Last year, about this time, I wrote a blog post entitled “Think Before You Pink.” Once again, we have entered into the month of October. It is time for crisp fall nights, apple picking, pumpkin patches and Breast Cancer Awareness month. Only 30 or 40 years ago, breast cancer was something that was hidden from view. It was only whispered about and women faced treatment alone-the public was shielded from those facing this battle and sadly these women fought for their lives without needed support. Somewhere along the way women got bold and thought, you know what I may lose my breasts and my hair, but I am not going to hide. Many people credit First Ladies Betty Ford and Nancy Reagan along with TV shows like Dallas for giving women the courage to speak publically about breast cancer and treatment. There are many individuals and groups that we can thank for bringing this issue to the forefront of people’s minds and for beginning a brilliant money raising machine, but let’s face it there have also been some very tone deaf and deceptive “awareness raising” schemes that have done little more than line the pockets of some very shady business people.
Everyone I know has been touched by breast cancer in some way. At the time of my original post, I had one dear friend who was a multi year survivor living with some health issues that are a by product of her treatment 12 years ago. I am happy to say that friend continues to manage her health issues and is feeling great. I had another friend, who was fighting for her life. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that about a month after I published that blog, Suzanne would lose her battle with this awful disease. 41 year old women are not supposed to die in 2014 or 2015, but our beautiful and loving friend did. This year, I have even more strong feelings on this subject and I want my clients and anyone who may be paying attention to understand that jumping on this band wagon may seem like a good idea, but it has to be done thoughtfully.
As a marketing consultant, I have been asked often what my clients can do to honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I get asked because of my marketing background, but also because I am a woman. Everyone who has asked about Breast Cancer Awareness Month has had a sincere and heartfelt desire to do the right thing in a classy manner and to honor all of the women who face this disease, but especially those who are close to them. For me, directing them is so personal because I have seen my friends struggle not only with cancer, treatment and residual health problems, but also with body image issues and lingering fear. In an effort to honor these women, I have treaded very lightly and asked for advice on how to sincerely do good without being opportunistic or downright skeezy. I ran across an article titled, “Think Before You Pink” and I want to share the link and some highlights so that our readers can make good decisions that reflect the desire to be honorable in their business practices and in their communities.
This is paraphrased from ThinkBeforeYouPink.org (http://thinkbeforeyoupink.org/?page_id=13):
- If your business is considering a “Pink” initiative in the month of October, is your company going to donate a portion of revenue or each purchase to support breast cancer programs?
- What organization will get the money? What will they do with the funds, and how do these programs turn the tide of the breast cancer epidemic?
- Is there a “cap” on the amount your company will donate? Has this maximum donation already been met? Can your customers tell that the maximum donation has been met?
- Does this purchase put you or someone you love at risk for exposure to toxins linked to breast cancer? What is the company doing to ensure that its products are not contributing to the breast cancer epidemic?
I highly encourage all of my client companies to support local charities for a number of reasons, yes it is good marketing, but it also builds camaraderie among employees and solidifies your team. When considering whether or not to make breast cancer awareness and research funding your business’s cause, think about whether it is truly complementary to your business. If you are a spa, makeup artist, hair salon or lady’s clothing boutique then yes, build an initiative that honors and raises money for women affected by breast cancer. If your core business is hunting equipment or a muffler repair shop (and yes I know there are female hunters and mechanics) consider finding an organization that speaks more to what your business is all about. Also, never be afraid to choose a well run program like Relay for Life that raises money for many kinds of cancer research or a local initiative that solidifies your community.
For consumers who want to support companies who do breast cancer awareness month promotions, do a little research and make sure the company you are supporting is living up to the promise of being supportive. Also, don’t judge businesses harshly who may not have a pink initiative in October. Good corporate citizenship does not hinge on this one issue. So many small businesses in our community do wonderful work on behalf of fantastic groups like Big House Foundation, The Jason Dufner Foundation and our local food bank. Keep that in mind and look for ways to support those businesses when they do something to support a local organization.
Well run and heartfelt breast cancer initiatives have changed the face of this insidious disease and business leaders have helped women find support and medical care that was not available in years past. Let’s stay away from pinkwashing and work to support causes that truly help our neighbors.