Nothing ever dies in public relations. Ever. That’s why today I will continue to blog about the Susan G. Komen For the Cure controversy and its ramifications. This week my professor posted several links about the aftermath of the Planned Parenthood flop.
The Los Angeles Times wrote an article about a letter written by Eve Ellis, who served on the Komen board for six, calling for a complete overhaul of Komen’s leadership. Not only did she call for the resignation of Komen founder and chief executive Nancy Brinker, but she also called for her to fire vice president Karen Handel and the entire Komen board. Ultimately one of these wishes came (partially) true with Handel’s resignation.
While calling for a complete overhaul of Komen’s leadership may be over the top, Ellis’ anger underscores the problem with the nonprofit. Besides Brinker’s and Handel’s well-known ties to Republican politics (in fact, one could read Handel’s resignation as a cynical attempt at a popularity boost to prove her pro-life credentials), there seems to be no sign that either of them learned their lessons:
“Brinker does not say exactly what she is sorry for,” [Washington Post writer Jena] McGregor writes. “She does not explore what mistakes she made. And she does not address several of the points in [Post writer Sally] Quinn’s letter, from the ambiguity of Komen’s decision to allow Planned Parenthood to reapply–though not necessarily be funded–to why her institution’s shifting explanations for its controversial move were so confusing.”
What Brinker and the rest of Komen’s leadership must realize is that taking a BP-style approach to the controversy won’t cut it. They can tell the world a million times how sorry they are and how the decision really wasn’t about politics but about what’s best for women. It won’t matter. Nobody cares, because it misses the point.
The point is that what Komen did in its flip-flopping is it betrayed the millions of women and men who proudly supported the organization and its goal of curing breast cancer. They also failed to anticipate the power of social media, which is a powerful tool that can both create and destroy a brand. Ultimately, it’s not the brand that owns the people. It’s the people that own the brand.