The recent Susan G. Komen/Planned Parenthood debacle provides an interesting case study for how an organization’s social media strategy can (often unintentionally) become a positioning strategy more quickly than ever.
After several days of public backlash both online and off, Susan G. Komen for the Cure reversed its decision to stop giving money to Planned Parenthood and apologized via a statement on their website:
“We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political … We want to apologize for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives.”
It’s arguable that we’re witnessing the unintentional rebranding of what one of America’s most well-known nonprofits. It’s the rub of social media – you can be repositioning your brand without knowing it. Komen for the Cure inadvertently positioned themselves as a pro-life breast cancer charity instead of just a breast cancer charity. Komen’s PR debacle makes a great example of what happens when a highly recognizable organization jumps into a controversial area of public debate without a thought-out PR strategy. By staying silent and not addressing the issue quickly, Komen let others rule over the public discussion, impacting and even redefining the organization’s brand perception.
As a recap, here’s what happened last week: The AP reported that Komen for the Cure has decided to halt grants to Planned Parenthood that were used for breast cancer screening for low-income women. The AP story broke and within hours both Facebook and Twitter were swamped with pro-Planned Parenthood, anti-Komen comments.
Komen waited way too long to respond to flurry of complaints. Until very recently, the only action on their Facebook page had been to delete negative comments. Since the organization waited to make a statement, it undoubtedly lessens their impact and credibility, and the damage had already been done on social media.
What’s your take? Will the apology and the reversal diminish the damage for Komen or will their perception problem continue?