Amid resignation, Susan G. Komen’s CEO ‘still doesn’t get it’

The departure of founder Nancy Brinker, along with the president and two board members, doesn’t undo any damage. It adds to its seemingly never-ending PR nightmare.

She still doesn’t get it. I am talking about Nancy Brinker who finally announced her resignation as CEO of the Susan G. Komen For the Cure. Also departing are the breast cancer foundation’s president and two board members.

Why doesn’t she get it? Because she says these resignations had nothing to do with the controversy earlier this year when Komen announced it would cut funding of Planned Parenthood. Under immense pressure, it reversed its decision.

But the damage was done. The Wall Street Journal reports that fundraising is down across the country. Certainly, a lot has to do with the way Komen mishandled the crisis.

Among other things, it did not respond to criticism, wasn’t proactive in getting the good side of its story out, appeared to ignore the damage it caused, and never issued a heartfelt apology. Even now, Ragan’s PR Daily reported that Komen is not addressing the leadership shakeup on its Facebook page or Twitter feeds.

So now that she is leaving, why does Brinker still not get it? It has to do with the timing of the resignation and how she is leaving.

In terms of timing, given the constant criticism over the last six months, it should have happened a long time ago. The longer she stayed, the more we were reminded of Komen’s poor decision and how it was mishandled. Related to the timing, The Wall Street Journal reported, “Ms. Brinker said the changes had nothing to do with the Planned Parenthood firestorm.”

Yeah, right. Four key people leave at the same time and you want us to believe it’s a coincidence?

She continues to mess up Komen’s image even as she leaves. Or is she really leaving? Sure, she is leaving her CEO post, but says she will assume a new position there after leadership roles are filled. Like what? Will her influence as founder hamper the new leadership?

This is a key factor for the new president and CEO to consider. If they remain in the shadow, or under the influence of Brinker, they may be doomed to failure. However, if the new officers are autonomous and Brinker stays away, they have a chance, over time, to get Komen back to its once revered status.

It will take new policies, effective outreach, organizational transparency, and an acknowledgement of past misdeeds. Only then might the replacements succeed and the true mission of Komen be realized.

The best thing Brinker can do for the organization she founded is make a clean break.

As to how she is leaving, The Wall Street Journal article noted, “Ms. Brinker said she isn’t making the transition for personal reasons or at the urging of the board of directors.

“This is a time when I need to be, particularly, as visionary as possible and as outreaching as possible to people,” she said.

What does she mean to be a visionary? Why does she plan on being “as outreaching as possible” (whatever that means)?

The fact that she fails to acknowledge the damage done this year is amazing.

I feel sorry for Brinker. She started a great organization for a wonderful cause, but somewhere she got lost. Unfortunately, she still hasn’t found her way back.

Tripp Frohlichstein is founder of MediaMasters Inc. His firm specializes in media and presentation coaching, along with message development and message mapping. Contact him at or email

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