Unbelievable—Komen Flunks Crisis Communciations (Again)

Once your organization’s reputation is seriously damaged, it’s difficult to restore trust and focus on successes.

And once your organization’s reputation is damaged multiple times—as is the case for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, with its screw-ups in de-funding Planned Parenthood, suing other organizations with “cure” in their organizational or program names and partnering with the heart-stopping Kentucky Fried Chicken—restoring confidence and support is almost impossible.

Komen’s decision to de-fund Planned Parenthood in January 2012 generated a huge groundswell of protest from those on both sides of the abortion wars (never insert your organization in the middle of a culture war, you’ll always lose out), and motivating Komen to reverse that decision fairly quickly.

But the de-funding was clearly the straw that broke the back of so many Komen affiliates who have seen significant losses in event participation and support for participants ever since.

Now Komen has announced that its two leaders are stepping down (founder and CEO Nancy Brinker will shift down to a board role, and president Elizabeth Brown has resigned) along with two board members. But even now, as Komen delivers these groundbreaking changes, it’s not being honest.

Four leaders step down in a day, and Komen claims that has nothing to do with the Planned Parenthood incident; that they “just happened to decide to move on at the same time,” writes Lori Stahl in the Washington Post.

Ms. Brinker said ” ‘the changes had nothing to do with the Planned Parenthood firestorm,’ reported the Wall Street Journal. ‘She said the nonprofit is now “very sensitive” that its work and employees aren’t interpreted as political, calling the group ‘pro-cure.’ ”

Too little, too late and totally unbelievable. Once again, Komen has undermined its own credibility, and the health of its affiliates, in pushing untruths that are difficult to ignore. C’mon already!

As I said back in January, actions speak much louder than words. Let’s hope Komen finds the right path soonest and can once again dedicate its energies to its very important work for the cure.  And making an internal commitment—across the organization—to honesty, transparency and consistency is the first step.

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Nancy Schwartz in Crisis Communications | 3 comments
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