Last year, the LGBTQ+ community celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the event that started the pride movement as we know it. Year after year, these riots are commemorated and celebrated in June by the community and allies with marches and parades to honor the progress made and acknowledge changes yet to come. This year, things are a little different, as pride transitions to a digital experience due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In recent years, more and more brands “came out” to show support of their LGBTQ+ employees and customers. The support is inspiring; however, marketers still need to consider how they’re communicating about pride to avoid coming across as opportunistic or ingenuine. To help, we put together a quick guide to consider when putting out LGBTQ+ messaging during pride month and beyond.
Before you make a statement, release a line of rainbow-branded products or consider participating in an event, make sure your brand is already doing what’s right to show support of LGBTQ+ consumers and employees. It’s never too late to get on the right side of history, but remember the key word here is “doing,” not just “saying.” Your audience will question the depth of your support—especially if it’s the first time.
Consider who your money—not just your marketing—is supporting. Is your business making donations to political parties who actively vote against LGBTQ+ rights? Do you contribute financially to other organizations, such as homeless shelters, religious charities, schools and healthcare centers that are not allies of the community? What about your vendors, collaborators and other brands you partner with? It’s important to make sure your dollars aren’t harming the community you’re trying to support.
Most importantly, educate yourself and understand why we have pride. Remember, it’s OK if you’re still learning as long as you’re open to hearing from the community. It’s important to remember, as we are seeing protests supporting the Black Lives Matter movement now, the first major pride event, Stonewall, was a riot. And the fight for equal rights continues today. It wasn’t until this June that the Supreme Court ruled to protect LGBTQ+ people from workplace discrimination. Homosexuality is still criminalized in 68 countries; only 18 U.S. states have laws protecting youth from conversion therapy; and this month, the Trump administration removed protections against discriminating against transgender patients in health care.
The community wants your support, as it’s important to know what businesses take a supportive stance with the community. That said, messaging created exclusively by straight, cisgender people is going to fall flat within the community.
Making a statement for pride month is a good start, but you should also take a look at your team. Do you have any openly LGBTQ+ staff? Do your employees feel safe coming out to their co-workers? Nobody feels good being the odd one out, or the “token” member of staff. Representation is important; make sure there’s diversity in your workplace. If there’s not, it might be time to think about why.
Give your LGBTQ+ employees a platform to lead the way in messaging. This could include social media takeovers, opportunities to blog, share content, or even create internal messaging to encourage allyship within the workplace. Your audience will be interested in knowing how your organization is using its platform to support LGBTQ+ voices.
When working with LGBTQ+ journalists, keep in mind how overwhelmed they are during this time of year. If you don’t normally pitch to or reach out to LGBTQ+ publications, be honest as to why you’re getting in touch around pride month and what you’re promoting. Use this as an opportunity to start building a long-term relationship with this media community, instead of a one-and-done pitch.
LGBTQ+ content creators, such as bloggers and influencers, will also be receiving an influx of emails and messages from PR pros trying to get their brands’ pride content on social media. Explain how your product is benefiting the community and what your organization is doing to show support. Limited edition rainbow accessories or pride-themed cocktails are fun examples of what PRs will be promoting, but what’s in it for the creator? The influencer won’t want to work with a brand that is “pinkwashing,” so have all your information ready and be prepared to answer a few potentially tough questions. This would be a good time to let your LGBTQ+ staff work on outreach, so your contacts know your promotion is genuine and benefiting the community.
Don’t let your contacts feel like you’re only reaching out to them for promotion during pride month, but that you continually value their work and your partnership. Remember, pride happens year-round, so don’t hesitate to reach out with ways you’re supporting the LGBTQ+ community at any time! Organizations will be overwhelmed with donations in June as everyone hops on the bandwagon. Think of ways you can be supportive in other months as well.
Remember, there’s more to pride than handing out freebies in a parade or sending your staff marching in a rainbow-branded logo. Are you trying to promote yourself, loosely tying efforts to pride, or are you supporting the LGBTQ+ community and using your platform as an ally? Taking on pride means including the entire LGBTQ+ community, so be ready to learn more about inequalities within the community such as misogyny, body shaming, racism and transgender rights. Drag queens and pop divas are great, but there’s more to the LGBTQ+ community than gay clubs and brunches. Make sure your messaging is representative and inclusive of the entire community.
While we’re making huge steps forward—such as the nationwide legalization of gay marriage in 2015; more representation in the media of LGBTQ+ athletes, politicians and entertainers; national monuments recognizing LGBTQ+ history; and the recent workplace protection law—there’s still a long way to go. Consider these key points during pride month, and brainstorm ways to support your LGBTQ+ staff and consumers beyond June.
As PR professionals and marketers, it’s our job to keep clients engaged, contribute to the conversation and make advancements within our organizations. For more information on how to effectively support and deploy a LGBTQ+ campaign, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us.
Additionally, here are some great resources and starting points we compiled to get educated, volunteer and make impactful donations:
- Born This Way Foundation: Founded with the goal of creating a kinder and braver world, supporting the mental and emotional wellness of young people by providing resources to thrive and drive change in communities.
- GLSEN: A national network of educators, students and local chapters working to support LGBTQ-inclusive K-12 education and supportive environments of all students, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
- LGBTQ Freedom Fund: Posts bail to secure the safety and liberty of individuals in U.S. jails and immigration facilities, as discrimination and poverty disproportionately puts the community behind bars.
- Lavender Rights Project: Provides low-cost civil legal services and community programming centered in values of social justice for transgender and queer low-income people. Services aim to reimagine the legal landscape for the LGBTQ+ community.
- Out & Equal: Workplace equality organization helping LGBTQ+ people thrive in workplace culture.
- PFLAG: Provides support and education to LGBTQ+ people, their parents, families and allies.
- The Marsha P. Johnson Institute: Named after one of the most prominent figures in the Stonewall uprising, the MPJI protects and defends the human rights of Black transgender people by organizing advocacy, creating community programming and developing leadership.
- The Trevor Project: Support center for LGBTQ+ youth that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services.
- Transgender Law Center: Legal expertise committed to racial justice and community-driven strategies to keep trans and gender-nonconforming people alive and fighting for liberation.
- True Colors United: Implements solutions to youth homelessness that focus on the unique experiences of LGBTQ+ young people.