Susan G. Komen for the Cure (SGK) founder and CEO Nancy Brinker and the organization’s president Elizabeth Thompson held a conference call on Saturday with affiliates to work on a path out of the PR mess the group got into last week when it announced it would cut funding to Planned Parenthood. After lots of mixed messages and backlash, the organization has backed off of its plans, but the job of rebuilding the trust and goodwill of supporters is just beginning.
Ogilvy PR VP Brendan Daly confirmed with The Washington Post that he was brought in last week to help. Former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer is also lending his crisis comms expertise where necessary. Still, the WaPo article brings up issues that the organization could have with corporate partners and others going forward.
On the PR side of things, Planned Parenthood did a good job of getting a handle on the story, generating tons of support, financial and otherwise, in the process.
SGK’s Brinker, on the other hand, has come off looking “hard,” Carol Cone, Edelman’s vice chairman of the business and social-purpose group, tells Ad Age. Moreover, the nonprofit’s true intentions became muddled behind wide-ranging and contradictory messaging.
Cone ends the story on a somewhat upbeat note, saying that the organization isn’t going away any time in the near future because breast cancer (unfortunately) isn’t. Some have said Karen Handel, SGK’s SVP of public policy, should be fired. NYU’s Jay Rosen proposes that there might not be a PR solution.
The road to recovery isn’t solely paved with PR acumen, but speaking consistently, reiterating what the group stands for, and clarifying what the funding criteria will be going forward will be important if the group is to pick up the shredded pieces of its reputation and paste them back together. PR may not be the solution, but it will help to spread the word about what the solution actually is.