Last fall, I couldn’t help but notice the superior marketing strategy of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure campaign. As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, the signature pink ribbons were everywhere – even in very unlikely places.
The organization was at a Dallas Cowboys game, raising awareness and funds for research to wipe out breast cancer. Komen founder Nancy Brinker was at the opening coin toss, standing on the field with the Cowboys team captains.
Game show hostess Vanna White did a Wheel of Fortune promotional NBCCam on behalf of the Komen foundation.
And most surprising of all – to me at least – was when Delta Airlines gave a commercial for the Komen campaign on a flight I took from Boston to Paris. I had never seen anything like it – an airline partnering with a cause for in-flight promotional marketing. I was impressed. This had all the earmarks of a prize-winning and highly successful branding campaign.
But then came the Planned Parenthood debacle of last week and Komen, which had been flying high, was making a crash landing. Its leaders are still sifting through the rubble trying to determine what went wrong, how to clean up the mess and how they can avoid such a fiasco in the future.
Meanwhile Planned Parenthood, which has taken a PR beating in recent years, got a big boost in donations and some vocal support in the media.
Blogger Mike Duerksen wrote a really nice analysis of this PR case study for the NonProfitPR website. He astutely points out that organizations not only need a crisis communications plan, they need one that includes social media strategies. Social media – Facebook and Twitter – were where the firestorm developed for Komen.
I encourage you to watch both Nancy Brinker’s video and the MSNBC interview with Cecile Richards, head of Planned Parenthood, and draw your own conclusions about how the two organizations have communicated during the crisis.
For her part, Richards wisely chose a conciliatory tone, hoping to repair the damage done to the Komen-Planned Parenthood relationship. Brinker focused on defending her organization’s decision.
In the end, the Komen foundation reversed its plan to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood for health screenings. But the mop up continues. It will be interesting to see how Komen handles the aftermath.