Every June we find our streets brandished with flags, companies rebrand on social with a rainbow logo, and businesses take the opportunity to list the number of LGBT+ employees it has hired – but, is this truly what people consider a show of acceptance?
I’ve taken a look at what this is all for, and why it happens in June…
June is the month that the US 1969 Stonewall riots took place in, which marked a steep change for gay rights, not only in America but around the globe.
Pride month is held to not only mark the progress that has been made in the battle for equality and acceptance, but to show there is much more to do. Make no mistake, behind the flags, and parades, Pride is still very much a protest.
Allyship from companies with Pride month campaigns can be very powerful and also helpful to the LGBT+ cause. But it can also be viewed as damaging, transparent and at times box ticking. Consumers can tell if something is not authentic, and with shoppers becoming more and more ethically savvy, you need to make sure you’re making a genuine contribution.
Like visiting a gay bar as a heterosexual, there is an unspoken code of conduct for companies when conducting Pride activities.
Here are some tips of how to conduct your Pride campaigns with tact:
Not all LGBT+ people love rainbows…
Pride is more than just sticking a label on a product and hoping it sells. If you truly want to cater to the LGBT+ community you need to realise that like all groups of humans, it’s incredibly diverse.
Not everyone is comfortable labelling themselves in such a public way such as a rainbow t-shirt and may appreciate more subtler ways of showing their pride.
Think about other factors that are important to the LGBT+ community and incorporate that into your products. Perhaps slogans, key figures within the fight for equality, but please, give us more than rainbows!
Aside from this, it is overdone. The press has enough stock imagery of rainbow products for their roundups, this isn’t going to generate a wave of news.
The fact you have hired LGBT+ people is not cause for celebration
Companies often release reports and press releases around this time of year, detailing how many of their staff identify as LGBT+. This may seem a nice enough gesture, but the undertones behind it are companies clawing for praise, for simply not being homophobic.
It also forces employees to label themselves and put themselves in a box when they may not know how they define – they don’t want to be a figure simply for a company to get some nice trade coverage.
If you only celebrate your employees who are LGBT+ during the month of Pride, and not for the day to day work they do like everyone else, then it’s a transparent gesture.
Allies are important, but let LGBT+ people lead
LGBT+ people still now find themselves discriminated against in not only day to day life, but employment opportunities also. This is very prevalent within the media/influencer industry.
When thinking about a spokesperson or model for your Pride campaign or press release, you have a real opportunity to help raise the profile of some of the amazing LGBT+ talent available. Consider booking someone new, someone different, someone who can truly embody the cause you’re marketing. But also ensure it’s not just an outward facing campaign – bring your employees on the journey with you.
Pride still needs progress
With equal marriage and blood donation reform you may think the UK is a ‘safe space’ of equality for LGBT+ people. But with inequality within lesbian IVF, historic pension disparity and spikes in hate crime, we are not there yet.
If you are a company with a platform, consider using pride as more than just a standard news hook, but view it as an opportunity to do some good and shine a spotlight on the next steps needed.
Not only is this just a generally nice thing to do, but the positive PR will write itself. Journalists are saturated with Pride samples and mailshots about a crossing being painted rainbow – something with meaningful grit will allow you to stand out, with the positive press to follow.
Be authentically supportive
A famous saying is, if you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. This transfers nicely into LGBT+ ethics.
If you’re a company that doesn’t hire LGBT+ people outside of diversity roles, a company that doesn’t take hate crimes and abuse seriously, and a company that chalks up slurs as banter – any campaign you do, you can bet someone will call you out, and you’ll end up worse off than if you hadn’t engaged with the month at all.
As mentioned, consumers are more ethically savvy and will look into companies all the way down to whether businesses trade and operate with companies where homosexuality is illegal.
An example of this is when BMW updated their logo to the rainbow Pride version, except for BMW Middle East, where it was kept the same. This drew a lot of negative attention.
It’s important to ensure your values and practices truly align with supporting and empowering the LGBT+ community. If they don’t, probably best you sit this one out.
We all love making money, as a liberal I truly support the capitalist market culture of making every date in the calendar a marketing opportunity.
However, if you’re going to jump on the Pride month bandwagon, the least you can do is embody charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent whilst doing so.
At Hatch, my sexuality has never been something I’ve felt the need to hide, but it’s also not been used as a marketing tool either – something I am eternally grateful for. It is one of the first places where I can confidently say I am able to be 100% me, and everyone accepts that. I’d go as far to say nobody even cares, which is how it should be, normalised.
Nobody has tried to use me as a Pride pony. Nobody has put a sign above my head when we’re working on LGBT+ campaigns. I’m here for my merit and I’m celebrated for my work, not who I like.
I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.
So, there you have it, a PRing bisexual’s guide on how to PR Pride like a pro.