Advice to Komen Leadership:
8 Steps to Recovery

Like many of you, I’m interested in seeing where Susan B. Komen for the Cure goes after last week’s controversy. I wish the best to them—they’ve done so much very good work over the years. I hope they are able to refocus, clarify their mission and act on it, then communicate well around it.
These Facebook posts from yesterday are a good start with clear, honest communication and action (I’m sure Handel didn’t leave voluntarily). But it’ll take many more consistent actions that show—not tell—folks that they can trust Komen once again.

Here are my recommendations for Komen leadership right now, on mission and branding fronts:

  1. Look deep inside at your mission and come to a clear agreement on what that means in terms of action—funding, programs, political affiliation (if any) and partnerships, including cause marketing. Ensure there’s commitment to this, and that all leaders are able to convey it effectively. Make sure you incorporate the viewpoints of affiliates (many of whom feel betrayed) and supporters in your decision.
  2. Hold back from communicating, much, before you’ve finished this decision making—and introducing it to affiliates, volunteers, and other involved stakeholders—and developed a comprehensive communications strategy.
  3. Know what your messages are, and stick to them.
  4. Reshape your communications strategy from megaphone to conversation—there’s really no choice, as you saw last week. If you don’t jump into the conversation, others will fill that gap for you.
  5. Build understanding and skills in all core communications channels, including social media. The fails there last week were stunning, and highly destructive to your organization.
  6. Know that when you do go “public,” your actions will speak much louder than words (like the first post above). Many affiliates and supporters have been alienated, and it’ll take a long time to rebuild their trust through honest, consistent action.
  7. Anticipate the unexpected from past experiences and be prepared for it. Be prepared to respond quickly, fully and clearly.
  8. Above all else: Make an internal commitment—across the organization—to honesty, transparency and consistency.

Then get back to the work at hand!

How would you advise Komen to repair its reputation? Please share your thoughts here.

Here’s more of Komen’s busted branding:

Part 1: Busted Nonprofit Brand: Anatomy of a Corporate Sponsorship Meltdown (Case Study)

Part 2: Guarding Your Nonprofit Brand and Guiding Your Marketing Partnerships: Principles to Follow

Nancy Schwartz on February 8, 2012 in Branding and Messages | 8 comments

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 guest February 8, 2012 at 9:48 am

How about giving advice to Planned Parenthood on being a good leader, and how to conduct themselves better.  They were acting terribly!!  Ungrateful for what SKG has done for them and focused on what they weren’t getting now and possibly in the future.  
The negativity towards SKG and you not pointing out the faults of PP is awful! 

2 Jdhikes February 8, 2012 at 10:00 am

Komen should make it clear they fund ways to cure breast cancer. Grants to organizations who provide low or no cost screen can be restricted to just that. Just because Planned Parenthood will do abortions does not mean Komen has to fund something some of their supportors object to. Abortions are such a small part of PP’s funding, that throwing the baby out with the bathwater is not a good idea on Komen’s part.
How about using this opportunity to find common ground of the people concerned about women’s health.

3 Braveheart Gary February 8, 2012 at 7:58 pm

Tell Komen to stand their ground and do not give in to the PP bullying and extreme attacks. A foundation has the right to fund whomever it wants to if the group fits this mission. PP does not do mammograms and does not fit into the mission of Komen.

I am very concerned about the lopsided attacks you made on Komen. I am amazed you lost your objectivity.

4 Guest February 9, 2012 at 4:01 pm

What struck me most in all of the discussion was that the people to whom Komen matters most were not talked about at all. I think above and beyond all other measures it will be important to credibly reassert that in the end Komen is all about the helping the many women who are suffering breast cancer. In my mind this got totally lost in the discussion.

5 Podbana February 9, 2012 at 6:10 pm

 As someone who has worked for a long time in the non-profit sector, I think Komen’s actions from the outset demonstrate a reprehensible lack of moral commitment to their stated purposes and to good non-profit governance. The press has uncovered many other organizations that Komen continued to fund yet were “under investigation.” There’s ample evidence that politics played a huge role in Handel’s hiring. Insiders have confirmed that a policy was crafted to single out Planned Parenthood. Then, the president of Komen made a statement denying this when the facts show otherwise. She and likely the entire Komen board need to resign at once and be replaced by medical and non-profit professionals who care about breast cancer victims, not politics. I think the advice in the article above is way too soft. How can you expect an organization to adopt item #8 (Make an internal commitment—across the organization—to honesty, transparency and consistency) when the president of the organization makes a blatantly false statement after the crisis has broken? What an insult to honest workers in the organization, as well as the public. Hers was not some casual statement but one carefully crafted. I don’t care what your views are abortion (and I happen to be pro-life) – a non-profit first’s task is to be honest. And Komen’s leadership has utterly failed at that.
As someone who has worked for a long time in the non-profit sector, I think Komen’s actions from the outset demonstrate a reprehensible lack of moral commitment to their stated purposes and to good non-profit governance. The press has uncovered many other organizations that Komen continued to fund yet were “under investigation.” There’s ample evidence that politics played a huge role in Handel’s hiring. Insiders have confirmed that a policy was crafted to single out Planned Parenthood. Then, the president of Komen made a statement denying this when the facts show otherwise. She and likely the entire Komen board need to resign at once and be replaced by medical and non-profit professionals who care about breast cancer victims, not politics.

I think the advice in the article above is way too soft. How can you expect an organization to adopt item #8 (Make an internal commitment—across the organization—to honesty, transparency and consistency) when the president of the organization makes a blatantly false statement after the crisis has broken? What an insult to honest workers in the organization, as well as the public. Hers was not some casual statement but one carefully crafted. I don’t care what your views are abortion (and I happen to be pro-life) – a non-profit first’s task is to be honest. And Komen’s leadership has utterly failed at that.

6 D. Rudduck February 13, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Fire Brinker, blow out the Board then rebuild their reputation from anew. They’re in too deep at this point. 

7 guest February 14, 2012 at 1:53 pm

I lost faith in SGK when the story of the amount of money the organization spends on going after nonprofits who use the color pink, or the word “cure.” Now that I see they only spend about 20 cents on the dollar to actually pursue a cure, it’s even more ironic that they still claim a cure as a goal. While I understand the value of brand, in my mind, partnering with other organizations seeking a cure is a much better way to promote a nonprofit brand. From what I’ve read elsewhere, there are many women complaining that while SGK overwhelmed them with pink swag after their breast cancer diagnoses, they’d much prefer an actual cure to a t-shirt or teddy bear. So, my advice, along with what was posted on the blog, would be to decide if “for the cure” actually means anything anymore. If not, then dissolve the nonprofit and let the money go to some research facility where it might do more good. If it does, then figure out how to put a little less money into the flashy image of the organization, and more into the substance of the research.

8 buy4.com August 21, 2012 at 11:10 am

We must continue to fight. Learn from mistakes and move on!

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