The power of peaceful protest and the reach of social media to quickly organize one was on full display last weekend.
A group of nursing mothers held a "nurse-in" protest at Pine Centre Mall on Saturday afternoon. The day before, Tara Turcotte had been breastfeeding her three-month old in the play area while keeping an eye on her three-year-old when she was asked to leave by a mall employee.
Turcotte departed but returned the next day with 30 nursing moms, gathered to her cause through postings she made on three Facebook pages - Baby Bling, Prince George Breastfeeding Cafe and Mommy Swap.
To its credit, mall management immediately changed its policy, which had previously disallowed feeding in the children's play area. Now both breastfeeding and bottlefeeding are permitted.
William Congreve was thinking of women like Turcotte when he wrote in his 1697 play The Mourning Bride: ""Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned."
Turcotte deserves full praise for her actions. Rather than make a big public scene and humiliate a mall employee who was simply enforcing the rules, she decided to address a wrong in a peaceful but forceful way. The mall is private property and it was within the rights of the management of the shopping centre to ask Turcotte to leave but she knew there was no way they would demand 30 nursing mothers to leave all at once.
In an earlier era, Turcotte would have had to spend the day on the phone and would have needed to enlist the help of others to drum up 30 other local mothers with babies. Social media is much broader and faster, forcing businesses to also react rapidly, both in reality and online. Pine Centre wasted no time in changing the rules and posting the new policy on its website.
A slow response by any business in a similar situation would appear as weak and dithering. If the mall had decided to study the matter, comparing its policy with that of other shopping centres, while also receiving legal advice, its reputation as an inviting community place would have been compromised severely.
The rapid reaction by Pine Centre general manager Sonya Hunt and her team was a textbook case of crisis communications response, where a public incident threatens the brand and the reputation of the business. Act quickly. Act decisively. Take responsibility. Apologize. Change and adapt.
The good will Pine Centre gained, not just with Turcotte and her fellow nursing mothers, won't appear on the mall's bottom line this year but it's priceless.
Some people might see it as caving in to the demands of an annoying minority group crying for more rights but Pine Centre management wisely saw an opportunity to do the proper thing and be seen as a responsible (and responsive) business.