Friday, February 3, 2012

The Komen Omen

                         The Komen Omen

     Sorry, couldn't resist the title.  By now everyone knows about the Susan G. Komen foundation move to pull the plug on funding for Planned Parenthood breast cancer screenings, based on Komen's new internal protocols.  Now, let's stress that it's THEIR foundation and they can do whatever they please with their money -- but seriously, couldn't anyone at Komen see the subsequent train wreck coming?
    It's not within the scope of this blog to pick and choose political sides, so let's just lay out the facts.  

  1)  Earlier this week, Komen said it would stop funding of breast cancer screening by Planned Parenthood. The Associated Press reported the change came because of a new Komen policy forbidding grants to organizations under official investigation -- which Planned Parenthood is, as follows:  in September, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce - one of whom's members is Republican Representative Cliff Stearns -  began an investigation into Planned Parenthood over the organization's "compliance with federal restrictions on funding abortions. 

   2)   In its response to the Komen Foundation move to defund Planned Parenthood breast cancer screenings, the group CREDO, which describes itself as the largest corporate donor to Planned Parenthood, said  "the (earlier) move is clearly connected to attempts by Republicans in Congress to defund Planned Parenthood.  In responding to questions about its decision, the (Komen) foundation cited as its rationale a sham 'investigation' into Planned Parenthood launched by Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns," who the group called "one of the most militant anti-choice members of Congress." (see 1 above)
    The group went on to say that the Komen foundation had "succumbed to political pressure" by cutting its funding for breast cancer screenings amid increased scrutiny by Congress over how Planned Parenthood provides abortion services.

   3)  The Komen foundation earlier this week denied that its decision stemmed from politics.

   4)  Subsequently, Komen said the change wasn't driven by politics but was instead an efficiency move.

   5)  Meanwhile, The American Life League said in a statement that the foundation's decision was justified, as did many other pro-life movements.

   6)  Finally, today, Komen said they would continue their funding of Planned Parenthood's breast cancer screenings.

    The initial Komen decision led to a tidal wave -- no, make that a tsunami -- of epic social media proportions.  Faced with a deluge of opposition that included pressure from congressional lawmakers and internal dissent, Komen today reversed itself on its initial decision.

   As we've said before, politics has no role in this blog, so let's just tote up these three takeaways from this experience.

1)  No one at Komen paid the slightest bit of attention to what happened at Netflix; ie, if you're going to make a big change, you'd better think it through from all sides before pulling the trigger.  For instance, you don't (or shouldn't) make chess moves blindly.  Your business (or foundation) deserves the same forethought.

2)  No one at Komen moved to answer the flood tide of Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts that were haranguing them for THREE DAYS.  That, folks, is an eternity to be quiet, and the situation will quickly spin from damage control to out of control.  As one crisis management executive said, "You don't want to be thinking up the press release when you are under pressure."  

3)  No one at Komen apparently thought about the pressure that could be brought to bear on them through social media.  Anyone remember Bank of America's failed attempt to tack on a $5.00 surcharge last year?  It got harpooned through social media and Bank of America withdrew (for now) the idea.

     So there it is.  Businesses, not-for-profits, foundations -- are you paying attention to social media now?  Because you know what?

     Social media is paying attention to you.