Today, June 30th, 2021, marks the end of Pride Month.
Pride has looked a little different this year with COVID restrictions putting many large celebrations on hold, but brands were still among the first in line to partner with the LGBTQIA+ community to promote inclusion and parity across the UK/US and beyond.
We saw a number of high-profile campaigns, with Reebok bringing back its ‘All Types of Love’ collection (and giving $75,000 to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project), while Calvin Klein partnered with suicide prevention charity The Trevor Project to invite Arca, Honey Dijon, King Princess, and others to recount and celebrate the defining moments in their own queer and trans journeys for its ‘#proudinmycalvins’ campaign.
It’s encouraging to see that a lot more household names are getting it right during Pride month, but in comms we’re acutely aware that campaigns-gone-wrong add fuel to already fiery discussions around the ills of commercialisation.
We’ve come a long way since Stonewall, and brands queue up to support the LGBTQIA+ community during June of each year, primarily (we hope) because they support the cause. However, there is of course a less authentic flipside; some brands unfortunately leverage Pride to make revenue, while others partake simply because of the reputational damage (and ultimately, decline of revenue) that would result if they didn’t.
This leads to some big names getting it completely wrong – I mean, nobody asked for that LGBT Sandwich, did they, Marks & Sparks?
The other, overarching problem with these campaigns is that they expose deeper issues regarding internal company culture and how brands conduct themselves behind closed doors.
Pride started in 1969, and discourse around how to support and protect the community has grown exponentially since then. With a multiplicity of actors facing a huge backlash during the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement, it’s now more widely understood than ever that changing your brands logo to campaign colours just won’t cut it.
Silence during campaigns such as Pride and BLM is no longer tolerated, and it takes a lot more to earn the respect of consumers. You might donate a lump sum to charity during June, but what work is your organisation doing every single day to follow through on its commitments to the community?
Do your organisation’s LGBTQIA+ employees feel comfortable expressing themselves? Do your employers make a conscious effort to use your colleagues preferred pronouns? Is your bathroom set-up accommodating to your trans employees?
These are but a few of the questions aimed at companies during Pride today, and important intersectional issues such as race are also rightly highlighted.
Many brands have good intentions, but a growing fear of getting things wrong.
Three key things can help you navigate this. Primarily, be authentic. Secondly, be brave. And thirdly, keep it simple.
Ephemeral commitments are far less rewarding than supporting marginalised and oppressed groups 24/7, 365 days a year, so be authentic in your approach. Make your brand somewhere that LGBTQIA+ individuals want to work, where they know you have their back.
Don’t be afraid to try something new, but sound your ideas out with a representative audience.
And don’t overcomplicate it. Inclusivity, diversity, and tolerance are simple concepts founded on respect and mutual appreciation. Remember this!