June is Pride Month, a time for the LGBTQ+ community and its allies to celebrate progress and visibility. It’s also an opportunity to advocate for LGBTQ+ people’s rights to live safely, without fear of violence, harassment, and discrimination.
We see more LGBTQ+ representation in media and marketing than ever before. But we can’t forget that homophobic, transphobic, and biphobic attacks still occur at an astonishing frequency. So how can a person or a brand meaningfully support LGBTQ+ customers and employees?
Consumers today expect brands to use their platforms responsibly, especially with regards to social advocacy. Like Black History Month and Women’s History Month, Pride has become an observance many brands choose to publicly participate in.
However, the increase in brand voices joining the conversation can drown out nonprofits, small businesses, and individuals and obscure the reasons why Pride is more essential now than ever. Consider how much more often LGBTQ+ people must fear microaggressions based on their sexuality and identity in their workplaces, compared with their straight or cisgendered colleagues.
Companies that do the bare minimum perpetuate the idea that Pride is only a frivolous party, or that we as a society have already achieved equality. Ultimately, this practice tarnishes more than brand reputations—it ignores the current level of bigotry in the name of profitability.
Brands that honestly want to improve the lives of their LGBTQ+ customers and employees alike need to stay involved and informed. If you’re looking for ways to express genuine support, here are a few best practices and a list of resources to do so without the brand narcissism and revisionism that have become so prevalent.
Before you create any kind of Pride-related campaign, understand the goal. Why? The key difference between amplification and manipulation is intent. If your organization isn’t acting for noble reasons, the intention will quickly surface and overshadow any peripheral good.
Whether your directive to take action comes from higher-ups or out of a brainstorm, ask yourself a few questions.
Do you directly make money from it?
If the answer is yes, that’s manipulation, and is unethical.
Do your company’s corporate practices oppose the campaign’s message of acceptance?
If the answer is yes, that’s hypocrisy, and your business needs to do a lot of internal work before launching a marketing campaign.
Do you take a stand to do the right thing and support your employees and customers? Better yet, do you give LGBTQ+ people a platform to tell their stories, champion their causes, and create positive change in their lives, in and outside of work?
If the answer is yes, that’s amplification. These are the kinds of Pride campaigns marketers should strive to create.
While we can’t control business objectives as marketers, we have ethical obligations as humans. If your Pride campaigns’ intent doesn’t center on elevating the LGBTQ+ community, regardless of the monetary outcome, you should take it off the table.
Marketers: Exercise courage and candor with your team if a Pride campaign feels insufficient. Too many people have lost their lives trying to have their voices heard— staying silent when it’s time to stand for what you believe in is a privilege that takes your voice for granted.
No one needs another empty Pride campaign full of rainbows that represent capitalism instead of action. By speaking up, you can create accountability within your organization and push for growth and evolution. It would be better to use your energy fighting for your company’s values to align with its practices than to run a disingenuous campaign.
Best practices for Pride campaigns
Now that we’ve addressed the paramount best practice—thoughtful intent that leads to action—let these guidelines help you create an impactful plan.
Don’t confuse a rainbow logo with a campaign
If you slap a rainbow on your logo and do nothing else—no external donations, no workforce support, etc.—revisit the previous section. That’s the definition of rainbow washing. As fashion industry watchdog Good on You puts it, rainbow washing can “distract from a brand’s more problematic business activities.” Without action to back it up, rainbow washing does little more than cover up an organization’s true colors.
Even small organizations can find ways to support the cause through action without monetary investment. Organizations without large budgets can show their support by volunteering, creating employee resource groups, donating a percentage of sales of Pride-specific merchandise (or all sales during June) to local LGBTQ+ nonprofits, and amplifying meaningful campaigns from other brands.
Build a diverse team before you start planning
One of the pillars of Pride is representation. If you have the resources to build a larger campaign, make sure your team reflects the community. As you look ahead to the following year, talk to your HR department about incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) into hiring practices and ongoing employee training.
Many LGBTQ+ marketing agencies and consultants would also love to partner with you to come up with a well-rounded campaign—and not just for Pride. Think about what voices you include in campaign planning all year long. Can additional employees or consultants partner with you on future campaigns to add even more creativity and diverse representation into your work?
Limited-edition Pride merchandise started as a good idea, and it still can be. The challenge with these exclusive collections is their homogeneity and lack of transparency. No one needs another “love is love” tchotchke that costs $10, with only $1 going to a mysterious beneficiary.
Ultimately, your company still has to look out for its bottom line. To effectively support the LGBTQ+ community with your merch:
- Explain where and how much money will be donated. Ideally, you’re donating 100% of profits. Talk to your wholesaler or supplier about what you’re doing, too—they might want to jump in. Just don’t pocket the difference.
- Make it unique. Rainbows are beautiful, but a lot of holiday-specific designs end up in another landfill if they have no long-term value. Instead of an uninspiring rainbow on a T-shirt, you could create a colorful pattern people can wear year-round.
- Consider a collaboration with an LGBTQ+-owned business. This relationship gives the business owner a larger platform to elevate their brand. And it creates something special that your audience will find valuable.
Do your research
Don’t forget the power of content. Seek out real stories from the LBGTQ+ community and promote them. These can go in blog posts, emails, on packaging—the opportunities are endless.
The research is vital even without the content component. Especially if you are an ally and not a member of the community, don’t guess at what someone’s experience is like. That’s how tropes happen, and tropes perpetuate lies.
Support beyond Pride Month
We already mentioned DE&I initiatives, but, again, Pride should reflect actions that already take place. Share diverse stories as a marketer. Listen to LGBTQ+ activists and community members. Establish employee resource groups. And finally, hold your organizations accountable to their political donations.
Stand with us
Here’s a list of organizations Postclick has donated to this month.
- Human Rights Campaign: Works to give all LGBTQ+ people the freedom to live without fear, and with equality under the law
- American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU): Ensures all people have equal rights and liberties under the law
- Out & Equal: Fosters safe, empowering workplace cultures across all industries
- Sage: Dedicated to supporting and improving the lives of elderly LGBTQ+ people and their caregivers
- The Attic Youth Center: Dedicated to serving and supporting LGBTQ+ youth and allies
Many more nonprofits are doing incredible work. Look for local options if you want to volunteer or donate within your community. Together, we can cause an effect.