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Case Study: Susan G. Komen Foundation

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Jordan Carmichael

on 20 November 2014

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Transcript of Case Study: Susan G. Komen Foundation

Case Study: Susan G. Komen Foundation
The Controversy
The Organization
November 29, 2011
The Susan G. Komen Board of Directors makes the decision to cut $680,000 in funding to Planned Parenthood.
December 16, 2011
Susan G. Komen announces the funding decision to Planned Parenthood.
January 31, 2012
The Associated Press releases a news article that announces Komen's decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood.
February 1, 2012
In a New York Times interview, Komen board member John Raffaelli confirms rumors of Komen's intentions to cut ties with Planned Parenthood.
February 2, 2012
Komen Founder and CEO
Nancy G. Brinker releases a video statement insisting that the decision had nothing to do with Planned Parenthood or abortion politics.
February 3, 2012
Komen issues a press release reversing its decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, citing its new stipulation to only pull grants for organizations under criminal investigation.
February 7, 2012
Komen's Senior Vice President of Policy Karen Handel resigns after her role in the organization comes under intense scrutiny.
August 8, 2012
Nancy G. Brinker announces she will resign as CEO
once a replacement is found
... she still holds the position as of December 2013.
Abandoned Mission
Komen's mission includes its commitment to ensure that every woman has access to healthcare as it pertains to breast health.
Ignored Advisement
Komen's communications team told senior leadership that withdrawing funding would be a mistake from a practical, PR, and mission standpoint.
Political Involvement
Komen hired political candidates to its Board, including outspoken pro-life gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel.
The Question
Was establishing a pro-life image worth taking much-needed breast health resources away from under-served women?
Cutting funding to Planned Parenthood deters PP's ability to complement Komen's mission.
The leadership cut funding anyway.
Through cutting funding to the nation's largest abortion provider, Komen looked as if it was trying to position itself as a pro-life organization.
Komen Stakeholders:
Donors & Sponsors
Victims, Survivors and their Families
Komen Affiliates and Employees
Grant Recipients
Komen Communities
Communication Strategies
Strategic Silence.
Komen waited 24 hours before responding to any accusations.
Defensive Strategy.
Komen justified its decision and provided a series of excuses. CEO Nancy Brinker denied the full extent of negative coverage; press release apologized for the public's reaction.
Diversionary Response Strategy.
Komen rephrased its actions to sound better and disassociated the decision from Karen Handel's controversial involvement.
Komen failed to follow the advice of its PR team *
"As we looked at the ramifications of ceasing all funding, we felt it would be worse from a practical standpoint, from a public-relations standpoint, and from a mission standpoint."
-John Hammarley, Senior Communications Adviser for Komen
AP article was published on a Tuesday
Key Takeaways
Consistent messaging, transparency, and employee communication.
Focusing on the message and the goals of the organization.
Public Relations is still required, even when leadership doesn't listen.
Next Steps:
What can Komen still do a year and a half later?
Stick to the mission.
Stay away from politics.
Collaborate with the PR team, and communicate with publics more.
Increase transparency concerning finances and actions to instill trust.
Discussion Questions
1) How did the internal communication by Komen’s top leadership reflect in the external communication of the organization?
2) How could Komen’s public relations team have responded better following the leadership’s decision to act against the team’s original recommendations?
3) In what cases can strategic silence be used effectively, and how was it not used effectively in this situation?
4) In what ways did Komen fail to reassure its key publics of its commitment to the mission statement of the organization?

Jordan Carmichael, Brittany Darst, Lara MacAlpine, Nathan Switzer
Relied instead on perceptions of public opinion *
Inconsistent Messaging
No long-term response strategy
Experimented with strategies in heat of the moment
Komen's apology did not appear sincere.
“We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives. The events of this week have been deeply unsettling for our supporters, partners and friends and all of us at Susan G. Komen.”
-Komen Press Release
Komen failed to address the the politicization of the decision.
The organization repeatedly denied criticisms that it was bowing to political pressure, failing to acknowledge the perception of its actions.
Komen's actions indicated that their real mission was to please their donors.
Rectifying Behavior Strategy.
Komen reversed its decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood.
Full transcript