As you have probably seen plastered all over the news this past week, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure received significant amounts of political pressure and – more impressively – immense amounts of social media backlash in reaction to their decision to defund their grants to Planned Parenthood.
Regardless of your take on their decision, you cannot ignore the PR power of online advocates that used social media tools to protest the organization’s decision. There was no Facebook wall untouched nor Twitter feed desolate of discussions around the breast cancer organization’s announcement.
And as my third grade teacher always said after putting someone in timeout: “So…what did we learn?” Now that the dust is beginning to settle, I pose the same question:
1) Don’t underestimate the power of social media. You can’t deny it. Social media is a powerful beast, with millions of users sharing, commenting and conversing among their networks every minute. After all, Facebook (and its 500 million users) is now used by 1 in every 13 people on earth, with over 250 million of them (over 50%) who log in every day. Within hours of the Susan G. Komen’s announcement, social media platforms were inundated with chatter. Which leads to the next lesson…
2) Awkward silence. You can’t stay quiet. While Susan G. Komen remained locked up on the issue, that didn’t stop the conversation. Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites were showered with posts blasting the organization’s decision. This allowed for millions to discuss and share the announcement without Komen ever entering into the discussion to provide their messaging. And with social media, a matter of hours can mean everything. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood garnered up to $400,000 in a just 24 hours without having to spend a dime.
3) Social media shouldn’t be an afterthought for your PR strategy. Now more than ever, it is evident that social media should be fully integrated into your organization’s communications strategy. This includes proactive outreach to bloggers and thought-leaders, along with specific messaging crafted for social media platforms of you and your partners.
It’s hard to say what will come of the organization’s brand or the ramifications for this PR disaster. If you are interested, I thoroughly enjoyed these great insights as well on the situation at Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog.