How Planned Parenthood Used Social Media to Crush Komen

Politico's Keach Hagey has predicted Planned Parenthood's successful ambush of Susan G. Komen for the Cure last week will "likely to go down as a textbook case of the political power of social media."

She's right, and pro-lifers need to learn from it.

Komen's first mistake was underestimating the enemy. Worse, Komen didn't even realize Planned Parenthood was the enemy.

Komen started by handing Planned Parenthood its talking points (Did leadership really think marking a memo "FOR INTERNAL USE ONLY" would stop that from happening?), followed by handing PP control of the narrative by maintaining silence. From the Huffington Post, today:


As the only lobbyist on the [Komen] board, [John Rafaelli] told HuffPost, he should have anticipated the political fallout. "Honestly, I didn't think it through well enough."...

The charity struggled to deal with the pressure, especially in a face-off against Planned Parenthood, an organization whose fine-tuned political team has experience in these high-pitched, high-stakes debates....

[Komen CEO Nancy Brinker's friend Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for President George W. Bush] said on Friday... "Komen is a great group, but politically speaking, they're no match for Planned Parenthood."

The Komen insider agreed with Fleischer's assessment.

"Komen's not equipped to spend its days fighting political battles," the source said. ".... They were just naive in the face of [the] incredibly sophisticated Planned Parenthood operation."

Here was Planned Parenthood's strategy.

Knowing it had all the time it needed, Planned Parenthood's team took six weeks from when it learned Komen was cutting it loose to put all the pieces in place before giving the Associated Press the "exclusive."

Planned Parenthood's online and social media team was standing by when the AP story broke.

From the Washington Post:

Moments after the Associated Press reported the news... Planned Parenthood blasted news releases via e-mail and Twitter and posted the information on Planned Parenthood’s Facebook wall.

More than 2,000 supporters shared that post with their own friends on the social network. On Twitter, Planned Parenthood wrote “ALERT: Susan G. Komen caves under anti-choice pressure, ends funding for breast cancer screenings at PP health centers.” More than 500 Twitter users reposted that message.

On Facebook, Planned Parenthood has added more than 32,000 fans since Tuesday....

Planned Parenthood had a simple strategy for Facebook and Twitter. “We gave people things to do,” Sye said. The organization sent out suggestions to donate, sign an online petition, tweet about the issue and post a Planned Parenthood badge on Facebook.

“All of it,” he said, “is meant to reinforce the idea of showing public support.”

By contrast, Komen was caught off guard by the rush of developments.

More on Komen's response, or lack thereof, from Public Relations Rogue:

When the story broke Komen leaders were slow to react, and their initial responses were brief, formal and defensive. Some PR observers suggest the battle was lost in those initial 24-hours, when Planned Parenthood mobilized its fans and led a smart, vocal PR counter-offensive.


There is a reason Planned Parenthood buys Twitter followers (42k at present) and Facebook friends (243k at present): for such a time as this. Komen has better overall numbers (39.5k on Twitter and 547.5k on Facebook) but wasn't politically savvy enough and/or was too shell shocked to leverage them.

From Politico, the next step:

Twitter users sent more than 1.3 million Tweets referencing Planned Parenthood, the Susan G. Komen Foundation and related terms and hashtags, according to a Twitter spokeswoman. The chatter built steadily through the week, with more than 460,000 related Tweets on Thursday. Planned Parenthood helped spur the conversation by using a “promoted tweet,” Twitter’s equivalent of advertising.

“I absolutely believe that the explosion of Facebook and Twitter really drove a lot of the coverage on the mainstream media as well,” [PP CEO Cecile] Richards said.

Of course Planned Parenthood's public relations firm(s) were also pitching PP's angle to every journalist and outlet they could. According to Matthew Balan at NewsBusters today:

Over the course of about 60 hours, ABC, CBS, and NBC emphasized the controversy with a whopping 13 morning and evening news stories. A Media Research Center study found that the soundbite count was loaded: 76% of the quotes came from supporters of Planned Parenthood (35 in total). Only 11 clips or statements came from Komen representatives or new allies.

While we would like to minimize MSM's influence on the public, it's really still critical. The Signal explained how, even on Twitter, the liberally dominated mainstream media helped push the pro-PP narrative:

Sorting through over 100,000 tweets that were sent in regard to Komen during the controversy, we see that they are dominated by critics of the move. Just three of the top 28 hashtags support Komen's move (1 is ambiguous)....

The influencers in this controversy are a combination of official organization Twitter accounts, journalists, and some unaffiliated tweeters.... Pro-life groups never got much traction, with just one influencer on the list....

We can see that the pro-choice groups mobilized well, and we can see that their comments were clustered around pro-choice slogans.

MSM influencers according to The Signal included NPR Health, Huffington Post, BreakNews.com, Daily Kos, and journalists from Slate, New York Times, Washington Post, and Reuters.

Then there were Planned Parenthood's political supporters. Within 48 hours after the initial AP story was published, PP lobbyists had gathered the signatures of 26 U.S. senators on a letter to Komen.

To complete the blitz Planned Parenthood wrapped a fundraising campaign into the endeavor, which more than paid for the cost of the endeavor. According to Politico:

Indeed, Richards said that Planned Parenthood raised nearly $3 million in donations over the past few days....

[Rachel] Sklar [editor-at-large for Mediaite] believes that, in the end, it was the money that talked, but social media’s power to facilitate these kinds of donations so quickly is truly unprecedented.

“It came down to an amazing mobilization of power, as evidenced through media and money,” she said.

In retrospect, Komen never stood a chance once Planned Parenthood launched its offensive. Komen did not understand Planned Parenthood's killer nature and instincts.

Now, too late, it does.