Komen’s Leadership Change Opens Old PR Wounds

One thing a PR pro learns early in the game, after a time a big crisis may fade to the background, but despite your best apologies and fixes, there’s a good chance of fallout later.

That’s what happened after the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure on Thursday, Aug. 9, announced major leadership changes, months after the organization’s decision to cut funds for breast cancer screening at Planned Parenthood caused a firestorm of criticism.

According to The New York Times, the news that Komen founder and CEO Nancy G. Brinker is taking the position of chairman of the board’s executive committee didn’t go well with some advocates, who noted that the chairman post gives Brinker more power in hiring the new CEO. A tweet by Brenda Coffee, a breast cancer survivor and journalists, stated “Nancy Brinker is stepping down & taking a ‘less visible’ role w/Komen. What exactly does that mean? Pulling the strings behind the curtain?”

Indeed, conversation online about Komen is percolating again, much like it did when the original crisis hit in January. Although Komen reversed its decision to cut the funds to Planned Parenthood three days later, the issues of whether the foundation was appeasing anti-abortion supporters and losing their focus on finding a cure for breast cancer are again being debated online.

It’s clear that the original crisis is bringing up old wounds, which have been considerable: Komen revealed that donations decreased across the country from 5% to 30%, and turnout at breast cancer walks and runs declined significantly. This new backlash proves one PR tenet: A crisis, particularly in this social day and age, is never really over.

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