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How to wreck your brand in one easy step

Written By: - Date published: 8:29 pm, February 8th, 2012 - 88 comments
Categories: babies - Tags: , ,

Publicly attack an All Black and loving father for how he chooses to raise his child. This isn’t about the rights and wrongs of breast vs formula vs expressing. I can’t speak to the science of that. But I’ll tell you that La Leche, Plunket, and the Council of Midwives have done massive damage to their own cause with this PR fiasco. Just pure, arrogant stupidity.

If there’s a few mores of New Zealand culture it’s that All Blacks are close to gods, people hate being told how to raise their kids (but are happy for others to be told how to raise theirs), and any sign of arrogance or busy-bodiness attracts a strong backlash.

By getting an anti-smoking ad withdrawn because it showed 2 seconds of Piri Weepu bottle-feeding his daughter on the justification that this would ‘send a bad message’, La Leche and co made a serious PR misjudgement. Plunket and the Council of Midwives have now shamefacedly backed down, which leaves La Leche looking arrogant and out of touch.

If you want mothers to breastfeed, don’t try to berate them into doing it and don’t humiliate a national hero who loves his daughter and was just trying to help another great cause. Don’t brand him and his partner bad parents with no knowledge of their circumstances (or even if it was breastmilk in the bottle!). Think about how that looks to every woman who is having trouble breastfeeding or is apprehensive (also known as La Leche’s target  audience). This fiasco will just make women less receptive to listening to breastfeeding advocates and, therefore, less likely to breastfeed, which, presumably, isn’t La Leche’s objective.

There’s a broader lesson here for any activist or political group:

Pick your fights – you need a chance of winning (and have a definition of what winning is) and the ‘evil’ that you’re fighting has to be worth the blowback. Not everyone who fails to comply completely with your agenda is an enemy that you have to crush – the more you try to bash people for minor doctrinal infringements, the fewer friends and the less power you will be left with.

Get your messaging right – People respond to positive messages, not negative ones. Be careful that you never come across as whinging (Labour, I’m looking at you), hectoring (the Greens have largely stopped doing that) or arrogant (something National is coming across as increasingly).

Know when you’re beat and quit before you do yourself more damage.

[update: because commenters seem to have trouble with this, I’ll say it again: I’m not arguing a side on breast v bottle, and I’m not anti-La Leche. If anything this post is pro-La Leche because it’s about explaining how their actions have run counter to their own objectives, which is something they probably want to avoid]

88 comments on “How to wreck your brand in one easy step ”

  1. Zorr 1

    ummm… LLL did *NOT* attack him in public. They were consulted by HSC before the ad ever aired and provided feedback. The Herald then got this and made a witch hunt out of it…

    Sorry Zet, you’re on the wrong side of this one…

    • I agree with you zorr – well said.

    • Zetetic 1.2

      La Leche said that it was sending the wrong message for Weepu to be seen bottle-feeding his daughter.

      Whether it is sending a bad message or not is irrelevant. What is relevant to La Leche, surely, is the impact of their actions on their objectives. I see little evidence that La Leche is coming out ahead in this issue. In fact, their brand has been seriously damaged. That’s going to make it harder for them to encourage women to breastfeed.

      I’m not against La Leche. I’m highlighting its actions in this case as an example of what not to do if you want to achieve your objectives.

      • Zorr 1.2.1

        LLL was asked by HSC to provide feedback. LLL provided feedback. End of story…

        How is this even an issue is my question? They never said ANYTHING in public yet that is what your argument is based off… see the issue?

        • rosy 1.2.1.1

          +1

        • Zetetic 1.2.1.2

          do you think that La Leche is coming out of this well? If they’re not, then what did they do wrong? That’s the only question this post attempts to answer.

          • Zorr 1.2.1.2.1

            This post is attempting to answer a nonexistent question… if you want the real question – how should we treat muck rating MSM organizations that publish a story designed to promote the witch hunt?

            I mean… how could LLL have improved their messaging? In this case, possibly the only correct answer is to have never responded to the HSC request because anything they did would have been interpreted in a very similar way… so, they do nothing? What use are they then?

            You are not actually asking a constructive question OR providing any analysis based on facts. I had been beginning to enjoy your invective filled rants because they were hitting some good points but you are currently proving that a stopped watch is generally only right twice a day…

          • Matthew Whitehead 1.2.1.2.2

            So you’re covering the outrage instead of the issue? Since when did you become a right-wing troll, Zetetic? o_O

            • Zetetic 1.2.1.2.2.1

              because its the public reaction that matters to La Leche achieving its goals and not I nor you have the expertise to rule on bottle v breast v expressing.

              As for calling me a rightwinger. I’ve never been so insulted. That kind of left-on-left abuse is exactly what I’m talking about when I say “Not everyone who fails to comply completely with your agenda is an enemy that you have to crush – the more you try to bash people for minor doctrinal infringements, the fewer friends and the less power you will be left with”

              You’re a good sort, Matthew. So I’m going to make an exception and not ban you for calling me a rightwinger. Don’t do it again. Ever.

              • I was not intending to call you a right-winger directly, and I apologise given how much that comparison obviously hurt your feelings.

                If you don’t mind me explaining myself, I was intending to imply that it is a common right-wing tactic to obfuscate issues by doing exactly what you’re doing here- claiming that public reaction is the important thing, not the facts of the case- and then they take it a step further by completely ignoring the facts of the case after they’ve declared that public opinion has made their point, and that picking similarly misleading debate styles, deliberately or not, (I would assume not in this case) feeds into the perception that it’s okay to be misleading or trollish in political debate. Both opinions and facts matter in the real world.

                I’m just not sure why you’d go to directly claiming that public opinion is more important without an in-depth discussion of what caused that opinion (and whether the outrage is in fact justified) and whether there are lessons to be learned in how we can align fact and perception.

                That, and even if there were an attack on an all black’s personal life for political reasons, I think I’m okay with that, because I think people are wrong to hero-worship the all blacks, and they are public figures who should lead a good example where they can, not get defensive when they’re indirectly criticised.

    • Kotahi Tane Huna 1.3

      +1

      Very surprised that Zet has got this so wrong, just because you read it in the Herald is no excuse – in fact that should be a pretty good indication that the truth is somewhere else entirely.

  2. Margaret 2

    Um are you trying to alienate your female readers? Try reading this article and then having a think about your stance. Given that only 30% of women breastfeed in NZ and only 15% of them make it to 6months this is definitely a fight worth having. But actually no-one was trying to have one. And you just fell for the Herald kicking mums for their own f***ing headlines. Thanks for that.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/blogs/pg-parental-guidance-advised/6373194/Parenting-is-more-than-a-feeding-choice

  3. grumpy 3

    very good post Zet. the comments above just prove the points you made.

    [lprent: fixed the typo on your handle. ]

    • grumpy 3.1

      Sorry to put you to the trouble – must have been my fingers shaking with the cold. Made the BBC news!!!!

  4. Hilary 4

    Zetetic – do you know anything about the global politics of breast feeding, and how the big corporates like Nestle have killed children by persuading their mothers to bottle feed when they can neither afford it nor have the right equipment?

    Women have always had to fight for everything to do with controlling our own fertility and child rearing and this ongoing battle to breast feed our children is just one more chapter.The numbers who breast feed are already really low. Ever been kicked out of a cafe for breast feeding? Ever received looks of disgust when trying to breast feed a baby in public, or even in a private home? Or received support from La Leche League when breastfeeding was painful and everyone else was telling you to give up? If you have had you wouldn’t be so keen to join the global capitalist patriarchy. Next are we going to have another ‘bash the midwife’ story?
    I expected better analysis from the Standard.

    • Zetetic 4.1

      this post isn’t about breast vs bottle.

      It’s about an organisation’s actions frustrating it’s own objectives.

      If you support La Leche’s cause, then surely you don’t want them fucking up.

      If anything, my post is pro-La Leche and its objectives.

    • grumpy 4.2

      As Zet says (and his post is applicable to all political movements), fighting a losing battle from the start is stupid. Commenters here “explaining” the original and trying to reargue the point just add to the fact that chosing a losing argument and then prolonging the agony by trying to explain your way out of it is non productive.

    • Pete 4.3

      Eleanor Black raised a very good point: “How do we know by simply looking at the image that Weepu is not giving his baby expressed mother’s milk?”

      A lot of young men need a role model to demonstrate how nurturing, loving fathers behave, rather than simply abrogating their responsibilities – or worse, being actively abusive. And from that standpoint, the glimpse that Weepu – an All Black, the epitome of New Zealand masculinity – offers into his loving family life would have been a very positive message. Instead, we get the message that caring for a baby is women’s work. No men allowed.

      • PoliticallyCorrected 4.3.1

        Eleanour Black may think she has raised a very good point; but I doubt many if any person thinking about this footage thinks ‘wow a dad feeding expressed breast milk in a bottle to his child’.

        For the record Pete the camera crew spent all day with Weepu which included up to an hour with him at home with his two children. There was or should have been plenty of imagery available to show a father ‘parenting’ his off spring.

        Yes our young men do need good role models to demonstrate how nuturing and loving fathers behave. Unfortunately Weepu in TV3’s Campbell Live piece unwittingly set the cause back decades with his claims “no one will tell him how to raise his kids”.

  5. hellonearthis 5

    What’s up with that ad on the left?
    http://ads.tlvmedia.com/clk?3,eAGljEEOgjAQRS.EgqG0QBoXI2iCWpFYVNhJUVSILpSInt6qyAWcxeT.l5kHhCsgFiuYs3eBeR5QDoRSBbmzI9QwOecWOK5DGAPTwPdEUT4t.dDeik.FxWES3r9Rbw0vXUkQYxyhvJK4I8cqbvrLv4LfnNufNUQsv7KCmPkmSIa9OkCYyxQyuapnMnmIJ96EHNdiadL0lGmm7EwWlVinkErVis6j.weG8QL-4U5K,

    It goes to a download site that wants to run some exe.

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v639/takeme2/oh_what.jpg

    Sorry, ad blocker is going back on.

    [lprent: On our site? It isn’t one of the ads that is meant to be running. I’ll send that to scoop. ]

  6. Hilary 6

    The All Blacks are a brand. Piri Weepu may be a brand. La Leche League is an community support group of volunteers. It is not a brand.
    In a perverse sort of way this controversy has highlighted the option of breast feeding and the LLL organisation – which may ultimately be a good thing in marketing terms for them both.

    • Zetetic 6.1

      Not all publicity is good publicity.

      I’m not foolish enough to write a post about something so sensitive without talking to people with personal experience. The feedback I have is that the behaviour of the pro-breastfeeding groups has made women who have had trouble breastfeeding or have reservations about trying it less inclined towards breastfeeding and more resentful towards the ‘pressure’ they feel to breastfeed.

      Now, when an organisation’s objective is to promote something and its actions turn its target demographic off that thing and off the organisation, that’s a failure. A failure that all activist groups can learn from.

  7. PoliticallyCorrected 7

    From my understanding it was the off (smoke free) message ‘bottle vs breast’ debate the Health Council wished to avoid when they sought the various organisations input re Weepu’s bottle feeding footage.

    Thank you NZ Herald, as always the gift of irony keeps giving and giving and giving.

  8. dancerwaitakere 8

    This is completely, spot on.

    From the moment this story broke, it was a TOTAL face-palm!

    A reminded that the as the left, we need to be more clever.

  9. Hilary 9

    So groups are just supposed to put their principles away for a Very Important Role Model?

    • Zetetic 9.1

      No. They’re supposed to act in ways that advance their objectives, rather than frustrate them.

      Now, you and I might not like that Piri Weepu is massive public goodwill just because he’s good at rugby but it is reality. Any organisation that wants to achieve its objectives can’t do that effectively if it ignores reality.

      One can, of course seek to change reality. But I don’t think that diminishing the god-like status of All Black’s is part of La Leche’s goals. And I don’t think they achieve that by attacking his parenting.

      • rosy 9.1.1

        attacking his parenting
        They didn’t attack his parenting. They commented on the objectives of the ad, and how it might compromise other public health objectives. I’m wondering how this commenting got into the public domain, and why it has been reported at all.

        • Zetetic 9.1.1.1

          So, they said that his parenting compromises public health objectives.

          any organisation ought to work on the assumption that any official position it takes may end up in the media.

          we didn’t whine about the secret tapes or the tea tapes coming out. It would be hypocritical to whine about this.

          an activist group blaming the media is like a seawrecked captain blaming the tides. You can’t change it, so learn the rules and use it to your advantage

          • rosy 9.1.1.1.1

            They said his parenting compromised public health objectives?
            I thought they said:

            “It was important for us that people understood the key message of the ad was about smoke-free air for our kids. We didn’t want that to get lost in a controversy around bottle-feeding.” [and] “It’s really important that those messages are consistent across the board. It’s been resolved and was really a storm in a tea cup.”

            I can’t see a problem with that.

  10. Benjamin B. 10

    Yeps you just disqualified yourself. Hilary at #4 makes a good point. Also that stuff article: “So in modelling good parenting, how his daughter is fed is irrelevant, right? Which is what La Leche said. Without those few seconds, the ad still conveys a positive parenting message, and the anti-smoking message, while not compromising the government-funded breastfeeding campaign. It’s a shame that Piri’s core message has been overwhelmed by finger-pointing and name-calling, and that a volunteer organisation that helps parents who come to it has been so vilified and attacked.”

    Breathe, think, apologise.

    • Zetetic 10.1

      I’m not arguing against La Leche’s objectives. This post isn’t about breast v bottle. I’m arguing that they’ve worked against their own objectives by their actions and that there’s lessons for all in that.

      • Benjamin B. 10.1.1

        They haven’t. The Herald has.

      • PoliticallyCorrected 10.1.2

        Zetetic can you please spell out exactly what actions you think La Leche could have done better, differently, not taken, etc.,?

        • Benjamin B. 10.1.2.1

          ++

        • Zetetic 10.1.2.2

          It should have not said that 2 seconds of Piri Weepu feeding his daughter in an anti-smoking ad was ‘sending a bad message’ and should be cut.

          It was 2 seconds that no-one would have noticed, let alone taken the message that they ought to bottle feed because Weepu does. La Leche blew it out of all proportion. Their case that the scene ought to have been cut was extremely weak and looked it.

          That made them look like busy-body’s telling a good father (for all we know, that was breastmilk in the bottle) that he is a bad person. That has caused a public backlash, which will make it harder for La Leche to achieve its goals and has turned their target audience off their message.

          Sometimes letting trivial things go is the smart move. Winning a battle can lose a war.

          • Zorr 10.1.2.2.1

            How are people who are asked for their opinion “busy bodys”? WTF Zet?

            • Zetetic 10.1.2.2.1.1

              i’m not saying they are busybodies, i’m saying the public perception is they are (read the herald comments for example. that perception is the reality that is affecting La Leche, saying ‘it’s not fair’ changes nothing.

          • the sprout 10.1.2.2.2

            And if an anti-smoking group were asked to comment on a public health message ad that included 2 sec of a very prominent role model smoking, what should they do? Forget why they exist and say nothing?

            • Zetetic 10.1.2.2.2.1

              this equating of non-breastfeeding with smoking is part of the problem. there are many valid reasons why women don’t breastfeed and, for all we know, that was expressed breastmilk in the bottle.

              Basically, La Leche saying that not breastfeeding your kid is as irresponsible and unheathly as smoking around them. Making women feel they are ‘evil’ if they don’t breastfeed is only going to turn women off their message.

              • that’s your real point I think z – the so called ‘making women feel they are evil for not breastfeeding’ – maybe try talking to some different friends

                • Zetetic

                  I like the ones I’ve got.

                  And this is the point, people in La Leche’s target demographic are feeling alienated and put upon because of La Leche’s actions. Successful organisations don’t engage in self-defeating behaviour.

              • rosy

                La Leche saying that not breastfeeding your kid is as irresponsible and unheathly as smoking around them

                No they’re not. They are saying that it is better not to confuse public health messages.

                I don’t know why you’ve chosen to get on the bandwagon with this – a bad experience somewhere? If so, highlight that, not a valid response to request for comment. Breast-feeding is always a contentious issue, no matter how reasonable (or not) the advocates.

                I reckon you’ve got the wrong end of the stick with this one.

              • Roy

                Bottle-feeding rather than breastfeeding is associated with a statistically significant difference in IQ, with bottle-fed infants coming out several points below breast-fed infants when all other variables are corrected for, so it is not unreasonable to portray bottle-feeding as being harmful to the health as sidestream smoke. I think parents who choose to bottle-feed rather than breastfeed are making a choice that is harmful their children, and should be told that. This does not, of course, apply to those mothers who for whatever reason are physically unable to breastfeed.

                As for the worship of All Blacks and rugby, it is stupid and should not be encouraged.

                • insider

                  That’s a highly debateable ‘fact’. statistical significance does not equate to clinical significance ie you might score 3points more on a test but at that level it may have no effect on actual ‘brightness’. And I’ve read plenty of reports criticising the studies for ignoring other confounding issues that may be more likely and for the studies focussing on a particular type of IQ – verbal = which may not be indicative of underlying IQ ie deafness could be the cause. There is also research showing that the longer you breastfeed the lower the IQ.

                  And frankly it just fails the idiot test – large groups of bottle fed children and adults going back generations are just not showing any sign of being dumber than their breast fed peers. In fact this controversy seems like proof the other way.

            • rocky 10.1.2.2.2.2

              And if an anti-smoking group were asked to comment on a public health message ad that included 2 sec of a very prominent role model smoking, what should they do? Forget why they exist and say nothing?

              Thanks Sprout – I was just about to say exactly that but less succinctly 🙂

          • PoliticallyCorrected 10.1.2.2.3

            Zetetic I’m struggling to find anywhere in the original article and/or the editorial on the HoS on the same day that has La Leche or any other group saying Weepu bottle feeding his daughter was ‘sending a bad message’? I do read however La Leche spokesperson stating that the bottle feeding footage in the Health Sponsorship Council ad would not be consistent with other government health messages. Their case, far from been weak was spot on. The issue was and still is, no matter how much anyone wants to portray it differently, was a problem with consistency of messages.

        • the sprout 10.1.2.3

          If you look carefully over the facts and timelines, you’ll see LLL just did their job and gave sound advice when it was sought after. It’s the herald who’ve started the witchhunt.

          • Zetetic 10.1.2.3.1

            the herald’s doing what the herald does. I don’t like it but that’s the way it is.

            a savvy organisation would foresee that risk and say ‘look, is this really a fight we need over something so trivial?’

  11. I think you are missing the point z – an advocacy group was asked for an opinion and they gave it and then that has been developed into a news story to sell some papers. The paper wanted an angle and they got it but that is not the fault of the advocacy group, it is all about the paper and their deliberate generation of heat around that – to sell papers.

    So statements like, “Just pure, arrogant stupidity” and so forth just indicate to me that you have fallen for the papers spin.

    disclaimer – I am a bloke and the issue of breast feeding is an area that i think women can work out for themselves.

    • Zorr 11.1

      I would make the note here that when your source is a Herald article, your main support in comments are the RWNJ trolls that frequent here, and you are being corrected on major points – you should realize that you probably have the wrong end of the stick…

      • Zetetic 11.1.1

        this post is about not losing media battles. La Leche is losing one. There are lessons in it.

        And, no, one of them isn’t ‘blame the media’. You may as well rail against winter when the weather gets colder. Successful organisations use the environment they operate in to their advantage, they don’t waste time complaining about how ‘unfair’it is.

  12. felix 12

    I’m glad we’ve moved on to the big issues. It’s not like there’s anything else happening eh?

  13. Jilly Bee 13

    I have been following this thread since it was first published with a certain amount of anguish. When my first child was born I struggled to breast feed him [due to inverted nipples] and in the end had to be content with formula – it occurred with my following 2 children, so I have raised a family of 3 bottle fed offspring. With my first baby I was berated by the wife of a colleague of my partner [who was a La Leche devotee], bordering on ‘nipple nazi’ advocacy for not breast feeding him, which made me feel less than adequate as a new mum. Thank goodness my Plunket Nurse could see my problem and encouraged me when I made the decision to bottle feed my son full time. Said son is now 43 and doesn’t appear to have be overly disadvantaged by being fed formula as a baby, as has my two subsequent children.

    • Anne 13.1

      Well said Jilly Bee. There are plenty of women who can’t breastfeed their babies for valid reason.
      I see Plunket has apologised profusely to those women and others who, for whatever reason, feel betrayed by the furore. I think it would be appropriate if La Leche did the same thing for the same reason. It would help their admirable cause enormously to show a little humility…

      • Anne 13.1.1

        Oh, and just remembered. Thought yesterday’s Herald cartoon summed it up in a humorous way.

        http://www.nzherald.co.nz/news-cartoons/news/article.cfm?c_id=500814&objectid=10784032

      • Margaret 13.1.2

        Um what on earth do they have to apologise to us for? They are an organisation that promotes best practice for parenting and the best public health out-comes are reached by breastfeeding. Nobody has said ‘you bottle feed and you’re a crap parent’ instead they have indicated a contradiction in a public health message. I don’t want an apology from anyone. Well, perhaps from all those people that seem intent on undermining a volunteer group of women who support other women with breastfeeding. 

        • Anne 13.1.2.1

          I don’t want an apology from anyone.

          I doubt many people care whether you want (or don’t want) an apology Margaret. It’s not about you. The Plunket Society clearly recognise that even though they are not responsible for what has happened, there are a lot of people feeling unfairly maligned. They have shown their concern by way of an apology. A sensible and mature attitude to take IMO.

          • Margaret 13.1.2.1.1

            Oh, my mistake Anne. I thought you and Zetitic were patronizingly assuming what women who couldn’t breast feed their babies felt. Yes, I think it’s always sensible and mature to allow the Herald to frame a debate in a way the maligns women, volunteers and public health and trumpets populist knee jerk reactions and billion dollar formula industries. Hurrah all round

            • Anne 13.1.2.1.1.1

              Stop misconstruing what commenters say Margaret. I didn’t in any shape or form describe “The Herald” as being sensible and mature. Indeed they have to take much of the responsibilty for this silly debate about something all are agreed upon and that is “breast is best”.

              Btw, grow a sense of humour.

              • Margaret

                Anne, for a lot of women this really isn’t funny. It’s heartbreaking. So if you didn’t mean to blame La Leche maybe you should ‘grow an ability to articulate your point’. Or if you did, you’re buying the Herald’s framing. 

  14. the sprout 14

    Basically, La Leche saying that not breastfeeding your kid is as irresponsible and unheathly as smoking around them. Making women feel they are ‘evil’ if they don’t breastfeed

    No, they aren’t even remotely saying anything close to that. If they were I’d be grabbing my pitchfork too, but that line is 100% Herald – to sell papers, to serve their advertising clients. It is not the position of LLL as represented in any of their communications on this matter or anywhere else.

    As you are an astute observer Zet, i am at a loss as to why this time you’ve swallowed the herald hook line and sinker on this one, and continue to dig yourself deeper, denying key facts and relying on dubious sources like the herald. Is it worth wrecking your brand? Is this a fight worth picking for you?

  15. Zetetic 15

    nice turnabout there mate. Well played.

  16. jbc 16

    Zetetic has made a pretty clear point as far as I can tell.

    The problem is that the bottle feeding was censored and a lot of public reaction to that is negative.

    Whether the Herald played a part in stirring that sentiment is irrelevant – they had the material and worked with it. It’s what they do. [not saying I like it]

    If La Leche, Plunket, and the Council of Midwives had thought for a second about the message that the their edit suggestion would send then this would never have happened. As it turns out it seems to have distracted from both campaigns (anti-smoking and pro-breastfeeding).

    La Leche may have said that it won’t diminish the anti-smoking message if the bottle-feed clip is removed – and if the whole matter had been kept secret that may be true – but it is beside the point. Secret dealings eventually get uncovered and look a whole lot worse for it.

    Here’s another example: the govt not being happy with the timing of a particular documentary screening and ‘suggesting’ via an intermediary that such items be delayed until after elections. After all, it won’t change the meaning of the documentary, right? And it keeps the govt message clear, right? Result: anger at the meddling.

    [Disclaimer: I often bottle-fed my two kids. Their mother’s expressed milk in the first 6-9 months or so, and formula from time to time after that. Mums need all the sleep they can get – and many other valid reasons]

    • PoliticallyCorrected 16.1

      jbc …

      Fault lies squarely at the feet of the Health Sponsorship Council. The HSC should never have allowed the footage to make it to the editing room, let alone a draft cut.

      They sought advice on the footage because they knew it would be contenious; an ultimately distract from their own campaign. According to their post on a ‘Positive Men’ facebook page today, the HSC chose the bottle feeding footage for re-editing approximately two weeks ago .

      The groups responsibilities in this drama llama start and end there. The groups were only responding in a manner consistent with their own mission statements and the government’s own public health messages.

      The HSC owe La Leche, Plunket and the Council of Midwives a public apology.

      • jbc 16.1.1

        Not really. They (HSC) obviously thought it was part of their message, the imagery of the dad feeding the baby.

        Are you suggesting they should have self-censored? I have a problem with that too. I mean: it happened while filming. Is it something to be hidden?

        • PoliticallyCorrected 16.1.1.1

          Yes. Particularly if the goal is to protect their own message, which it was when HSC sought outside advice.

          Knowing it was contenious, they didn’t want their adverts to become fodder for a bottle vs breast debate, ultimately distracting from their message and sought advice on the footage prior to a final cut. They were given the advice that bottle feeding would be inconsistent with other government health messages on breast feeding. Remember the production team had spent an hour at home with Weepu while he played with his two children. It is not like they did not have other footage for positive parenting to use.

          Now we are left with Campbell Live sound bites of Piri Weepu the role model telling the world no one will tell him how to raise his kids despite him featuring in an advert that tells people how to raise their kids.

          • jbc 16.1.1.1.1

            Isn’t that just shifting the issue? Then you have the cameraman or editor saying “we got this really cute shot of Piri feeding his daughter but the HSC said it was controversial and asked us to edit it out.”

            To me the essence of the problem is that this sensitivity overrode practical wisdom – and then that fact became public knowledge.

            • PoliticallyCorrected 16.1.1.1.1.1

              If they were clever they’d say “hey Karitane, we have this really cute shot of Piri bottle feeding his daughter.”

              Or if they were really smart they’d go to Tommy Tipee and say, “hey Tommy Tipee we have this really cute shot of Piri bottle feeding his daughter. Want to use the footage to promote positive fathering of a dad feeding his baby expressed breast milk from one of your bottles? We can centre a whole campaign around why breast is best kept in a Tommy Tipee bottle and how every Dad can be a Tommy Tipee Dad.”

              No I don’t think it’s shifting the issue and you are correct in one thing, sensitivity did override practical wisdom and that is HSC taking it outside their department to make a decision.

              I recall Sony co-founder Akio Morita talking on America, he was saying the problem with America is it has too many consultants, everyones too scared to make a decision, so they use consultants, then they can have someone to blame if it goes wrong, no one stands up and makes their own decision.

            • rosy 16.1.1.1.1.2

              And then you have them not editing the film and feedback after the fact providing evidence that the shot of a well-respected role model bottle-feeding has made it more difficult to promote the breastfeeding messages. (I don’t know about breastfeeding, but I do know there is plenty of research showing role models have a huge impact on other behaviours – makes sense really otherwise why use them advertising and in public health campaigns?)

              I also think HSC did the responsible thing by asking for advice from other public health organisations. Public Health organisations must ensure their messages don’t impinge on each other’s messages. Healthy eating, sunsmart, alcohol, smoking, gambling, physical activity, immunisation, breastfeeding, domestic violence, depression… the chance for conflict in areas an organisation might not know much about is very real.

              • jbc

                But I don’t think that would have happened. [made it more difficult to promote the breastfeeding messages]

                It is far easier to defend its inclusion than its censorship. The burden is much higher for the latter.

                Slightly OT and tangential, but the reality is that breastfeeding doesn’t go smoothly for everyone. Pumps and bottles and formula will even be recommended by pro-breastfeeders (at least the pragmatic ones).

                So the image is not even off-message. It is entirely consistent with a pro-breastfeeding campaign and very easily explained.

                In fact, this could have been turned into a very positive message if someone had taken the blinkers off.

  17. jbc 17

    [edit: hrm. parent post seems to have disappeared]

    Absolutely.

    Did you read my post? The reference to secret dealings was what not to do to avoid the current situation.

    Basically: if you are thinking about censoring, think twice about the message that the act of censorship will send. Is that message bigger than the result you seek to achieve?

    I’m not saying La Leche, Plunket, and the Council of Midwives had bad intentions – just that their hyper-sensitivity sends a message of its own.

    What I am saying is: it would have been better for them to just shut up and let it slip by. Nobody would have noticed. No Herald story. No mobs with pitchforks.

    In my opinion the pro-breastfeeding (I assume breast milk) lobby should be acknowledging bottle feeding rather than trying to hide it. But my opinion is not to the point.

  18. Ed 18

    I did not see the Herald article, but I did see the interview on television with the La Leche representative. The article and discussion above suggests to me that the La Leche representative may have been less controversial if she had taken the line that
    1. there is nothing wrong with a father giving a bottle to a baby; a lot of mothers express milk forthat purpose
    2. La Leche had been asked for their opinion, and they had advised that it would be better if the image had the father interacting in another way because bottle feeding can be seen as controversial; other activities can be just as powerful for the advertising message being sought.
    3. The reason bottle feeding could be a distraction from the message of the advertisement is that commercial advertising of bottle feeding formula is seen as unduly advocating bottle feeding; while that is not as prevalent as it was in New Zealand, and while for various reasons some mothers need to bottle feed, we still have a low proportion of mothers breastfeeding. For that reason images of bottle feeding can be unhelpful
    and then repeat the positive message the ad was trying to deliver – it was not about bottle feeding!

    The initial post rightly said that it was not a public relations success for La Leche – as with many news items information was missing leading to misleading conclusions. Many of the comments have similarly missed some content. As for applying these lessons to politics in general, perhaps we need to be more generous in re-framing perceptions of posts by others into as positive framing as possible; and don’t automatically see advice as criticism.

    As in many discussions on The Standard, I do feel better informed from the post and subsequent discussion. Apart from obvious trolls, discussions are at least intellectually honest; it is the mix of different ideas and viewpoints that give the left strength, and also the knowledge that care is needed if what we say is not to be misrepresented; Zetetic’s broader lessons are valid for all of us.

    • Blueberrymac 18.1

      La Leche League have not had any representatives appear on TV. How on earth can you have seen that interview? In your imagination?

  19. Margaret 19

    Zetitic, your post is becoming increasingly offensive. Did you write it because you think LLL has ruined their brand (by following their objectives quietly behind closed doors when asked to by another Health Organisation) or did you write your post because:

    And this is the point, people in La Leche’s target demographic are feeling alienated and put upon because of La Leche’s actions. Successful organisations don’t engage in self-defeating behaviour.

    Um I don’t. Did you ask me? Nope, you seem to be basing this post on some friends that got upset. I tried for three months to breastfeed, and did everything possible to make it work for my baby and me. But it didn’t and so we used mixed feeding and eventually exclusive bottle. I am still totally committed to breast feeding my next child and the only guilt I felt was mine at not being able to feed my child because I wanted to. Nothing from an organisation who as volunteers for christsake are available anytime of the day or night to assist women to breastfeed if that is their choice.

    The Herald has been so incredibly awful in what they’ve done to women in this search for headlines. I can’t believe you are doing the same. Your first point about a ‘brand’ doesn’t hold up to scrutiny so please explain what you are trying to achieve.

    [lprent: Neatly framed to avoid when I would start defending an author. But it is getting pretty close. You should argue less about the authors motivations. I had to reread this comment a few times in moderator mode which means that it was at the edge of my programmed reactions. ]

  20. Hateatea 20

    I have mixed feelings about La Leche’s role in this. Like almost everyone else, I would like to think that as many children as possible are fed breast milk for as long as possible. I also know though, that this is not possible for a number of reasons, maternal health being one.

    Perhaps the irony that it was a very middle class organisation with a reputation of being quite strident with ‘non-conforming’ mothers promoting bottle feeding as a bigger risk than smoking, or am I just being unusually dense.

    We see constant Maori bashing, especially male Maori, yet an iconic Maori male will not be seen because the baby drank from a bottle. The positive, anti smoking, pro child message will be delivered differently and another opportunity to influence a specific target group will be missed.

    I understand La Leche’s role but I think the HC over reacted. In the scheme of things, most people would have missed the ‘not breast feeding’ message in favour of the nurturing, loving man who puts his children first.

    Thanks for hosting the discussion, Zetetic 

  21. Tangled up in blue 21

    It should have not said that 2 seconds of Piri Weepu feeding his daughter in an anti-smoking ad was ‘sending a bad message’ and should be cut.

    It was 2 seconds that no-one would have noticed, let alone taken the message that they ought to bottle feed because Weepu does.

    This is it.

  22. Snowflake 22

    Hi Zetetic,

    I think you are right on the money with your assessment. I have good friends at HSC and this was a done deal which would never have made it into the media at all…..When they went through their normal review process they identified that the image might get negative feedback from LLL, Plunket and College of Midwives. So as they are supposed to do they sought feedback and based on that feedback decided to make changes to the ad. However someone associated with LLL decided that relaying the situation to a range of Breastfeeding advocacy groups and encouraging them to contact HSC would drive home the message and guarantee that HSC made the changes being sought. Cue many many emails to HSC. That still would not have made the news, but as is the way with things internet, someone took it to Facebook to get wider exposure and from then on it was out and guaranteed to hit the media.

    They MSM constantly monitor twitter, facebook and the like to get free story leads. In this case all the elements for a headline were there. So even after effectively winning the battle quietly and discretely – the noise made to reinforce the position was the first shot in the foot and since that point LLL have not managed to get out from under the negative feedback.

    I feel very sorry for them now, as theirs is a very valuable advocacy/support which has been severely diminished in the publics eyes (in many ways unfairly). But as you noted by picking the wrong battle in the wrong arena with an ill conceived approach against the backdrop of a massively popular figure they have self inflicted PR wounds. Plunket and College of Midwives have attempted to rehabilitate their image with broad apologies but LLL have remained steadfast with their line of ‘We just provided feedback’ – sorry but the story is only out because of one of their own peoples actions. Win the battle lose the war…..

  23. Matthew Hooton 23

    As you note, how did they know it wasn’t expressed breast milk in the bottle? If mum has to work or is going out, it is not unknown for dad to use a bottle to feed the child mum’s milk. My wife breastfed both our kids for a year, but wasn’t keen to be housebound for the whole year. Surely this is to be encouraged by the breast-is-best lobby!

  24. vto 24

    I think Matthew Hooten’s right. Not that I have followed any of this thread and issue except from afar but …………… how would Piri Weepu breastfeed his child?

    I realise there are more manboobs around these days but from what I can tell they not milk-producing boobs. Happy to be proved wrong though.

  25. I’m reminded of the debate/hysteria a couple of years ago about putting vitamin B9 (folic acid ) into bread…

    • marty mars 25.1

      yea it’s amazing how some people can be sucked in by a newspaper deliberately hyping up a story just to sell some papers – but that was explained way up in the very first comment of this post and it happens every day of the week in this country.

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