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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About Scott Van Camp

Scott Van Camp is editor of PR News, an executive-level, reader-supported publication that helps enhance the business impact of PR. Scott has a rich background in both journalism and PR/marketing. He has more than 15 years of experience as a writer/editor at various consumer and trade publications. Scott was with VNU Business Publications for five years, including stints as managing editor at IQ News and Technology Marketing magazines and senior editor at Brandweek. In the PR/marketing sphere, he has served as corporate communications manager at MarketBridge, a marketing and sales consultancy, and as editorial director for the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council. While at the Council, Scott led several high-profile marketing research projects. He has also operated his own communications and media consulting firm, SVC Communications.

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