Ogilvy is handling corporate and crisis PR for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, according to people familiar with the matter. The nonprofit, which supports breast-cancer research and funding, is taking a public beating for its initial decision to pull funding from Planned Parenthood.
The move immediately incited backlash in the media and online, but the charity's communications strategy and response have also been roundly criticized. Komen was slow to respond online -- and when it did, it changed its message numerous times. First, it cited a policy stating that it doesn't provide funding to organizations under investigation (Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., is investigating the women's health provider). After critics were quick to equate that to a political move aimed at appeasing right-wing donors, Komen changed tacks and said the real reason was actually related to the fact that Planned Parenthood doesn't actually administer screenings but hands out referrals for mammograms.
Following the backlash, which actually boosted donations to Planned Parenthood, Komen reversed its decision. Today, it tweeted: "@komenforthecure We want to apologize for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women's lives."
Ogilvy added the account well before the flap. It was retained this past summer, and it's working on an eight-month retainer, according to one executive familiar with the relationship. The executive added that Komen brought on the firm in August to monitor media, support speaker programs and provide issues council around controversial topics that could affect the organization, such as Komen's position on embryonic-stem-cell research.
Ogilvy and Komen did not respond to requests for comment.
In November, Komen issued a statement affirming that it has "never funded human embryonic-stem-cell research" but that it does support "research on the isolation, derivation, production and testing of stem cells that are capable of producing all or almost all of the cell types of the developing body and may result in improved understanding of or treatments for breast cancer, but are derived without creating a human embryo or destroying a human embryo."
Komen is also working with lifestyle PR shop Morris & King Co., which it brought on early last year.