Ric mentioned the January 2012 controversy at Susan G. Komen in response to my earlier post about Penn State’s PR nightmare. The issue we discussed at the time related to public reaction after Komen cut funding for breast cancer screening to Planned Parenthood, which ignited a media firestorm, and affected donation and participation levels nationwide.
Since then, Komen again made headlines this month when research published in the British Medical Journal by Dartmouth researchers criticized the organization for overstating the benefits of breast cancer screening through mammograms.
Last week, after another marathon Olympics viewing, I was met with the breaking news that just that evening, both the founder and president of the Dallas-based organization were stepping down along with two board members. Beyond Dallas’ local NBC affiliate, KXAS, this has now made national headlines as Nancy Brinker, a woman who has raised hundreds of millions for breast cancer research and built one of the most iconic non-profit brands, has had to step away for the good of the organization.
What went wrong? Had the potential cracks in the organizations strategy been spotted early enough, might the same fate have been avoided? Had a savvy advisor in the funding meeting suggested the backlash after the Planned Parenthood cut, would the Dartmouth story been less of a story?
Media (and readers, viewers, listeners, etc.) love controversy, so it is our job to create as little fuel for their fire by thinking through every scenario our news may take. That is not to say to avoid action, but to be ready, to understand that the most carefully worded message can mean something completely different to someone outside of your organization.
Prevention comes with anticipation. Through identifying those potential cracks, and removing the opportunity for them to be exploited.