I Am Whole Part 1: It all starts with a #Hashtag


Reinventing the wheel. Or not…

A thought provoking lecture and discussion last Friday 7th October considered the history of campaigning and went on to pose the question: “What can we learn from History?”, after looking at examples of recent campaigns and the similarities, in terms of tactics, used historically. Many tools, such as street marches, leafleting / pamphleteering and protesting are commonly used as a tactic in both old and new campaigns. 

Ergo: do not re-invent the wheel (OK, maybe just a tiny bit).

Whilst we consider tactics & tools that have been adapted from historical campaigns, one has to wonder how a simple historical campaign tool could be comparable to a “tool” used in digital modern and post-modern campaigns. After learning more about the Suffragette movement, I thought long and hard about a smaller nuance between this particular  historical campaign and a more modern campaign taking place today (10th October), centred around #WorldMentalHealthDay.

Setting the scene…

The suffragette movement in the UK grew over time and, importantly, had no official campaign “start date”. Campaigning to the government and other bodies took place over a number of years and campaign tactics did not concentrate on a time limit or end date. One can assume that if there was time limit for the campaign’s goals to become actualised, it would be simply be: “as soon as possible”.

Other campaign tactics and tools that were used were incorporated within the main strategy of the campaign. Used strategically, tools such as marches, for example, were a useful andeffective way of attracting attention to the cause in national papers, publications and amongst the general public. This along with other tools, were all used throughout the entirity of the campaign.


Contrary to the natural growth of a movement and campaign such as a Suffragettes, the NHS, in partnership with the YMCA and pop singer “Rizzle Kicks” today started a campaign called #IAmWhole, starting on the very same day as World Mental Health Day, and has taken a very different approach. Rather than the NHS slowly rolling out its campaign for mental health awareness and acceptance, it has chosen to “gather” all of the campaign resources in preparation for a singlr day of action.  Any media tools or tactics the NHS deems necessary in order to run a campaign in the modern age have been used and they have opted to concentrate on a hard launch of the campaign on a single day.

The nuance I am pointing out, to be clear, is hard to distil but essentially I feel that the NHS & YMCA campaign strategy shows a sense of confidence in their campaigning by not simply launching as soon as possible, but by holding back and creating more impact by concentrating on one single day.

Over the course of the past few days I have been monitoring the vast number of different media channels that the NHS have chosen to utilise to gather momentum for this campaign. Not only do they make extensive use of lectures within businesses (such as HSBC), videos and songs online (see below), multiple press releases and articles posted, but put a particular and calculated emphasis on the humble Hashtag, which links together all original content, shares, re-tweets or postings and all other media.

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Humble Hashtag?

By focussing entirely upon one single hashtag throughout the #IamWhole campaign, the main tactic of NHS England is clear: create as much excitement and awareness of the campaign and dominate as much of the social media sphere as possible on one single day. One can understand this approach and it is echoed by other campaigns such as Bowel Cancer Awareness Week and Stand Up To Cancer, who draw attention to an issue and to a call to action where individual’s attention is often very valuable and hard to keep.

As we discovered from 19th century campaigning, seeing the rise of the pomp and excitement of the frequent Suffragette Marches, a movement has to choose carefully its approach to capturing the public imagination & attention. In some ways therefore,, the #IAmWhole hashtag could be seen as a modern digital version of the exciting and attention grabbing street-march.

As we see from the statistics drawn from a two-hour time period of the #IAmWhole campaign Hashtag, there were many interactions, shares and, ultimately, awareness drawn to the cause.

Ergo: maybe sometimes it’s OK to reinvent the wheel, only, just as a hashtag shaped wheel… 



Hilder, P. et al (2007) Contentious citizens – civil society’s role in campaigning for social change (2007) The Young Foundation.

Seelos, C. and Mair, J. (2016) When Innovation Goes Wrong, Stanford Social Innovation Review Fall 2016

Further Note

*This blog has been written as part of my Media, Campaigning and Social Change MA (Part time) at the University of Westminster, for more information about this course please view: http://www.westminster.ac.uk/MACampaigning.


8 thoughts on “I Am Whole Part 1: It all starts with a #Hashtag

  1. I think the idea of focusing on a campaign for one day is a good one especially at a time were people are bombarded with so much information that it’s hard to hold their attention span for long. I don’t know much about the #IAmWhole campaign, but maybe NHS can do something big like this again on social media once a year to keep it going.


  2. I have enjoyed reading this blog and how you used our visit to the museum to inspire it. I like how you compared campaign tactics and shown how they have developed alongside the rise of technology. The idea of using multiple digital channels and messengers to amplify your message is a great tactic as it widens the reach of the campaign. People are more likely to find out more as it if your feed is full of the same topic.


  3. I like your approach to compare and to seek analogies between the street marches from the 19th century and today’s digital campaigning, since we spende so much time in the “second world”, the internet. This article outlines possible (but vague) similarities which could be found by conducting more comprehensive research and analysis. What would be of most interest for me is if “digital marching” can be impactful and successful as the marches once hold by the Suffragettes.


  4. Clever title! I was really interested to learn in class that the Black Lives Matter Campaign also started with a hashtag – and the momentum that has occurred since to what now appears to be a global movement. Who knew # would have such an impact on the world!


  5. This is a very interesting and fascinating post. The use of hashtags have a gone along way in creating momentums for campaign purposes, relating it to old campaigns is necessary and key to the overall development of modern day campaignings.


  6. I think this raises some really interesting issues around the rise of digital and online campaigning and, as you have mentioned, groups finding the appropriate tactic to suit their campaigning aims. However, I wonder if they are indeed other elements of the #Iamwhole campaign which supported this one day of social media, celebrity endorsed activity, for example lobbying Government to modernise laws that protect people with mental health problems (i’m thinking specifically about those who receive a jail sentence as opposed to proper mental health care) which wouldn’t necessarily be as media apt as some of the content you have exemplified above. I think it is always important to consider both the offline and online activity which can work together to create a successful campaign.


  7. I also have been very interested in comparing historical campaign tactics with the tactics of today, looking at similarities, differences, adaptations etc. The digital age and social media have made it much easier for a campaign to gain followers and participants through the use of tools such as hashtags. Unlike the movements of the past, using your example the Suffragette, campaigns from large organizations now have the ability to gather and hold back as you say, all there materials until the day they decide put it all out there on social media. They know (or at least hope) that people were going to see it on a local, national, and even global level . Movements of the past did not have that, and therefore, I believe, we are pretty lucky.


  8. This is a great example of the shift of campaigning tactics; technology offers much more potential to reach masses. It would be great though to know the empirical impact the one day set aside to create awareness has on prolong change.


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