Pride month has increasingly become one of the most popular events in the corporate calendar. However, many organisations have fallen short of reaching the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: executing a Pride campaign successfully.
Whether its treating Pride as a seasonal hook or issuing an empty statement on social media with zero policies to support it, there are too many examples of well-intentioned but cursory attempts of engaging. Crass or glib attempts can be incredibly damaging to your corporate reputation. Think back to PureGym last year and its “12 Years of Slave” workout to mark Black History Month. As a result, many businesses are probably terrified of putting a foot wrong and triggering public backlash.
But here’s why we need companies to go for it.
There are still 69 countries around the world where anti-LGBTQ+ laws exist. 2021 is already the worst year in recent history for anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in America. Seventeen new bills were enacted into law, with the majority of these bills targeting transgender individuals.
Many global corporations file annual revenues that outsize the economy of numerous countries across the globe. This sort of financial heft gives businesses the power to trigger meaningful change and rewrite a societal narrative. Business leaders should ask themselves – how do we benefit from the people living in these countries? Is it right that we don’t act to improve issues that impact both our customers and employees?
Publicly speaking out during Pride about your support for the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t have to be a risk. Here’s how you do it right.
Rather than thinking of June as a time to dust off the rainbow-themed branding and slap it across your product lines, think about the steps your organisation has taken towards progressing LGBTQ+ equality. Driving tangible change within your company to improve representation and support LGBTQ+ employees should be the fundamental action underpinning any comms activity.
GSK and Citigroup are two examples of businesses who have committed themselves to annually gathering data and assessing the work they do across 10 key areas of employment policy and practice. Staff from across these organisations are also encouraged to complete an anonymous survey addressing their experiences of diversity and inclusion at work, to ensure the business receives honest and objective feedback.
Organisations shouldn’t be expected to innately have all the answers on how they can be supportive of the LGBTQ+ community. Don’t be afraid to ask your customers what it is they want to see from you. This could be executed formally through focus groups, or more casually through questionnaires on social media.
Seeking advice and partnering with specialists is also a powerful way to navigate uncertainty with thoughtful purpose. In turn, this can provide an indispensable platform and awareness for your partners, that they wouldn’t have otherwise had access to.
This year, Vans Europe have partnered with Where Love is Illegal, a project by Witness Change, that shares personal testimonials of survival from the LGBTQ+ community to help connect people, transform opinions and support change. Vans’ intention for the partnership is to create greater visibility of the LGBTQ+ community and help fight the stigma that many people face.
Whilst June should still be recognised as a moment to elevate efforts and spotlight LGBTQ+ celebration, you shouldn’t take your foot off the accelerator during the 11 other months in the year. This is what so often makes genuine and meaningful pride campaigns appear insincere, or merely a marketing ploy.
If you launch a campaign or a set of new policies during June, make sure you assign progress checks and benchmarking in the months ahead. Then next June, you talk about what you’ve been doing for the last year. Or, if you’re a business that offers an annual volunteering day allowance, you could consider including LGBTQ+ charities as part of this programme.
If you take the time to consider the work you do, alongside listening and connecting with experts, it’s not actually that hard for your business to execute genuinely impactful and welcome campaigns around LGBTQ+ issues. There are endless ways to support Pride throughout the year, so make sure you don’t restrict yourself to just 30 days of activism.