Crisis: any event that is, or expected to lead to, an unstable and dangerous situation affecting an individual, group, community or whole society. Crisis is deemed to be negative changes … especially when they occur abruptly, with little or no warning.
Many PR pros shudder at the mention of “crisis management.” Whether it’s a product recall, an embarrassing misstep by an executive, or a poor decision made by the leadership of a group or company, a crisis must be handled very, very carefully as it can impact a huge group of people, shareholders or political groups. If you don’t believe me, think back to the Tylenol scare, and the
recalls by Honda and Toyota.
Recently the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® cut funds to Planned Parenthood which generated an outcry from abortion rights advocates blaming “political pressure” and praise from an anti-abortion group. This announcement created quite a storm of heated blog postings, interviews and written opinions, some attacking the Komen Foundation and some attacking right-wing activities.
Putting politics aside, there are a few core PR issues to examine in this debacle that are highlighted in these comments from other blog posts.
Mistake #1: Why didn’t Komen/Planned Parenthood hash this out beforehand?
Yet the two organizations had been in talks for weeks beforehand! In other words, there were plenty of red flags raised along the way to know things could get touchy. Lesson: have a crisis plan ready; this could get ugly. PR Squared blog
Mistake #2: Who controls the story?
Komen has let its opponents, and Planned Parenthood, control the story. Seemingly caught completely off-guard by the backlash, their entire strategy has been defense, and pretty poorly executed defense at that. Forbes
As Komen for the Cure Foundation found out the hard way, in this digital age of instant communication one does not define itself, but is subject to the definition placed upon it by others. O’Dwyer’s
Mistake #3: Ignore it and it will go away.
What matters is they’re sticking their heads in the sand and pretending no one is upset by the decision by deleting the negative comments from their Facebook wall. Spin Sucks blog
Mistake #4: Backtracking
After the self-induced PR disaster, the breast cancer organization wants everybody to “pause, slow down and reflect on how grants can most effectively and directly be administered without controversies that hurt the cause of women.” It should have done that in the first place. Rather than dishing out the self-serving apology, Komen should have just said, “Sorry. We made a mistake in cutting funding to Planned Parenthood. It won’t happen again. Thank you for your support.” O’Dwyer’s
Mistake #5: Who planned this?
The story of how Komen got consumers seeing red, rather than pink, says a lot about how social-media wildfire can singe even the most fireproof of brands. But it also demonstrates how inconsistent communications can fan the flames, and illustrates how quickly sponsors can become engulfed in controversy. AdAge blog
What’s most interesting to me is how social media, such as blogs, Twitter and Facebook, not only fanned the flames of outrage, but shared the messages with such a vast audience. Whether it’s blogging from Tahrir Square in Egypt during the Arab Spring or congratulating fellow New York Giants fans after their Super Bowl win, the ability to communicate on a global basis is truly amazing.
So the question is…how have you and your clients adopted social media as part of your planning or campaign process?