A firestorm erupted when the Susan G. Komen Foundation announced it was stopping its contributions to Planned Parenthood. According to the Foundation, its original decision was based on its own bylaws which state the Foundation will not provide financial resources to organizations which are “under investigation.” As this seems like a reasonable position for an organization, which itself is a charity, why did the Foundation come under such withering fire from supporters of Planned Parenthood?
In making its original announcement, the Komen Foundation failed to clearly and forthrightly articulate the reason for its decision. By not stating its position effectively regarding the investigation, the Foundation allowed others to seize control of the storyline. In fact, during initial national news reporting, Planned Parenthood was way out in front of the message curve and the Komen Foundation was nowhere to be heard. Regardless of whether you agree with the decision or not, the Foundation’s silence illustrates to the Fallston Group’s mantra – “If you don’t tell your story, someone else will. And when someone else tells your story it won’t be the story you want told.” Case and point!
In giving-up the story line, the Komen Foundation also gave up the ability to stand by its original decision. Consequently, the organization has announced the rescinding of its decision and is resuming its funding to Planned Parenthood. It has also had to clarify its interpretation of its own bylaws saying the disqualifier in the future will be “criminal investigations” as the current investigation of Planned Parenthood is being conducted by Congress.
It certainly seems that the Komen Foundation should’ve had a much better crisis communications strategy given the initial intent of their decision as they grossly underestimated the reaction of their stakeholder base. Planning is power; this decision barely got off the launch pad…for more information about strategic and crisis communications, contact the Fallston Group, a crisis management and communications company (firstname.lastname@example.org).