October is breast Cancer Awareness Month, and all eyes will be on the Susan G. Komen Foundation to see if they can get back to the business of raising money for breast cancer research and out of the business of digging itself out of a massive public relations hole.
If you will recall, six months ago, the foundation pulled $650,000 worth of funding to Planned Parenthood in a move that was widely perceived as political in nature. The PR crisis that followed was horribly mismanaged, with Founder Nancy Brinker slow to respond, then responding with contradictory messages and then ultimately apologizing. Finally, after months of internal struggle, Komen reversed the decision to pull the funding.
In the aftermath, Komen has taken a huge hit and there is no guarantee they will ever fully recover. According to a report in Advertising Age, donations are down 30% and participation in the organization’s fundraising races is down as well. Funds that otherwise would be going to help find a cure for breast cancer are being diverted to the organization’s public relations and advertising campaigns.
The foundation has hired several PR agencies and has launched a multimillion dollar advertising campaign that is geared to repairing their image in the eyes of current, former and potential donors. Most importantly, it is aimed at major corporate donors who are seriously questioning whether they will continue to be involved with the tarnished foundation.
The campaign is aimed at refocusing people’s attention to the great work for which the foundation was known. Front and center are the women who have benefited from the programs funded by Komen. Brinker, who had been at the heart of much of the Foundation’s messaging, is now in the background.
I am rooting for Komen. Their new campaign hits the nail on the head. Over the years, they’ve done some truly admirable work and they need both corporate and public help to continue that great work. There’s no denying they made a major error. There’s no denying they’ve severely tarnished their name. But it would be shocking if they were to make the same mistake twice.
Other brands have learned from their mistakes, listened to their publics and went on to greater heights. Based on the great work Komen has done in the past, let’s see if they can do the same.
Follow Jon Gelberg: @Jon_Gelberg