Political Pressure? Pink Powerhouse in Hiding

Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, the breast cancer research fundraising giant that proudly places its pink label on everything from yogurt lids to blenders, is in hiding today.

News outlets and social media sites are buzzing about the breast cancer awareness group’s decision, announced yesterday, to stop providing funds to Planned Parenthood centers for breast cancer examinations and other breast health services.  The organization says funding was pulled because of new criteria that forbid it from funding any organization under government investigation. The investigation, led by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla), is examining whether Planned Parenthood uses public money to fund abortions.

Nineteen Planned Parenthood programs are funded by the Komen Foundation, according to the Planned Parenthood website. These programs provide women with breast health education, screenings and referrals for mammograms.  Planned Parenthood statistics in an Associated Press story reveal that Komen grants funded nearly 170,000 breast exams over the past five years.

Tweets, blog posts and Facebook rants are pouring in by the second about Komen’s decision to pull the funding.  Overwhelmingly negative emotions are being directed at the organization on these platforms. At the same time, Komen remains mum on Twitter and was late to the game on Facebook. The issue isn’t addressed on its homepage, and a statement is nowhere to be found in the media center.

While it seems Komen executives may be doing selective media interviews, the organization’s general public silence leaves the impression it is hiding from all the commenters who are taking the story viral.  The online community is emphatic on the resulting conclusion –  politics played a role here.

In deep contrast to Komen’s response, Planned Parenthood has put the controversy front and center on its website. The site, and its partnering websites, share a response to Komen cutting funds. The organization went beyond just responding to the news. It included personal stories from breast cancer survivors into its response, who may not be alive without Planned Parenthood’s screenings. This personal touch drives home the importance of breast cancer screenings for everyone, something that Komen is denying women through its denied funds to Planned Parenthood.

Whether you agree or disagree with how Komen handles money, and even if you don’t support all of Planned Parenthoods services, one thing is clear when examining this from a communications standpoint: When you’re under fire, frequent, open communication is critical.  Politically driven or not, Susan G. Komen for the Cure made this decision itself. It should have had a plan in place for a more aggressive response, and we should be hearing more from them now.  Given prior history, the damage from its mishandling of the communication will likely be long lasting.

3 comments to Political Pressure? Pink Powerhouse in Hiding

  • Thanks for the comment — and for the note about the tag. It’s fixed now! It will be interesting to see how this unfolds in the days and weeks ahead. I do see that they’ve issued a statement since this post, but remain pretty quite on social networks. I’m also seeing more coverage that’s scrutinizing the organization even beyond the Planned Parenthood debacle, and shining light on other controversies (like “pinkwashing”). They’ve opened a can of worms on this one.

  • angela

    Agree with the article. We should be hearing more from the organization now. Why is it that they are taking so long to craft a response. The organization must also develop a strategy for reactive and proactive communication to both internal and external stakeholders. It would seem that the organization will face. BAcklash via W.O.M from press, but also current members and former donors.
    It is important to always remember the value of internal parties when trying to manage and redirect the brand
    Susan B. Komen in the tags should be fixed as a side note

  • asPiRing

    Agree with the main points of this. We would expect to hear more from them now. Not just from a reactive standpoint either, but what are their plans for the future. How will the brand, the uorganization, and entity its become sustain its reputation and relationships with members and the general public. How are they handling this with their constituents and stakeholders both internally and externally. SN: one tag reads Susan ‘B’ Komen and not G.