What "The Race for the Cure" Can Learn From "The Best Steak Anywhere!"
Why wait until Monday morning when Friday afternoon quarterbacking can be just as much fun? (Okay, that was my lame attempt to dispel a gay stereotype and prove that I really DO know when the Superbowl is being played...but I digress.) And what better topic to dissect this week than the massive self-inflicted implosion of the Susan Komen Foundation? So much has already been written about how poorly Komen managed its de-funding, flip flop, and subqeuent re-funding of Planned Parenthood that this week's lessons alone could fill a "How NOT to..." book.
From the myopic lens of the social media world, there are some very important lessons that all of us who live in the world of online social justice movements can learn from Komen's blunders. So the theme of this blog borrows from the title of one of my favorite movies, "Three Weddings and A Funeral"... herewith are, "Three Observations and a Suggestion."
It's bad enough to not have a communications strategy in place if you're about to launch a ticking time bomb into the social media universe. It's even worse to launch that time bomb, watch it explode all over yourself, and then douse yourself in gasoline to feed the self-immolating flames.
Kivi Miller and Raven Brooks have already written highly insightful blogs about the nearly complete lack of "messaging" forethought with which Komen announced its Planned Parenthood defunding - and how that empty silence (crickets...chirp, chirp...) enabled social media advocates and Planned Parenthood itself to claim and define the issue. The social media results speak for themselves. Anti-Komen traffic on Twitter outnumbered pro-Komen comments by 80-1. Online petitions by Act.ly and others sprung up spontaneously, while Planned Parenthood almost instantaneously launched a media blitz on its website and to its email database. In less than 72 hours, Planned Parenthood had already received enough new donations to offset its $680,000 Komen defunding, ranging from many small donatiions to $250,000 from New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.
What really fascinates me on this is how Komen managed to make the fallout from this issue SO MUCH WORSE for itself. The hands-down (or perhaps jaw-dropping-down) Exhibit A in this morass (rhymes with "jackass") is, of course, Komen VP of Public Policy Karen Handel claiming that the defunding decision was entirely non-political, non-abortion related, and then retweeting the following comment from a supporter on her personal Twitter page: "Just like a pro-abortion group to turn a cancer orgs decision into a political bomb to throw. Cry me a freaking river." Really??? Handel retweeted THAT herself??? And thought that no one would pick up on it? Does the woman not have a brain? Oh wait. I guess I just answered that question.
The Komen Foundation's official social media strategy (or lack thereof) was as abysmal in its absence as was Handel's in her mistimed pro-activity. There was absolutely NOTHING on Komen's homepage about its defunding decision for almost a full day - in fact, the only thing on its page was the scintillating information that prostate cancer had been discovered in a 2,200 year old mummy. Really??? I've gotta believe that the editorial staff at The Onion are kicking themselves over that one, thinking, "Damn! We thought of doing something like that, but it's so absurd, no one would believe it."
If you throw a time bomb, there is going to be collateral damage. If you throw it at yourself, guess who gets damaged?
The corporate relations/development folks at the Komen Foundation made the brilliant decision to announce a new million dollar corporate partner - the Energizer battery company - on Komen's Facebook page on exactly the same day that they defunded Planned Parenthood. And then seemed surprised that Energizer's own social media sites got flooded with angry protests. My favorite posting on Energizer's Facebook Page from Tina Pohlman: "No more Energizer batteries...Duracell works just as well."
And its not just new or upgraded corporate sponsors about which Komen needs to worry. Many of the anti-Komen social media comments referenced boycotts of current and longtime Komen corporate supporters. A great representative tweet from @mrbabypants: "not another nickel, not another @YoplaitYogurt, not another step (for Race for the Cure)."
Watch your Back. Lock your door. And trust your best friend whens she tells you that dress DOES make you look fat.
My guess is that another victim of collateral damage at the Komen foundation right now is the unfortunate person who runs (used to run until this week?) their website. And we're not talking just the aforementioned chirp-chirp of crickets in the silence here.
Abortion is a touchy topic. Hello???? This is somehow news to people? Not only did Komen not have a content-based communications plan in place to deal with the Planned Parenthood fallout; it also apparently didn't have website security in place to prevent hackers from messing with its homepage. Lo and behold, shortly after the Planned Parenthood decision was announced, some enterprising hackers yesterday morning managed to replace Komen's Marathon page (showing running feet) with the tagline, "Help us run over poor women on our way to the bank." Now don't get me wrong on this. I don't condone hacking - even though you have to admit that this one was pretty funny - but the point here is that the Komen IT folks should have expected internet-based retaliation on such a volatile subject.
More within Komen's control was its media presence following its decision. At first it declined all major media interviews, then issued a self-produced video which basically fed the fire: "Why are they afraid to talk directly with the press?" Finally, Komen founder Nancy Brinker did an MSNBC interview with Andrea Mitchell which did neither Brinker nor Komen any favors. And rather than let it just wither on the Vine, Komen posted it on their website. Really???? As I said in the beginning of this paragraph, where was the best friend when Komen needed him/her?
Many observers have stated their belief that Komen's brand is permanently damaged. Or as Raven Brooks put it, "How Komen Flushed Their Brand in 24 Hours."
Komen could use some serious customer relations advice right now. Perhaps they should take some lessons from Morton's Steakhouse. As Peter Shankman described in his blog a few months ago, he experienced what he calls The Greatest Customer Service Experience Ever at the hands of Morton's. For the full story, read his blog post. But in a nutshell, here's what happened: after a particularly grueling business trip, a hungry Shankman jokingly tweeted as he boarded his flight home, "Hey, @Morton's, can you meet me at Newark Airport with a porterhouse when I land in 3 hours? K, Thanks." Lo and behold, much to Shankman's surprise, someone at Morton's corporate headquarters saw the tweet, contacted the nearest Morton's to Newark airport (24 miles away), had a meal ordered, cooked, boxed, given to a driver who made it to Newark in time to track down Shankman's flight and meet him at the security exit point.
Granted, Shankman has over 100,000 Twitter followers and is a VIP corporate Morton's customer. Needless to say, if I had tweeted that, none of my three followers (my mother, her cat, and sometimes my partner) would have gotten off the sofa from watching "Real Housewives" to make me a steak. But I'm digressing again...and somewhat passive aggressively, no?
The point is that social media can make really GOOD customer/client interactions so much easier, because social media provides instantaneous access to EXACTLY what your support base wants in real time.
Perhaps the Komen Foundation leadership should contemplate a good mouthful of steak and earful of advice from the Morton's social media team in the next few weeks...