A long, long race

Tara Craig reports on a workshop held at Friends House on the ‘No More Page 3’ campaign

Social media campaigner Lucy-Anne Holmes, warden at Welwyn Garden City Meeting House, ran a popular workshop at the recent Quaker Activists Gathering at Friends House on her ‘No More Page 3’ campaign.

Lucy-Anne talked Friends through many different aspects of the two-and-a-half-year-long campaign that she had set up and led. The ‘No More Page 3’ campaign, which was carried out primarily on social media, resulted in The Sun newspaper dropping its daily Page 3 photograph in January 2015.

There were four key elements to the campaign: an online petition; Twitter; Facebook and a blog. Lucy-Anne also used YouTube, Instagram and Tumblr. She stressed that she had no previous campaigning experience, and in the pre-campaign period she had struggled to even upload a photo onto Facebook.

The campaign began in an ad hoc manner, Friends heard. Lucy-Anne explained that she asked herself what she needed, came up with a title and had ‘No More Page 3’ T-shirts printed, something she described as ‘the best idea I will ever have’. She Googled ‘best online petition sites’ and chose www.change.org. Lucy-Anne acknowledged that the online petitions market may be saturated, but described hers as ‘the beating heart’ of the campaign.

It also worked as a database, she added, enabling her to email signatories. The visual tally was a good motivational tool, too, with campaigners celebrating every thousand new signatures. Each new signature prompted an automatic email to David Dinsmore, who was then editor of The Sun. Almost a quarter of a million people signed the petition. The online petition was promoted on both Twitter and Facebook, although it took longer to develop a community on the latter, Lucy-Anne said. Twitter’s strength, she found, was that it allowed the campaign to contact both high-profile people and potentially sympathetic charities.

‘Most will ignore you, some will surprise you,’ she added. Having attracted a team of fellow campaigners, Lucy-Anne put together a set of guidelines for using Twitter. Positivity and an authentic voice were key factors, she said. Tweets should show passion without sounding like a sales pitch, while victories needed to be celebrated and supporters thanked. Twitter was especially valuable in the early stages of the campaign.

Facebook required more policing, but the campaign benefited from supporters keen to produce content such as poems, cartoons and songs. Facebook activities and discussions were promoted on Twitter, and vice versa.

‘One of the things I am most proud about is that we kept the conversation going for two and a half years. We kept very single-focused,’ Lucy-Anne said.

She saw the campaign as part of ‘a long, long race’. She referred to politician Clare Short as ‘one of those who ran with the baton’. The end of Page 3 came without any fanfare. The Sun did not release a statement about the decision, simply dropping the daily photograph.

Friends asked Lucy-Anne whether she had urged people to boycott The Sun. No, she said, but she did contact its advertisers. She spoke of the organisations that had backed the campaign, among them the Girl Guides, women’s refuges, and teaching and nursing unions.

Workshop attendees were keen to hear how Lucy-Anne found her core group of supporters. She relied on instinct, she said, starting with her niece and a family friend, before bringing on board others who shared the campaign’s ethos or had useful skills, such as legal training. A closed Facebook group enabled supporters from various parts of Britain to work together. Operating as a team made the campaign slower to respond to events, as statements had to be agreed by all, but it also meant that abusive messages, among them death and rape threats, were easier to deal with.

A Friend asked Lucy-Anne why this campaign succeeded where others failed. She said: ‘Because we became really annoying, and a source of bad PR.’

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