Saturday, February 4, 2012

Komen Breast Cancer Foundation: PR Malpractice and the Never Apologize Rule in the Political Sphere

This week has shown us a rather amusing little drama.  First, we hear the the Komen breast cancer foundation has decided to stop funding Planned Parenthood.  Then there was a massive outcry from those who view abortion as the Great Sacrament of their misbegotten religion.  Then for a few days, donations to the Komen foundation surge.  Finally, the Komen foundation apologizes and reverts to their original policy---i.e. decides to continue funding Planned Parenthood.

Frankly I couldn't make a worse PR decision if I tried, and I'm a believer in strategically inflaming particular adversaries whenever possible (Per Sun Tzu, if your opponent is choleric, inflame him---this is of course because if you can cause him to lose full control over his emotions, you will find him easier to defeat).  First, you piss off those who view abortion as a sacrament, like, say, the famous reporter woman who said she'd have been happy to emulate Monica for Bill Clinton for 'keeping abortion legal'.  This group is so damned touchy that a private charitable foundation simply deciding not to give them money anymore sets them off, predictably.  Anyone who doubts what I say about the neurotypical mind being ungrateful as hell can look here for Exhibit A.  If you give me money or useful help on a regular basis out of the goodness of your heart, with no strings attached, and then one year you tell me you'll no longer be able to do this for me anymore, my gut response bears no resemblance to Planned Parenthood's.  It's more akin to---Thank you very much for your many years of support.  I hope that maybe you'll find it beneficial to support us again at some future date.  Gratitude for the favors granted, and no hard feelings or feeling of entitlement to future favor.  But then I'm way the hell out of the neurotypical range.  Classier outfits than Planned Parenthood, even if they didn't feel the way I would at the gut level, would at least attempt to emulate my response.  This is one of the areas where Christianity has had a profoundly beneficial impact on the culture---in getting people to at least FAKE gratitude and act as if they were grateful when they receive unmerited favor.

Then, to compound their predicament, they decide to change their mind and apologize.  Yes, companies can often help themselves by apologizing.  For instance, my wife got a loaf of bread from a grocery store some weeks back that was stale when opened well before the sell by date.  When she called the bread company, they were profoundly apologetic and sent several loaves of bread worth of manufacturer's coupons (effectively like a small gift card).  The apology was accepted and we did not prejudice any future transactions with this particular manufacturer.  But politics in the US doesn't work that way---hasn't at least since the 60s.  When you apologize in such a venue it is simply used to beat you with further.  Amusingly, I suspect that the Komen foundation would've been better served if it said something like this:

Burn in Hell you damnable baby-killers.  We're sorry we ever funded you and if we could retroactively take it out of your miserable hides, we'd do so.  You'll never see a plugged nickle from us ever again.

Had they said that they'd at least have had the pro-life community behind them---that group which was likely responsible for the surge of donations in the meantime.  Here's the thing, they are now seriously on the radar of pro-lifers.  Before I knew they did business with Planned Parenthood and had no truck with them, but I'm an outlier and I know it.  Now the fact that they support Planned Parenthood is in the public eye and record.  What's more, an awful lot of pro-choicers are going to remain pissed off at them.  So their chosen course of action results in pretty much everyone hating them on both sides of the issue.  Had they followed the first rule of political PR---never ever apologize---they'd have at least kept the fact if they'd been as vulgar as my facetiously proposed PR message, they'd have become a celebrated cause in those circles and gotten a big bounce out of it, in much the way Gingrich got a huge bounce for telling off the media moderator who asked about his position on informal polygamy.


Anonymous said...

Yes, this was a head-shakingly stupid move on their parts. If the pro-life movement is wise, they'll tout it as an example of the generally lousy character of the pro-choice movement.

Jehu said...

The pro-lifer movement is generally not wise. Their biggest problem is that they value being 'nice' over being effective. That they couldn't win a decisive victory with President and both houses of Congress being Republican speaks to their ineffectiveness as a movement. All it would've taken was a bill to remove abortion from the jurisdiction of the Supreme court and the inferior federal courts.

CorkyAgain said...

"Now the fact that they support Planned Parenthood is in the public eye and record."

Which takes away the pro-life argument that the donators wanted their money spent on breast cancer research, and that Komen wasn't behaving as a proper fiduciary agent when they passed it along to Planned Parenthood.

Alrenous said...

"Anyone who doubts what I say about the neurotypical mind being ungrateful as hell can look here for Exhibit A."

Interesting, it's physics. Give people stuff and they like you. Stop giving you stuff and they go back down again.

I think this is still mainly a status thing. The gifts indicate high status. Of course they're actually irrelevant to status, but once convinced of higher status, the NT gets upset if they lack their perceived-status-due.