Don’t React: Prevent

6 Feb

Welcome back to The Sports Ace, where winning my Super Bowl against-the-spread bets never gets old.

Last week the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation created a serious PR situation for itself.  If you’ve been under a rock, they denied a grant to Planned Parenthood for politically charged reasons.  A media and public firestorm ensued, and after a couple days of growing heat, they changed their tune and said they’d give money to Planned Parenthood after all.

Instead of focusing on the aftermath, like so many PR people have, I’d rather spend my time on something else.  This was a completely preventable, self-generated PR crisis.  Sometimes bad things happen that you have to react to…this was NOT one of those times.  Komen management chose its path, and then couldn’t stand the heat in the kitchen.  Ugh.

It’s kind of similar to what happened in pro hockey recently.  The Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins made their trip to the White House to greet the President and receive his congrats on their title, as is tradition for champion teams in sports.  But goaltender (and supposed team leader) Tim Thomas chose not to go, making it known instead that he doesn’t support the government’s actions.  The issue?  He chose to leverage a highly public event to make an individual political statement, at the expense of his teammates and his organization.  The result?  People didn’t celebrate the team’s title – instead, they focused on skewering Thomas, calling him a selfish man and a bad teammate among other things.  Did the hockey world know about his personality before this?  Maybe.  But the average hockey fan sure didn’t, and there’s no doubt Thomas hurt his reputation both in and out of the locker room with his actions.  You’d better believe Thomas will notice the effect on his next free agent contract.

What have we learned?  Two things:

1)  Come on people – think and plan ahead.  Based on the public firestorm and reaction around both events, it seems to me that neither entity really thought through their actions/statements before they made them.  If they did, they probably wouldn’t have done them.  Backlashes like these are completely avoidable with some forethought and common sense.  If they were so naive or insulated as to truly believe there wouldn’t be a backlash, well, they sure learned their lesson.

2)  If you’re going to make a decision/announcement/news event, then at least have the guts to stick by it.  As unpopular as Komen’s decision became, it was made because they felt it was the right thing at the time – and there is a segment of the population out there that would have supported them on that.  Thomas stuck to his guns, but the flip-flopping Komen has only cast doubt among its staff, donors and those they serve about what kind of organization they are and what they really stand for.  The only thing worse than having a negative identity is having no identity at all…until they show who they are now with their actions, and make that case over time, the effects of last week will linger.

That’s all for now.  I’m out like Wes Welker.

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