2/02/2012

small frauds and big ones

It's always fascinating which little ripple ends up making the big wave. Well, at least to weirdoes like me who are into organizational strategy.

At any rate, Susan G. Komen for the Cure is offering a front row seat to PR disaster this week. You see, they have the perfect niche. They make hundreds of millions of dollars a year, and there is very little probing of what exactly they do with all this money. Now some people who had no idea that the head of Komen is associated with the Bush Administration* will know that, will think of the organization in a political light. Now, some people who had no idea that an organization with 'for the Cure' in its very name doesn't actually do that much to find a cure will run across discussions of the budget and finances of the organization. Now, the bland, corporatey, nonpartisan branding niche Komen has so carefully crafted for itself over the years has been shattered. Now, a wide variety of people will be exposed to the difference between the talk of groups like Komen and the action of groups like Planned Parenthood. Now, corporate partners of Komen will hear negative feedback as well as positive regarding their financial involvement.

Personally, I'm on the Barbara Ehrenreich end of the pink spectrum, so, I don't particularly care what happens to the national fundraising ability of Komen. And there is some good commentary out there about the marketing angle in particular. I would highlight Dan York and Kivi Levroux Miller for Internet Posterity on this one. Perhaps the best illustration of how the story is out of Komen's control is when I googled Komen. The organization's website didn't even show up in the first page of the search results!

The particular perspective I would add to this commentary is to place this in the context of our collapsing paradigm of vanishing trust in all types of institutions. Know whether you're a big fish or a small fish. The Really Big Frauds are Too Big To Fail. They steal billions and no one says a peep because the government itself is guaranteeing their business model. But if you're a smaller niche, an organization that depends at some level on legitimacy among the general public, don't push your luck. Komen had it all - liberal women and corporate women (maybe corporate personhood debates can shed new light on gender identity?) Donating in Harmony. Did they really think adding a third party - rightwing prolifers - wouldn't upset the apple cart?

Who planned that strategy? Or perhaps more damaging, who didn't plan a strategy to deal with this?

*P.S. Wow, I didn't know Brinker (Komen's CEO) was actually a Pioneer for Bush. Check it out, she even has a profile page with Texans for Public Justice.

P.P.S. Is Komen really inflicting a double booboo on itself, in strict business jargon? Everybody knows coverups tend to cause worse problems than the underlying issue. If Jeffrey Goldberg is remotely close to any semblance of truth in his Atlantic article, then Komen is directly and plainly lying to people about its decision-making process. That can't end well; that's what makes these things drag on far longer.

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