How NOT to handle a communications crisis. Lessons learned from Komen for the Cure

If you have been following the backlash that started yesterday afternoon, sparked by The Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s withdrawal of funding for a pro-life group in America, and watched as it quickly escalated across social networking sites, you will have witnessed what Kivi Leroux Miller calls “the accidental branding” of a non-profit giant.

Now I am not going to debate the rights or wrongs of SGK’s decision here, but I do want to point out to you the inevitable fall out for any organization which chooses to jump into a highly controversial area of public debate (and the abortion debate is hugely divisive in American politics) without a communications strategy; then compounds the damage by staying silent, thereby losing control of the dialogue while others take it over. It really is a fascinating study in how a communications crisis can escalate, particularly given the power of social media.

Kivi Leroux Miller has written a great post outlining the sequence of events which unfolded yesterday and it serves as a timely lesson so you don’t make the same mistake on whatever hot button issues your organization might be wading into.

Related 

How the Susan G Komen Foundation just torpedoed their brand

3 nonprofit PR lessons from the Susan G. Komen debacle 

 7 PR Lessons Komen for the Cure Didn’t Know It Was Giving You 

Komen In PR Mess Because of Planned Parenthood Decision

Komen Provides Excellent Crisis Management Case Study

7 thoughts on “How NOT to handle a communications crisis. Lessons learned from Komen for the Cure

  1. This is not the first time Susan G Komen org has been on the receiving end of criticism. We are witnesssing the next round in a very public backlash against this organization

    • Fiona, you are absolutely right – I’ve been uncomfortable with Komen for some time now as they appear to pay more attention to raising money and funding research for “the cure” rather than looking to prevention.

  2. Actually Komen did come out with a statement evenutally, but as you say, only after the discussion had got out of hand, and the press release did nothing but serve to incite more negative diaglogue

  3. Well this doesn’t surprise me in the least – any organization which chooses to sue others over their “for the cure” line will stoop to anything.

  4. I watched the explosion of comments on Twitter and Facebook last night and the one that summed it up most for me was a status update on Facebook which said:
    “Thank you for cutting off funding for cancer screening programs in order to prove that you are pro-life.”
    What a damaging indictment of SGK

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