Will Outrage Extend To $2M In Severance Payments?
The chart from Topsy Labs says it all: 306,000 mentions on Twitter in seven days. In seven days, the total number of tweets mentioning Komen increased by almost 50 percent.
But this contextual stat is equally startling: over the same 7-day period, there were 507,000 Twitter mentions of the Super Bowl, America’s greatest sports spectacle which is scheduled for Sunday.
Susan G. Komen tweets: 306,000; Super Bowl tweets, 507,000.
Over a three day period, about 10,000 tweets contained the critical phrase #shameonkomen, according to Topsy Labs. During the same period, about 15,000 tweets included the supportive shorthand, #standwithpp.
Wow. That’s a lot of digital water cooler chatter about boobies.
The Sound Of Digital Silence
Throughout the media crisis, which began late on Tuesday, officials from Komen were distant, silent.
The AP wire story broke Tuesday afternoon:
@AP: AP Exclusive: Amid abortion debate, Susan G. Komen cancer charity halting grants to Planned Parenthood: http://apne.ws/AgalYr By @CraryAP
Komen communications folks seem to have closed their doors and turned out the lights long before 5 pm, given the story’s time stamp of 12:31 pm PST/14:31 CST. Not so Planned Parenthood: they had a statement and tweet posted less than 30 minutes later: 12:52 pm PST or 15:52 pm EST. Planned Parenthood posted 12 more tweets on Tuesday, the day the story broke.
But on Tuesday there was no acknowledgement of the controversy on @komenforthecure. Nothing from @NancyGBrinker, either. And nothing on the Komen Facebook page.
On Wednesday, Komen tweeted six times. Two were links to a video statement from Brinker (96+ retweets, combined), three were stats, and one was a reply about the Komen Facebook page. Brinker also tweeted her video statement (29 retweets). Planned Parenthood: 22 tweets (several with 50+ retweets).
Komen put a statement on Facebook just before 8.00 am Texas-time on Wednesday. It currently has 10,477 comments, 3,281 likes.
In contrast, 8,033 people have “liked” the Planned Parenthood “I stood up for women’s health” poster. And 3,278 have shared it.
On Thursday, Brinker consented to a live TV interview with Andrea Mitchell, a breast cancer survivor and a past Komen supporter. That interview did even more damage to the Komen brand than the silent treatment. Brinker insisted with a straight face that Planned Parenthood had not been defunded because current grants would be honored.
Over on Twitter, after it was far too late to stem the digital tide, Komen’s brand management folks began tweeting wildly: 42 tweets on Thursday! But most were statements, not interactions, so this was half-hearted at best. It took until Friday for Komen to finally began to talk to people on Twitter using @replies. By then, we know, it was too late. Komen had officially reversed itself. Sorta.
The Winners and Losers Game
The money winner? Planned Parenthood, by far. The organization temporarily lost about $680,000. In three days, they picked up $3 million in donations.
Planned Parenthood, meet the Haitian Earthquake effect. The Japanese Tsunami effect. The Barack Obama and Ron Paul campaign success.
A sufficiently charged up public will open its collective wallet, at least once.
The winner in the Twitterverse is also clearly Planned Parenthood. According to data from TwitterCounter, @ppact had about 1,400 fewer followers than Komen on January 25. The projection for Saturday? That @PPACT will exceed Komen by about 1,400. However, both organizations gained followers during the dispute. What’s the adage about there being no such thing as bad news?
And then there’s Tumblr. plannedparenthoodsavedme takes a page from the “We are the 99 percent” playbook. And does it well. “Planned Parenthood actually helped me chose NOT to abort my baby.” “Planned Parenthood Found My Breast Cancer.”
And the Tumblr is “not affiliated” with Planned Parenthood.
The loser, all around, is Komen.
Whether or not the decision was actually politically-motivated, it looked like it was.
As Lawrence Lessig writes so eloquently in Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress–and a Plan to Stop It, the reasonable possibility of financial or political motivation is enough to breach trust. It’s Caesar’s wife.
Amy Tan @AmyTanWriter
Interesting fact: Susan Komen Cancer Foundation hired a anti-abortion activist, former right-wing candidate, and… fb.me/1eClzxZW9
Brandon VerVelde @bvervelde
Thank you, Susan G. Komen for rescinding your funding for the abortion factories known as “Planned Parenthood.” #wiright
“Unfortunately, it seems that Komen caved to political pressure from the pro-abortion movement and enforcers in the media.” – Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) in SJMN, 3 February
“To be giving grants to an organization that effectively ends so many lives — (it) just seems to me they made the right decision before and they’re making the wrong decision now.” – Rep. Kevin Brady R-TX) in Chicago Tribune
Peggy Orenstein @peggyorenstein
Breast cancer doesn’t care whether you are pro- or anti-choice, but the Komen Foundation does…. ow.ly/8Nz1L
And then there are these two:
Jade Morey (@JadeMorey) is the Southeast Director at GoVote.com; she has subsequently made her Twitter account private. Karen Handel (@KarenHandel) is a former GOP candidate for governor in Georgia and a SGK vice president; she has subsequently deleted this retweet, which was captured by @LisaMcIntire.
Enough reasonable doubt about political motivation for you?
But what about that severance?
Komen’s 990s for 2008 – 2010 (the fiscal year runs April – March) reveal that the organization has coughed up an estimated $1.9 million in severance fees. Brikner resumed leadership of the organization in November 2009. I’ll have the details in a later post. But unless the mainstream media — TV and big name newspapers — find the salaries and severance shocking, don’t expect this to cripple Komen.
Yes, Twitter and Facebook amplify — but there has to be something to be amplified.
Lessons For Communicators
- Embrace the fact that the Net never sleeps. PR no longer runs banker’s hours (if it ever did).
- Use tools to monitor Twitter and Facebook for mentions of your organization. Then be ready to respond. In real time.
- As in any sales discussion or confrontation, it’s important to acknowledge the other person’s “pain.” In the digital social realm, we do this by “talking” to people in a public space. It needs to feel like conversation but be aware that what we are simultaneously doing is publishing. (Karen Handel forgot that.)
- Have communication plans ready for contingencies. Planned Parenthood had known for about six weeks that this decision had been made, that this announcement was coming. And they were prepared. Komen, who had known even longer than PP, wasn’t.
- Re-read the Tylenol case. Then Exxon. Which do you want on your resume?
Added: Digerati used in the sense of someone who is comfortable with technology. There are many definitions for the word, which at one time (and in some groups) means “digital elite” in the opinion/thought-leader sense.
Known for gnawing at complex questions like a terrier with a bone. Digital evangelist, writer, teacher. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill, wiredpen.com