Komen and the Privacy Act: 3 Takeaways

THE SITUATION: Social media can impact the national and global agenda with astonishing speed ... and it can also put people and institutions on the spot, instantly.
Two Hurricanes: Recently, marketers learned two powerful lessons regarding how empowered, engaged social media communities can form suddenly around an issue and exert intense pressure on political leaders, nonprofits, and corporations. How you prepare for (and respond to) these "social media hurricanes" may well determine your success in the marketplace ... and perhaps even the survival of your organization.
National opposition to the Stop Online Privacy Act, (SOPA), reached its peak at a critical moment.... and stopped the legislation in its tracks, despite a well-financed support campaign from major content providers like the Walt Disney Company and NBC Universal. These numbers tell the story:
Before the social media protests, SOPA votes:
   Senate: 48 supporters and 6 opposed.
   House: 32 supporters and 25 opposed.
After one day of social media protests:
   Senate: 37 supporters and 22 opposed.
   House: 26 supporters and 95 opposed.
Infographic of Congressional Voting
arrow The plans of senior leadership at the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation to pull funding from Planned Parenthood suddenly became one of the hottest online topics, generating over 1.3 million Twitter posts in a single week.

Last Friday, in a stunning reversal, the foundation bowed to the pressure and renewed its funding ties to Planned Parenthood.
Komen Tweet Response

TAKEAWAY #1: Do a “Tone Deaf” audit. Otherwise smart companies, such as Netflix and Bank of America made poor decisions recently that hurt their customers and their credibility. How could they have been so out of touch? Be humble and do a “Tone Deaf” audit by consulting your stakeholders and customers about important decisions and announcements so you do not become the next victim.
TAKEAWAY #2: Improve how well you listen to your customers and constituencies. Being out of touch with their customers and how they might react to major decisions was a key factor which contributed to the missteps of the organizations cited above. Make sure you are using multiple “listening posts” to stay close to the voice of your customers and constituencies. Use a combination of the following: depth research, social media: Facebook and Twitter, surveys: on-site, email and phone, customer service and customer feedback and analytics.
TAKEAWAY #3: Stay Flexible. Know when and how to change course if a hurricane descends.It is sometimes better to cut your losses, regroup, and issue a humble apology than to engage in a "debate" whose outcome is already clear ... and that your brand cannot possibly win.