Happy Pride Month! No doubt we’ve all seen a flurry of rainbow flags hit our social media feeds this month, along with several hit inclusive campaigns in the media. Some of my personal favourites include the gender-neutral shaving campaign from Harry’s and Flamingo, and Absolut Vodka’s out and open campaign.
What do these excellent campaigns have in common? To put it simply, they engage in brand reputation shaping, rather than so-called ‘rainbow washing’ – using rainbow colours and imagery to suggest to consumers that a brand supports LGBTQ+ equality, without backing these campaigns up with concrete action.
When done right, Pride Month can be a special time to uplift the actions your organisation is doing for the LGBTQ+ community all year round, contributing to an overall inclusive reputation. But when done poorly, Pride campaigns can at best look cheap, and at worst, reflect tokenism.
Why leverage Pride Month for inclusive campaigns?
It’s easy to see why brands choose to jump on the Pride bandwagon for their campaigns. Globally, the LGBTQ+ community possesses a whopping $3.7 trillion in purchasing power. Brands looking to increase their revenue want to market to LGBTQ+ consumers and can be led to believe that Pride Month is the appropriate time to do so.
This isn’t a million miles away from the truth. Events like Pride seek to uncover the stories of marginalised communities, which is evidently a noble cause. And as is the case with Pride, often such dates have historical relevance, marking events that may otherwise fly under the radar.
The issue therefore isn’t that brands are honouring Pride Month. On the contrary, the more people that celebrate Pride, the more effective the month becomes. Marking Pride becomes an issue when it’s done only to drive sales in one specific month, and when LGBTQ+ inclusivity is not part of an organisation’s longer-term reputation programme.
How can organisations do better this Pride Month and beyond?
It’s clear that a one-off, tokenistic Pride Month campaign isn’t the right way to go when it comes to building an inclusive company reputation. Instead, businesses should focus on implementing genuine, year-round strategies to support marginalised communities, and match these efforts with appropriate PR campaigns. Here are some concrete examples for organisations to consider:
- Do work with the LGBTQ+ community to create inclusive campaigns. PR and comms professionals may be the ones strategizing and writing, but it’s your LGBTQ+ colleagues who are most qualified to speak about LGBTQ+ topics.
- Don’t stick a Pride flag on your website and call it a day. Not only does it appear tokenistic but can be seen as co-opting the deeply symbolic and personal meaning behind LGBTQ+ symbols.
- Do consider donating a portion of your profits to LGBTQ+ non-profits. This especially goes for those introducing Pride or otherwise LGBTQ+-themed products.
- Don’t release Pride campaigns without building an inclusive company first. Offer training on diversity and inclusion or create a staff LGBTQ+ network and ensure that any marketing efforts are backed up with concrete action.
Crucially, building an inclusive reputation begins within. It’s all well and good talking about your support of the LGBTQ+ community externally during Pride Month, but if your LGBTQ+ employees and customers do not receive your support all year round, it doesn’t appear authentic. Ultimately, shaping and managing a reputation involves taking accountability for actions and demonstrating strong company values, consistently.
Want to learn more about shaping a brand's reputation? Check out The Firefly Guide to Shaping Your Reputation.