Six months ago, I wrote about a campaign that my wife started after she was photographed by a stranger as she breastfed our daughter.
Well, guess what?
She’s only gone and changed the law!
We’ve had a crazy couple of days trying to WFH, wrangle the baby, and take calls from BBC news, Woman’s Hour, the Guardian, and others less edifying.
And while it’s all fresh in my mind, I thought I’d jot down some notes on how Julia got the public, the media, and even the politicians to pay attention.
The campaign gathered momentum and overcame hurdles because it made connections between people. Not only did people identify with Julia’s experience, but they wanted to volunteer their expertise, their connections, and their passion to the cause.
So one politician led to another; one stranger on WhatsApp led to another; one media contact led to another, and so on. Pretty soon, there was a vast network of people on whom the campaign could draw.
The lesson? Seek connections.
Right from the start, the campaign faced questions about the implications of passing a law like this one. But Julia couldn’t entertain a thousand-and-one “What ifs”. She had to keep on reiterating the fundamental point that women should not be photographed without their consent while breastfeeding.
The message had to be concise. But it also needed affect: not to appeal to our emotions as such, but to chime with our gut instinct that something wrong needed to be righted. That gut instinct would prove to be more powerful than all the Devil’s Advocates and hypotheticals.
With each media appearance, Julia gained in confidence.
Each reporter asked the same questions: could you tell the story of what happened? How did it make you feel? What comes next?
Julia developed clear and compelling answers to each of those questions, and as such a consistent story was told. Again: the essential fact of the experience – that a man was able to photograph a breastfeeding woman without her consent – was moving enough that it could be told to Woman’s Hour in the same way as to the Daily Mail.
And, indeed, the story told to our MP in the first instance was the same one later told to Peers after an initial defeat in the Commons. No tactical manoeuvering or strategic reassessments were required: the fundamental point was enough.