Archives for posts with tag: Public Relations

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

1. Silence

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.

2. Transparency

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.

3. Planning

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.

4. Solidarity

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.



I’ll never forget my first manager, Virginia. As a junior PR person, she would take me in her office and make me role-play various media pitches via a fake telephone conversation. There was something humiliating about it. Not to mention it didn’t work.  Still I had to make my way down a long phone list, bugging reporters when they were probably busy writing.

So one day, unbeknown to Virginia,  I ditched the phone for email pitches instead. Wouldn’t you know it, the responses started coming in. I was reaching reporters in a way that they wanted to be reached, on their time. Fast forward ten years and as a PR professional, frustrated with Vocus’ database tool, I decided to use social to research contacts as well as reach out to contacts.

Much like email in 2000, I found that social was a better tool for getting the job done. Here’s why:

  • Social often gives a fuller picture of the journalist. On LinkedIn you can see what jobs they’ve had in the past and where their interests may be. On Twitter you can read their mini bio, often much more reflective of their personality than anything you’d find on the newspaper website. You can also see what topics they’ve been tweeting about – what’s been pressing on their mind.
  • Social also gives you permission to jump into a conversation in a natural way. You can comment on things via Facebook or Twitter that may have nothing to do with your clients, but is more about relationship building.

From a journalist’s perspective social can be a really useful tool as well.

  • Social is great for finding sources.  I recently tweeted about my undying devotion to the Flip camera, and a journalist from the Associated Press found it, set up an interview and the next day my quote was in 100+ papers across the world. Pretty cool. Social allowed the reporter to cut out the middle man in terms of finding a source. As PR professionals, a.k.a professional middlemen, that’s something to think about.
  • Social is good for identifying what people are buzzing about.  It makes sense that a journalist would want to write about a topic that’s important to his/her readers. Again, Twitter is great as it lists Trending Topics. You can also see which topics are popular by looking at social share buttons on a blog or other sites. If a topic has been retweeted or shared on Facebook quite a few times, the public has essentially raised their hands and said they are interested.

As communication tools change so do the way communication professionals interact with one another, and that’s a good thing. I’m pleased to say my days of role-playing and mile long phone lists are long gone. Of course they’ve now been replaced by @’s, hashtags and likes….I wonder what will be next.