Pride 2022 marked another year of joyful celebration as individuals and organizations showed support for the LGBTQ+ community. While most companies highlighted authentic queer experiences through meaningful campaigns, poorly shrouded “rainbow capitalism” is still a huge issue.
Equality is not a trend; it is an ongoing fight. Now more than ever, companies should use their platforms to champion the cultural movement, celebrate the diversity, and magnify the voices of the LGBTQ+ collective. Pride month might be over but advancing inclusivity and acceptance, both in your branded campaigns and within your company, should be an all-year endeavor.
Inclusion and Acceptance is a Year-round Effort
Don’t activate then disassociate. Just because Pride is over doesn’t mean you should stow away your inclusion initiatives and acceptance campaigns for next year. Now is the time to prove to your audience that you mean business by doubling down on your brand inclusivity efforts.
In this blog, we cover four principles every brand should consider when curating authentic inclusivity messages:
- Practice what you preach
- Avoid rainbow-washing
- Choose inclusive language
- Accurately reflect LGBTQ+ experiences
Practice What You Preach
It’s easy enough to make public claims that your brand is fully inclusive, then allow unjust policies and toxic workplace behaviors to persist behind closed doors. True acceptance starts from within. Before you promote inclusivity in your campaigns, it’s crucial to cultivate a work environment that is supportive of underrepresented communities.
Reflect on whether your brand’s external communications match its internal policies. Does your company offer equal paid leave for all new parents? Is there a flexible work policy for people with disabilities or mental health considerations? Are there menstrual leave and menopause policies? What about gender pay parity and trans-inclusion policies? If you’re unsure about whether your organization implements inclusive policies, ask company leadership and follow up. You can affect change within your workplace by advocating for inclusive policies.
Another way to affect positive change is by using proper communication and promoting advocacy. Having a zero-tolerance policy for derogatory remarks goes without saying; however, with 27 states not having any explicit statewide laws that protect LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination in employment, you cannot take a zero-tolerance equality policy for granted. That said, by fostering an environment that encourages people to ask questions, learn, grow, and encourage feedback as well as hiring individuals who push for equality in all manners of life, you can foster a more inclusive culture.
Not only does promoting an inclusive workplace help you stand out as a genuine organization in the eyes of your audience, but you can help your employees feel safe, heard and seen. Make sure your company has policies in place that benefit the LGBTQ+ community before you make public claims that the brand is inclusive.
Rainbow-washing is a term used to describe when a brand publicly shows support for LGBTQ+ communities but does nothing to actually advance LGBTQ+ inclusion and acceptance—or worse, they actively engage in practices that are damaging to LGBTQ+ individuals.
Rainbow-washing has become a serious issue for the LGBTQ+ community. In 2021, a Unilever study found that 66% of LGBTQ+ individuals between 18 and 34 believed that people from diverse backgrounds are featured in the media and ads purely to make up the numbers. So, how can companies ensure that their inclusive campaigns aren’t drenched in corporate clout and instead are used to truly support the LGBTQ+ community?
Although there are companies who fully align with the tenets of inclusivity and acceptance, some companies choose to simply slap a rainbow flag on their packaging to “align” with a cultural movement. As you brainstorm a campaign, ensure that you are actually supporting the LGBTQ+ community vs. using symbols like the rainbow flag for your own personal gain. So, what makes inclusive messages from companies meaningful, and what makes them insulting? Keep on reading to see how language and promoting real change can help your company properly celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.
Choose Inclusive Language
Creating an impactful campaign boils down to choosing the right language for your messaging. When working with a community that is often misrepresented, it’s essential to research the language you use for your earned media activations, social media campaigns and advertising scripts in depth.
Market research and advice from DEI professionals are vital to running a successful campaign. According to the Diversity Movement, organizations must “take the time to recognize the historical marginalization of the lGBTQ+ community, the contributions of LGBTQ+ employees, and the importance of equity both within the workplace and society at large” in order to create meaningful campaigns. In other words, taking into account multiple experiences allows your campaign to resonate with a diverse audience.
The H&M “Beyond the Rainbow” campaign is a key example wherein the consideration of diverse experiences was used to craft a message that resonated with the LGBTQ+ community. In their campaign, H&M addressed the meaning of Pride and how it’s not only a celebration but a fight. By presenting the stories that give Pride its meaning, H&M advocated the deep meaning of Pride, moving past the bright colors and ‘colorful noise’ and focusing instead on its core values of diversity, equality, and transparency.
The 2021 H&M campaign produced many social media posts for Pride month featuring LGBTQ+ members, like activist Chella Man and actress MJ Rodriguez. MJ Rodriguez openly discussed her transgender and Afro-Latinx representation, sharing how Pride advocated ‘living out loud’ more than ever before. The campaign also gave back to the LGBTQ+ community, as a donation of 100,000 USD was made to United Nations Free & Equal Campaign, which champions equal rights and fair treatment of the worldwide LGBTQ+ community. Through supporting the community and using inclusive language, H&M helped to solidify their campaign as one of future hope and prospect, seeing Pride not only as a monthly promotion but as a movement that inspires individuals to share their stories and support diversity and equality.
Accurately Reflect LGBTQ+ Experiences
When creating an inclusive campaign, it is important to involve members of the LGBTQ+ community to ensure their stories are being properly told. Otherwise, your campaign will come off as inauthentic. Brands who elevate LGBTQ+ voices have a real shot at making a difference and being successful in their campaigns.
One way brands can accurately reflect LGBTQ+ experiences is by partnering with LGBTQ+ creators and organizations. Not only does this provide you with an additional platform to leverage, but these individuals also have experiences and resources that people want to hear about.
Consider sharing your platform with members of the LGBTQ+ community who have something to say. Handing over your social media platforms to LGBTQ+ creators or organizations like SAGE or the The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in New York can help balance your inclusive messaging with business promotion and active change. Creating inclusive messaging from within the community allows companies to stand with LGBTQ+ members in practice, not just in principle.
Curating an impactful campaign that includes the global community allows you to use your platform for advocacy and demonstrates your support for those fighting for equality and acceptance. With 45% of under–34s claiming they would be more likely to do repeat business with an LGBTQ+–friendly company, it’s clear that a company’s social standing truly impacts its reputation and profit.
Create an Impactful Campaign with MWW
Come chat with the experts. With 35 years of industry leadership, we know a thing or two about effective messaging. Here at MWW, we combine corporate reputation, consumer marketing, crisis & issues management, and public affairs expertise with dedicated strategy, analytics, DE&I, digital, and creative and content teams. We stand with the LGBTQ+ community and aim to celebrate diverse individuals all year long and we can help you show your audience that you feel this way, too. Be the catalyst for change. Get in touch with our team for more info.