Political Pressure? Pink Powerhouse in Hiding

Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, the breast cancer research fundraising giant that proudly places its pink label on everything from yogurt lids to blenders, is in hiding today.

News outlets and social media sites are buzzing about the breast cancer awareness group’s decision, announced yesterday, to stop providing funds to Planned Parenthood centers for breast cancer examinations and other breast health services.  The organization says funding was pulled because of new criteria that forbid it from funding any organization under government investigation. The investigation, led by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla), is examining whether Planned Parenthood uses public money to fund abortions.

Nineteen Planned Parenthood programs are funded by the Komen Foundation, according to the Planned Parenthood website. These programs provide women with breast health education, screenings and referrals for mammograms.  Planned Parenthood statistics in an Associated Press story reveal that Komen grants funded nearly 170,000 breast exams over the past five years.

Tweets, blog posts and Facebook rants are pouring in by the second about Komen’s decision to pull the funding.  Overwhelmingly negative emotions are being directed at the organization on these platforms. At the same time, Komen remains mum on Twitter and was late to the game on Facebook. The issue isn’t addressed on its homepage, and a statement is nowhere to be found in the media center.

While it seems Komen executives may be doing selective media interviews, the organization’s general public silence leaves the impression it is hiding from all the commenters who are taking the story viral.  The online community is emphatic on the resulting conclusion –  politics played a role here.

In deep contrast to Komen’s response, Planned Parenthood has put the controversy front and center on its website. The site, and its partnering websites, share a response to Komen cutting funds. The organization went beyond just responding to the news. It included personal stories from breast cancer survivors into its response, who may not be alive without Planned Parenthood’s screenings. This personal touch drives home the importance of breast cancer screenings for everyone, something that Komen is denying women through its denied funds to Planned Parenthood.

Whether you agree or disagree with how Komen handles money, and even if you don’t support all of Planned Parenthoods services, one thing is clear when examining this from a communications standpoint: When you’re under fire, frequent, open communication is critical.  Politically driven or not, Susan G. Komen for the Cure made this decision itself. It should have had a plan in place for a more aggressive response, and we should be hearing more from them now.  Given prior history, the damage from its mishandling of the communication will likely be long lasting.

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