Everyday PR

Komen’s Real Problem is Lack of Conviction

The best public relations move in recent days for the Susan G. Komen Foundation was to announce its about face on Super Bowl weekend. By the time the last of the pizza and beer had been consumed, consumers were rehashing Super Bowl bowl ads.

In an unusual turn of events, the color of pink was not positively supporting the Susan G. Komen brand last week.

Last week’s nightmare of “they fund us, they fund us not” isn’t about funding at all. It’s about who the Susan G. Komen Foundation is. It’s about the organization’s values, priorities and purpose. It’s the up close and personal part of branding that decidedly determines who you are and what you stand for regardless of public sentiment.  And therein lies the multi-level problem for this pink-until-you-puke group.

Based on last week’s turn of events, the group doesn’t seem convicted about its core brand.  Sure, there are multiple strategic questions such as:

*  Didn’t they consider the 2009 HHS debacle regarding age guidelines for mammograms?

*  Didn’t they anticipate the types and depths of backlash?

*  As a colleague in Chicago astutely suggested, didn’t they even contemplate phasing out funding for Planned Parenthood as opposed to a huge announcement?

Even if those and other vital circumstances were debated ad nauseam, the reality is that a wonderful cause - to save women’s lives – was founded in 1982 following the unimaginable pain of losing a loved one to breast cancer.

And that’s the point – the purpose of the organization is to help women be healthy. If you’ve hung your hat on that mission, then own it. If society, fundraising and/or the political climate impacts that bottom-line point, then either adapt accordingly or stick to your guns. Too many businesses lose sight of their fundamental purpose and end up with much less conviction, which leads to counterproductivity, inconsistent branding and, in this case, headline news.

Just be who you are. Know who you are. Own who you are. I promise, you’ll be much more effective.


Category: Branding and Image

Tagged: , ,

15 Responses

  1. Kim Phillips says:

    Maybe the worst – and fastest – PR debacle ever. It already has a name, "pulling a Komen." They managed to make everybody mad on both sides of the debate because, as you say, they didn't have the courage of their convictions. Between this and their well-documented brand bullying, they have done tremendous damage to their image. Now that it's widely known that Komen spends part of every donated dollar on lavish executive compensation, a high-priced PR firm, and lawyers to jump on small, grassroots efforts to raise money for breast cancer (think "Lemonade Stand for the Cure"), seems they should cut out all three. Social media made sure the one-way spin of the olden days was no more.

    • Susan Hart says:

      Pulling a Komen, huh? Not heard that one, but it’s the equivalent of “going postal” – not a good thing. How about Think Before You Give to Pink. Just ‘sayin. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Betsy says:

    "this pink-until-you-puke group." A haha good one! Sadly I've seen a lot of FB friends commenting on this PR disaster last week as the definitive end of their support for the pink ribbon. They would rather seek other ways to fund the research. I also understand Planned Parenthood experienced a sudden increase in unexpected donations as a result of this announcement–no doubt from supporters wishing to send Susan G. a strong message. Just like politicians, once you start waffling on your stance, you lose respect and credibility. Right now, I'm not sure I'd trust my dollars to this organization to even be used for their programs. They'll probably be spending it all in marketing trying to buy back their reputation.

    • Susan Hart says:

      Yes, the pink thing is so overdone. Classic case of resting on your laurels, in this case, color palette and what that now stands for – breast cancer research, helping women, abortions, what? Confusing and inconsistent. And I agree, they’ll be spending more dollars now trying to recover from the cancer of bad press. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Kelly Parish says:

    Regardless of their bad timing, bad decision…whatever you want to call it, I will continue to support SGK for the cause. They raise & donate MILLIONS of dollars into research, testing & treatment of breast cancer and have ultimately helped thousands of women & families fight breast cancer. I believe we all choose where we donate our own money (charities, church, fundraising, etc) and SGK also has that right. Like you said, they should own their decision, but it won't affect mine. I wonder how many people that say they won't support SGK actually donate time and/or money anyway?

    • Susan Hart says:

      Good point about people withdrawing support who actually supported in the first place. I’m all about the research and prevention and agree that breast cancer awareness has never been greater. I just wish they had better PR counsel! Thanks for commenting.

  4. Kim Phillips says:

    Another uber-snarky comment I heard, but it does make a point: Pink is the new yellow. (Ouch.) Not sure which side of the issue the commenter is on, but it makes your point exactly: stick to your guns. And I would add: know your audience.

  5. That's the biggest issue I have with all of this. OK. So you don't want to fund Planned Parenthood anymore. Fine. Just be straight with the reasons why and stop changing your mind every day because the critics are so loud. It'll be interesting to see if this hurts them in the longrun.

    • Susan Hart says:

      Exactly! I don’t care if you conservative or liberal, Christian or atheist – Just be convicted about your values and beliefs so that you’re able to withstand criticism. Thanks for commenting!

  6. kdaukas says:

    As one of my friends pointed out – they're only taking this "new" stance to quiet the uproar and until they have time to figure out another way to remove funding from PP. I have always been against big non-profit as so much of their money goes to the their top brass. I would much rather give my money to a fund that can use it and appreciate it. Komen (NOT breast cancer research..there's a difference) has definitely lost any of my support whether it's physical or monetary.

  7. Mary Beth says:

    Mentioned you in my blog on the subject. Excellent post on your part! http://marybethwest.com/blog/2012/02/susan-g-kome…

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