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Susan G. Komen Suffers Long-Term Repercussions after 2012 Crisis

20 Jun

susan-g-komen-crisisWe’ve been discussing the long-term repercussions of crises lately and I have another one to add to the pile.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation put themselves head-first into a serious crisis early last year when they announced that they were going to stop funding grants to Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings. This announcement created an uproar for the cancer foundation and even after retracting their statement and nearly a year and a half later the self-induced crisis is still hurting both their reputation and their bottom line.

On June 3rd, the foundation posted the following announcement to their Facebook page:

As the Susan G. Komen 3-Day continues to evolve, next year will bring changes that will affect many members of our Komen 3-Day family. The 2014 Susan G. Komen 3-Day will return to Atlanta, Dallas/Fort Worth, Michigan, Philadelphia, San Diego, Seattle and the Twin Cities. However, we are saddened to share that the 3-Day will not be returning to the following markets in 2014: Arizona, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Tampa Bay, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Please note the 2013 3-Day series will continue as planned.

We are in the process of notifying all of the 3-Day family about plans for 2014, but wanted to share this news with you all here, too. The difficult decision to exit these markets was not made lightly, as we know this bold and empowering event has touched the lives of thousands of participants like you. While the 3-Day has brought great awareness to the breast cancer cause, participation levels over the last four years have made it difficult to sustain an event of this magnitude in 14 cities.

So how do we know that this is a direct hit from the crisis they experienced last year? Because since early last year, their numbers, both in attendees/participants and funding have severely decreased. The Washington Post recently reported that:

On May 11, thousands of breast cancer survivors and their supporters gathered on the Mall in Washington, D.C. for the annual Susan G. Komen Global Race for the Cure, but attendance at the charity’s signature fundraising event was down for a second consecutive year.

About 21,000 people registered for that race, down from 27,000 last year and nearly 40,000 in 2011. Fundraising has also been down: The race generated $5 million in donations in 2011, according to Komen spokeswoman Andrea Rader, but generated $2 million last year.

This is just another example of the severe impact a crisis can have on a company or organization. When I say that a crisis risks having long-term repercussions I mean it! These numbers continue to decrease for Susan G Komen, more than a year later.  A crisis is a serious thing. That’s why it’s called a crisis. And that’s why it’s important for your company or organization to:

Let me conclude by asking you this: Is your company or organization prepared for the worst?

14 Responses to “Susan G. Komen Suffers Long-Term Repercussions after 2012 Crisis”

  1. Pam Walaski June 20, 2013 at 8:51 am #

    Melissa – While I don't disagree that the crisis of a year ago has had long-term repercussions (I'm one of those who did not sign-up for my local Race for the Cure for the 1st time 13 years.), I also wonder if some of the drop-off isn't that the public has lost interest in the cause, or perhaps been so saturated with the "pink everything", that they have moved on to something else?

    I don't know how to measure that without some type of survey?


    • Melissa Agnes June 20, 2013 at 10:08 am #

      Hi Pam,

      That's an interesting point to bring up, Pam. However, let me ask you this: why did you stop singing up for your local Race for the Cure? Was it because of the pink or because of the poor choices made by the organization last year?

      You're right that we can't know 100% for sure without a survey. However, in my opinion, I know how powerful these organizations and communities are. People who have been affected by cancer and who have made life-long bonds with other cancer victims through these types of non-profit organizations have a deep, emotional connection with them. I wouldn't think that they would stop supporting the cause due to growing tired of the color, or that they would grow tired of the cause itself. However, that said, you're right that we can't know for sure without a survey and more research.

      • Pam Walaski June 20, 2013 at 10:50 am #

        I did stop attending because of the publicity and I know that several of my friends did so as well (including one survivor), but that's in my world so I'm not sure how to calibrate that out to the masses, so to speak.

        I like your point about the connection of cancer survivors and it does make sense that they have a high degree of loyalty, along with their friends. I have seen some comments out there about being frustrated that breast cancer gets so much attention while other forms are ignored, so that's where my wonder comes from. Again, though it's my world and from very select information sources.

        The Komen numbers being reported are simply that – it's hard to be certain of a cause/effect without additional study, but if it walks like a duck……


        • Melissa Agnes June 20, 2013 at 10:56 am #

          In cases like this, I go by "if you or I are doing/have done it, others are/have as well". Meaning if it was your reason for not taking part after 13 years, then it was other supporters' reasoning as well.

          There may be a small factor in people moving on to other causes and organizations, but with a crisis this big, and with the magnitude of decreases in attendance and donations directly after the crisis, then I think it's a safe bet to say that these are direct repercussions from the crisis.

          • Pam Walaski June 20, 2013 at 11:06 am #

            Agree. Thanks for the processing with me!

          • Melissa Agnes June 20, 2013 at 11:21 am #

            I'm always up for an intelligent conversation and debate, so the pleasure was mine! ;)

  2. Melissa Agnes June 21, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

    Hi Norman,

    Awesome article! Thanks for sharing it with me :)

    Yes, the SGK crisis could have been avoided had they really understood who their market and supporters were and what their values were. Instead, they made a poor decision and never fully recovered. It's unfortunate, but is a good lessons for others to learn from.

  3. Norman Smit June 21, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    Hi Melissa,

    Great post and it calls into focus the consequences of shooting yourself in the foot; in this case, seriously. But the situation should have been prevented from happening in the first place; what they did afterwards in dragging their feet compounded the situation further and women are voting with their checkbooks. The decision was a classic case of poor risk management. I wrote a blog post on communications risk management on my blog you may find interesting. It applies some of the processes skydivers use routinely to prevent death or injury and applies them to communications. The post is here: /perspectives-blog/entry/lessons-communications-planning-could-learn-from-skydiving

    Had Susan G Komen had the appropriate processes in place, the decision would have been red-flagged early and never have been made – much better than having to try to recover from a decision that pandered to the wrong constituency and not their core audience and supporters.

  4. andreas andreou June 26, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

    Hi Melissa,
    Lack of plans and risk management could/should be avoided from the beginning.
    Do you believe that hire occur the 'same' situation like Deen P. issue?
    Thanks for share,

    • Melissa Agnes June 27, 2013 at 10:15 am #

      Hi Andreas,

      You're right, this is a consequence of poor crisis management skills and planning. It is also the consequence of not "manning up", choosing a stance and sticking to it and by it; in other words, standing firm on one's values and not succumbing to opposition.

      I'm not sure what you mean by can "hire occur the ‘same’ situation like Deen P. issue"? Could you explain your thoughts here, they sound interesting and I definitely want to reply with my own!


  5. andreas andreou June 27, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    Hi Melissa,
    I mean that the case started three years before, which seems like the P.Deen issue which started about two years before. Both crises have had long term impact, poor crisis management and planning. That cost too much for both of the companies in their issues. Now P.Deen has been discontinued from her sponsors, which is what we can expect from Komen. How people continue react 'against' Komen now?

    Thanks again,

    • Melissa Agnes June 27, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

      Hi Andreas,

      Well, the first point you make, that both companies (are and will) experience long-term repercussions from their crisis, is unfortunately the result of a crisis that is not well handled at the time. It's the whole point of why companies NEED to be prepared with crisis communications and crisis management plans – to lessen the long-term and damaging impacts of the crisis.

      I suppose both crises are similar in the regard that they were not prepared with a crisis plan and that they disappointed their fans, followers and supporters. I'm unsure of either of them occurring a few years before the crisis broke. I'm not saying it isn't so, but just that I'm unaware of it if it is.

      They are both serious crises that were poorly handled and that continue (and will continue) to have long-term repercussions on the brands.

      Thanks for sharing your insights, Andreas!

  6. andreas andreou June 27, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

    Hi again,
    I agree that companies should learn and be prepared for the worst, but this point seems to always be missing.
    Thanks, Andreas.

    • Melissa Agnes June 27, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

      The best of them are prepared – or soon will be ;)

      I do my best with this blog, in communicating that very message and providing insights, tips, strategies and case studies. The best of them listen, realize and invest in their company's preparedness and crisis prevention.

      Thanks for the discussion, Andreas!

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