdict: “D” for the Komen Foundation. This mess was all avoidable. In future Keep Calm and Carry On.

To part with Planned Parenthood, before the potential controversy caught fire, seemed hasty. Instead Komen has created its own controversy. What Komen needed was a defensive PR strategy in its back pocket to reiterate the importance of breast cancer screening.  There was no need to cut ties. Let Planned Parenthood fight its own battles.  Now, given the backlash, Komen’s board needs to turn 180 degrees, issue an apology and publicly part ways with the responsible decision maker.

To read more click here.

UPDATE:  Since the above grading,  the Susan G Komen Foundation has issued a calirfying apology, effectively revoking the foundation’s earlier decision to withdraw funding.  The change in policy  appears to have been well received by the media, supporters and the public at large.  Komen can only hope that the responsive and speedy nature of its reaction limited the potential for any permanent reputational damage.

The PR Verdict: “B” for having moved swiftly and clearly, though our advice above still holds.