The Susan G Komen Social Media disaster - prevention
Unless you have been buried in a management retreat, or your server room went up in flames so you did not have access to the internet, you know about the for the Cure debacle last week. Just to make sure, here's what happened: on Tuesday January 31st 2012, the Susan G Komen for the Cure foundation announced it was pulling the funding it provides to Planned Parenthood, which PP uses to provide mammograms to low-income women. Enter our Facebook friends and Twitter followers, unleashing a true social media storm, resulting in the foundation reversing it's decision by Friday February 3, a mere 4 days later. Mashable gives a pretty good run down of the entire incident, with sample tweets, here. The net outcome for the foundation is a pretty dramatic loss of face, one I am not sure they will recover from any time soon.
What went wrong? They went against their own brand identity. For years, the Susan G Komen foundation for the Cure has managed to mobilize the world. I have seen tough macho men put on pink t-shirts and participate in a race. I have seen people who are normally not that engaged write many checks, and organized my team, at the different companies I worked, to get involved. And I was not alone. Millions of people got involved. Because we all at least know someone, or have lost someone to cancer.
Their mission is to find ways to cure breast cancer, one of the leading causes of death for women. To do so, Susan's sister created the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. And that was what it was all about. An organization made out of ordinary people, addressing one of the biggest and scariest health issues women face.
Bu cutting their funding to Planned Parenthood, specifically allocated and used for mammograms for low-income women, they went against everything they stand for. It doesn't matter why they did it, what matters is that a lot of women rely an Planned Parenthood to get their breast cancer concerns addressed, and then, in the eyes of the world, that gets taken away from them. Doesn't matter that Planned Parenthood doesn't just rely on Komen foundation money, or that they are indeed subject to a criminal investigation. What matters is the way it looked: perception became reality.
So to anyone out there thinking about making major changes to stakeholder relationships, I would recommend putting together a stakeholder matrix. You might still make the same decision, but you might also go about it a different way.