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.
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
*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.