3 nonprofit PR lessons from the Susan G. Komen debacle

The breast cancer foundation’s decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood—and its subsequent reversal—offers important advice for those in the nonprofit world.

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The move sparked a social media backlash, political posturing, and hundreds of thousands in donations to Planned Parenthood.

Putting the politics of this story aside, every nonprofit will, at some point, have to make unpopular decisions and, as a likely consequence, face a PR crisis or a communications debacle.

Here are lessons from the Komen incident:

1. Establish a crisis communications plan that includes social media

It took Komen two days to respond to negative feedback on Facebook and Twitter. On the Internet, that’s a lifetime.

What makes it worse is that Komen wasn’t taken by surprise. It wasn’t hit with a crisis that required response. It created the crisis, which means the organization could have prepared well in advance.

Komen could have easily responded to mounting criticism online, possibly stopping the story from blowing up as much as it has. At the very least, Komen could have retained brand integrity by joining the conversation early to show donors their voice matters.

Its slow response time, coupled with the foundation’s inadequate response, suggests Komen had no strategy in place, much less a social media strategy.

2. Your brand is in the hands of your donors

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