In May 2018 I received a message via Facebook (of course!) asking if I would like to join the Practitioners’ Rep Body (PRB). I had been quite vocal in the weeks before about a few things and the PRB thought I might like to take on some issues formally. So, channelling my best Prunella, I decided to say yes, so that I could join and try to influence change. One of the biggest areas of interest for me was the use of social media.
I soon found myself in the position of unofficial spokesperson for practitioners around any social media issues and kept in close contact with the Comms team at NCT to share feedback. Over the course of a year we had many honest conversations – not all easy ones – and trialled a collaboration between members of the PRB and the Comms team by having a small Facebook group where we could share ideas, give feedback and make suggestions about NCT’s social media. However, even with this, some social media offerings – particularly around breastfeeding – were upsetting practitioners.
We eventually came to realise that to truly understand the issues and make positive change, we – staff and practitioners together – needed to dedicate time to really drill down into the areas of concern to get it right.
We already had the updated Infant Feeding Message Framework, but what was missing was more specific clarity on what it all means in practice for NCT’s communications across social media, in print and in digital content for parents. So the Deep Dive Group on infant feeding was born and our collective aim was to create an easy to understand and use guide for staff on all communications about infant feeding.
We met 3 times in total and really thrashed it out. It was hard. It was emotive. There were disagreements. But together we began to understand each other’s perspectives. The hours of discussion meant I got an insight into staff roles and some of the complicated challenges they face and helpfully, learned what their goals actually were – but not just what, but why they were goals. For example, how different social media channels are used to reach different audiences; how different platforms and algorithms make a big difference to the way people engage with content and the careful planning that goes into getting the most value out of these platforms. There’s a lot of factors to consider. But, the way that parents are reached and what speaks to them isn’t always in line with our work as practitioners. This was really hard to accept sometimes but with talking and listening I began to see the importance of NCT voice vs practitioner voice vs parent voice. These are in some (but not all) circumstances quite different and the balancing act that NCT has is really very hard.
During the deep dive process I finally saw real change taking place. Deeper understanding and a mutual respect between all involved, greater appreciation for the Infant Feeding Message Framework and even a complete change in direction on some views of what NCT ‘should’ be saying about infant feeding. All now better aligning with the views and beliefs of many breastfeeding counsellors too.
Myself and other practitioners on the team were included in decisions and discussions throughout and in our final meeting we all went through the draft guide word by word ensuring that we all agreed entirely with the content. In addition, the guide has been reviewed by the CEOs of both First Steps Nutrition and The Breastfeeding Network. This is true co-production and collaboration.
The finished product
Let’s be honest, this guide won’t tick everyone’s boxes. At times even breastfeeding counsellors may not agree with each other. But some hard decisions had to be made and some lines had to be drawn. While it is impossible to share with you all of those nuanced conversations that were had, believe me when I say that all of them were deep with various twists and turns and they allowed us to eventually come to mutually agreed decisions. Throughout this co-productive process I think we all changed and grew in some way too – just like this document can change and adapt as NCT does the same.
The writers of the guide – practitioners, staff and a trustee – have spent many hours getting this right and what has been produced will really help those who make the tricky decisions on how to talk about infant feeding and what images to use. Training for all comms staff on the WHO code has also taken place already to make sure that everyone is informed and on the same page, and this will be part of future inductions too.
NCT have really heard the concerns of practitioners and have made huge leaps forward to ensure that our message on infant feeding across all communications is consistent and the right one.
I’m really proud to have been part of this process. I have tried to be the voice for many practitioners and I really hope that you feel I have represented you well.
Beautiful things happen when we work together.
Find out more about NCT’s Infant Feeding Message Framework and view the easy-use guide here.