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