As a gay man, it’s encouraging to see companies embracing social progress and adopting pro-LGBTQ+ values to reflect the cultural evolution towards equality and inclusivity. But these have, admittedly, not always not hit the mark; in some instances they have been nothing more than a shallow attempt to profit over a marginalized community.
The LGBTQ+ community, while vibrant and thriving, is faced with the resurgence of discriminatory practices, legislation, lack of representation and fear of violence. This is especially true for transgendered people and persons of color within each subcommunity.
This is why it’s essential for companies to go beyond generalized messages of support and take more care in developing their Pride Month communications strategies. Below are important guidelines for crafting a strategy that connects with the community authentically and, more importantly, validates their existence and experiences.
1. LGBTQ+ audiences are not a monolith
Many companies make the mistake of using generalized language about equality and pride to speak to the entire LGBTQ+ audience, which falls short of validating the wide spectrum of experiences of each subgroup within the community. Men, women, transgender people, persons of color and other identities experience discrimination in specific ways and desire to have their journeys represented as part of the larger Pride narrative.
When developing communications towards LGBTQ+ audiences, companies should go beyond the standard “Love is Love” narrative and create multiple pieces of content that speak directly to each audience with authenticity, empathy and deep understanding of their community’s struggles and vibrancy.
2. Inclusive language goes beyond pronouns
Companies have made significant strides over the last few years in addressing employees and customers by their chosen pronouns, empowering them to embrace their identity. However, there are still vestiges of gendered language in standard communications that uphold the heteronormative framework as the standard.
Titles such as “Mr.”, “Ms.” or “Mrs.” are generally used in formal settings without input from the designated persons. Familial roles, such as husband and wife, are also assumed unless otherwise stated. Job titles, such as “chairman”, “salesman”, and “businessman” serve to uphold patriarchal views of certain professions.
In order to adopt a true culture of inclusivity in internal and external communications, companies should avoid using gendered language to ensure no one feels excluded from the conversation or the audience.
3. Involve your LGBTQ+ employees in the process
There are no people better suited to help develop your Pride Month communications strategies than your LGBTQ+ employees. Messaging drawn from lived experiences will resonate far better than catch-all messages of support.
Most importantly, you must be open to being corrected when the proposed strategy doesn’t pass the smell-test. Target audiences will appreciate being spoken to by one of their own and this will help foster good will and increase confidence among them.
4. Focus on the issues
The corporatization of pride has become a point of criticism within the LGBTQ+ community, with some arguing that Pride’s history as a protest and advocacy movement is diluted by general sentiments focused on equality. This is especially poignant during a time when homophobia and associated legislation are being brought back to the forefront across the sociopolitical landscape.
For your Pride Month messaging to really showcase support, it must discuss the issues and challenges that the community is facing specifically, such as the eradication of LGBTQ+ education in schools, trans athlete exclusion from sports teams or the lack of quality representation in media. To earn the community’s support, you must demonstrate thorough understanding of and advocacy for the issues that matter to them.
5. Avoid “pinkwashing” and take meaningful action
Companies that take a surface-level approach to their Pride Month communications strategy by offering generalized messages of support without enacting any major initiatives or policy changes run the risk of being called out for “pinkwashing” and losing credibility among LGBTQ+ audiences. In order to show true support from the community, companies should take meaningful action, such as donating to charity, implementing new DEI policies and protections or amplifying LGBTQ+ voices to demonstrate authenticity and solidarity.
6. Make it a regular part of your ongoing strategy
Queer people don’t stop wanting recognition and validation after Pride Month. Their identities impact every moment personally and professionally, and there is an increasing expectation for companies to make consistent efforts in acknowledging and supporting their community to earn their goodwill or business.
Companies should incorporate outreach and advocacy towards the LGBTQ+ community into their standard communications efforts in order to truly foster a connection with them and proliferate the message of equality and acceptance year round.
Posted by Paolo Ramos