I'm finding the fallout from the leadership change at Komen Foundation fascinating theater from a management lesson perspective. Without spiraling into the underlying issues, what do the executive placement gurus amongst us think of the placement of a new CEO changing core culture so fundamentally?

Seems like there's a thread for us to chew on here. 

two thoughts on this

 First, it's a very dramatic example of why an organization whose mission is not political, should not be publicly political.  Yes, there's a cast about that: 


Second, it is a case study in how social media can change the meaning of your brand.  There is a very interesting blog post here: 


that looks at this incident from a branding and crisis management perspective.  The meaning of the brand has changed, and they were unprepared for that change. 

John Hack

Social Media

Had this happened before the rise of social media, the impact would have been much less. Lessons I've learned from this and other PR crises magnified by social media is that people are very passionate about their beliefs. Just because you have the facts on your side doesn't mean they will listen to you. Social media gives them a platform which is very easy to use.

Watching another organization responding to a similar crisis, I saw the senior managers respond with logical answers. They fell flat because the social media engagers were driven by passion, most already having a mind that was made up and no logic would change it.

I'm responding to this because it reminds me of the MT format for thank you notes. Say thank you only, without asking for something else. In a PR crisis like this, I would have advised them to say that they understand why people were so passionate (apologize if they thought it appropriate) and then end the response without trying to use logic to buttress their argument. Listen with the intent to understand, not to argue.

There's another outcome here no one has picked up on. I know someone who works for Komen as a frontline staff person. She had no input into the decision, probably no advance warning. Employee morale has suffered massively and I can only imagine the internal back and forth going on. This may have contributed to decision to reverse course.

Finally, just because a particular policy or communication sounds logical in the corporate office does not mean it will be perceived that way in public, especially on social media. Think about the numerous times you've said something to someone else who perceived it the "wrong" way. While this isn't exactly what happened with Komen originally, it is a far more common source of misunderstanding in the social media worlds.