2017 LLLI Online Conference session by Lisa Manning, New Zealand
Write-up by Ellen Mateer, Calderdale, Great Britain
First appeared in LLL Great Britain Feedback
When you become a Leader you represent La Leche League almost every time you leave your house. You may think you put your La Leche League hat on when you arrive at a Series Meeting—and take it off when you leave. The reality is that in public, in your communities, your towns and cities, your schools, play groups, mothers’ groups, at a doctors’ office, your La Leche League hat will always be on, whether you put it there or not! As Leaders we are also ambassadors—so I think it’s our job to promote La Leche League and the importance of mothering through breastfeeding when we can.
Although we don’t have to talk about LLL to everyone we meet, Lisa Manning, co-Director of LLL New Zealand and a former journalist, explained that we have many opportunities to network. She added that opportunities are often missed through a lack of confidence or information. Yet we can actually plan and prepare for some of these opportunities. In order to prepare for these, Lisa suggested we could think about this in three stages: contact, communication and collaboration.
Contact, or networking, can be thought of as a simple interaction such as putting the person you are talking to at ease.
Prepare for the question
Prepare for the question ‘‘What do you do?” Be ready to sell yourself and what you do in a few short words to communicate your mission, not your program.
Lisa gave some examples, including her own favorite: “I work as a volunteer for La Leche League helping mothers who want to breastfeed.”
Have brochures and leaflets available to share
Consider investing Group funds in printing some business cards to hand out to friends or colleagues. If funds are low—as they often are—you could make some yourself.
Be consistent with your material and follow La Leche League branding (the correct logo, typography and colour schemes) for your country.
Lisa suggested we preempt any questions about the name La Leche League:
You may wonder where a Spanish name came from? Well back in 1956 when LLL was formed, no newspapers would print the word breast, so the LLL Founders had to come up with a name and Leche [pronounced leh-cheh] is Spanish for milk!
This story also gives an opportunity to correct mispronunciations. Lisa explained there is no need to be embarrassed about it as the Founders themselves thought the name was French and said “la leshe.” Lisa always adds a note to editors at the end of press releases giving basic information about our mission, and she includes: “La Leche—pronounced leh-cheh.”
Dealing with the media
Choose your outlet: television, radio, newspapers or magazines that best suit your message. If you have a feature in mind then magazines or community newspapers may be your best bet.
- Identify and be sure of your key messages
- Identify your audience (know who you are talking to)
- Do your homework and know your facts—make notes, have websites open to refer to during the interview
- Know who is interviewing you
- Never speak off the record. Journalists are really not your friends
- It’s okay to say you’ll call back, or to say you don’t know and will find out and call back
- Breathe during interviews, be calm
- Stick to your key messages
- Be honest, avoid confrontation and personal opinion unless you are very clear that it is just your opinion
When you collaborate with other organizations and people, you help ensure mothers know where to come for breastfeeding support. Which other groups in your community work with babies and children? Get in touch because contacts are a vital part of the visibility message and if we work in a vacuum we risk alienating or isolating ourselves. Think about World Breastfeeding Week events you can collaborate on, or summer picnics for breastfeeding mothers.
I believe we have operated in isolation for too long and we need to form healthy alliances so that more and more women know about the importance of mother-to-mother support and where to go to find it.
We must always avoid forming relationships with groups and organizations who do not abide by the World Health Organisation’s International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.
Leaders are ambassadors
The work Leaders do on the ground is the grass roots of this organisation. Leaders are ambassadors, but we don’t need to be perfect. We often have our children with us when we have the opportunity to talk about La Leche League and our work supporting mothers with breastfeeding. This gives a great opportunity to support gentle parenting techniques. Lisa explains:
Our children are our biggest asset and our role modeling of parenting is an important part of what we do. People notice our gentle parenting approach and all the things Leaders do every day to bring La Leche League philosophy to life. Remember that, and your sales pitch, and you’ll find you won’t miss an opportunity to raise our profile—it’ll come naturally and the more practice you have the better you’ll get!
Lisa Manning is co-Director of La Leche League New Zealand and a former journalist. She is an at-home mum to horse-mad Maia (11 in June) and is married to the British actor John Rhys-Davies who has a home on the Isle of Man.
Ellen Mateer has been an LLL Great Britain (LLLGB) Leader for 11 years. She lives in West Yorkshire and has 3 children, 16, 13 and 9. She is a trustee of LLLGB Direct Connect Area Network (DCAN) and European Council representative for LLLGB and works as an Administrative Director, Website Coordinator and is an editorial consultant.