Susan G. Komen Missteps, Or How to Anger an Army of Women


This is a story of two organizations. For one it’s the best of and for the other the worst with no signs of abating. Planned Parenthood has handled the Susan G. Komen funding situation with aplomb, which has increased their donations as well as an opportunity for them to redefine themselves to the general public as health care providers. in contrast, the Susan G. Komen Foundation has instead seemed out of touch, playing politics with women’s lives and affiliating themselves with an pro-choice agenda. These public relation missteps will be a long-term issue for Komen. If they don’t quickly rectify this disaster, then they will spend years rebuilding the goodwill and trust necessary to reconnect with their core demographic (namely, cancer survivors and their loved ones). 

It is fascinating how the two organizations are working on this media storm of bad press and passionate anger. Planned Parenthood has had staff available for interviews, supporters who’ve been active with writing rebuttals, as well as releasing facts about the services and percent of medical care they provide to low income/no insurance members of society. As you can see from the following Planned Parenthood Chart and detailed listing of services from an article in the Washington Post, the organization has gone on the defense so that they are able to control the message as well as facts. 

On the other side, Komen was not quick to respond and control the direction of the story, and thus completely lost control of the situation. They first said that it was a new policy but later details revealed it was directed solely toward the breast cancer screening at Planned Parenthood clinics. After almost a week, Komen’s founder came out to say that she supports Planned Parenthood — but this is too little, too late. The foundation is damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Their decision to reverse the new policy has anti-choice organizations up in arms and it still has not satisfied all of their dedicated supporters. 

First, the organization needs to appoint a high-level person within the organization as its “face,” someone to provide Komen’s side of the story. This should include an apology for the decision to politicize their organization and distract from finding a cure for breast cancer. The next major step is to ensure the people responsible will no longer be affiliated (they can either resign or be fired), and that in the future, the policy will be concerned only with breast cancer research (with no political distractions). They will then need to reach out to supporters and reassure them that they’ve learned from their mistakes. If they don’t quickly work on these problems, then they will lose these passionate volunteers to alternative groups with demonstrated dedication to the prevention and cure of breast cancer — and transfer their loyalty, time and money to them.

Photo Credit: Washington Post