Abortion is an extremely polarizing topic and I try to keep my personal views separate from my work, but I would like to talk about how Susan G. Komen handled the recent pulling of funds from Planned Parenthood from a PR and social media perspective. I think there are lessons to be learned here, whether you are a pro-lifer or pro-choicer. Looking at the coverage and social media chatter, from a public perception standpoint,you have to admit that on some level Susan G. Komen got slammed for how they handled this piece of news.
So here it goes…The Top 5 Mistakes Susan G Komen Made
Susan G Komen had no official press response put out to media aside from “No Comment.” So what happened when USA Today, New York Times and others couldn’t get a comment? They went to the organization’s Facebook page and lifted a post from the page. It wasn’t a poorly written post by any means, but if you are going to speak up in one space why not offer up the same comment to the media. The two boundaries are blurred now. What you say in social can easily end up on the front of the New York Times. Be prepared for that and think twice when you hand over your Facebook page to your intern to run.
Whether this was true or not, people on Facebook were accusing Susan G. Komen of deleting Facebook posts. On one hand it didn’t really matter because the negative posts kept flooding in, but it was clear that the organization did not have a crisis plan in place. They should have anticipated, staffed up and had a library of responses or well-crafted posts to state their position clearly and explain to people that they are pulling funding from one source and putting it in another to assist low-income women. Goes back to Point 1 though, Susan G. Komen opted to remain silent for the most part.
You had to scratch your head and think…”Didn’t they see this coming?” There did not seem to be any statements in place or any alternative plans – take funds from Planned Parenthood but provide funding in those same cities for free breast screenings. To make a move like this, Susan G. Komen should have gotten out ahead of the announcement and begin talking to fans and media about their efforts with low-income women that extend beyond Planned Parenthood.
In the midst of their silence there was one person who spoke on the record. Yep, it was the President of the Susan G. Komen Connecticut affiliate who was pretty vocal about the fact her local office didn’t support the national position. It really would have been in the organization’s best interest to make sure everyone was on the same page and that their affiliates were armed with talking points prior to this news coming out.
5. Anticipating Weakness
Whether there was an underlying political agenda or they simply felt funding an organization under investigation was wrong, they should have “thought” like the opposition. Did they not anticipate people digging up info on Karen Handel? True or not, public perception is powerful and you need to prepare for whatever backlash there may be. I would try to poke holes in my own story, find my weaknesses and make sure I have ammunition and facts to back up my stance.
No one’s perfect, mistakes happen and we don’t have to dwell on this forever. (Knowing people’s attention spans this will be over by next week). But it is always good to learn. In today’s world, transparency is key. If you think your decision will upset some people, it probably will, and you’ll probably hear about it. You can’t make everyone happy, but you can put yourself in the best position possible through planning and anticipating, which wasn’t what happened in this case.