Traditionally, June kickstarts the unfurling of rainbow flags for Pride Month; but, depending on where you live, celebrations may have started months before — or maybe the party is still to come, and you’ll be able to keep on celebrating all the way to the end of September.
In our hometown of Birmingham, the focus of Pride celebrations is now 24-25th September (I like to think that we save the best until last!). Whereas, over in Bury and Swansea, the party already got started back in April.
According to my research, there’s already over 180 Pride events scheduled to take place across the UK between April and September; so, for brands it poses the question: how and when is it best to show that you support the LGBTQ+ community?
How and when to get involved?
The right way to get involved in Pride should start with the understanding of why your organisation is getting involved. Remember that Pride is about showing your support for a community that, even now, can face prejudice and hatred – so it must be about supporting people and showing that you’re an ally, not as a marketing activity.
Marks & Spencer has been a pro-Pride supporter for several years; but, adding an LGBT (Lettuce, Guacamole, Bacon and Tomato) sandwich to their range as part of their 2019 Pride support saw them come under fire. This is a good example of how what might have seemed a great marketing idea, didn’t play out completely positively. Some might say it was a creative way to bring the Pride season to life, others felt it was a tacky marketing stunt. Either way, brands should take huge care with how they interact with Pride to ensure they don’t get it completely wrong.
The challenge is that the LGBTQ+ community represents a broad church of perspectives — some might absolutely love a drag-queen-fuelled glitzy, sequined celebration, others might be really offended to see stereotyping used to represent them.
Many in the LGBTQ+ community were horrified when the rainbow was appropriated through covid as a symbol of NHS support, whereas others felt it is a universal symbol of hope and peace that no-one owns.
The point is that the LGBTQ+ community is diverse and complex. And whilst we exist in a much more accepting society than we have seen in the past, the scars still run deep for those who have faced years of prejudice. No one person can speak for the entire LGBTQ+ community, so it’s important that any communications activity around Pride is viewed through a variety of lens.
If your organisation already has history of actively supporting the LGBTQ+ community, then Pride is just one part of a 365-day-a-year-commitment. But, if your organisation has not actively committed to anything in this space before, sticking a rainbow logo on your website and social media posts, to be seen to be joining the party, is not the answer.
Commitment to Pride needs to come from the C-Suite and represent a whole-systems approach to supporting inclusion and diversity for all underrepresented groups — it shouldn’t start as a marketing activity. Creating that kind of commitment and putting the right initiatives in place to follow through, can’t happen overnight; but every journey starts with a first step.
If organisations haven’t made an active commitment to support the LGBTQ+ community before, and Pride acts as a catalyst to make something happen for the first time, that is a brilliant outcome for all. Taking that first step starts by holding your hands out and saying to your LGBTQ+ community — whether it’s your own people or your customers — ‘We’d love the opportunity to show support, please let us know how we can help or be an ally’.
Make a real difference
Through this, organisations may find lots of brilliant ways to make a positive difference, which will be so much more powerful and engaging than just applying a rainbow banner to your comms.
Here at spottydog, we’ll be getting involved in Pride events across the Summer, working up to Birmingham Pride in September. The main Birmingham Pride event runs on Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th September, and we hope to hit the streets and join our neighbours as part of the Colmore BID float.
On Friday 23rd September, we’ll be getting the party started with our ‘Pride in Communications’ event, specifically to showcase great work in PR, Communications & Marketing to ensure representation of the LGBTQ+ community within brand comms. It’s going to be an event to learn, celebrate and show support so whether you’re an ally or proud to be part of the LGBTQ+ community all are welcome – we look forward to waving our rainbow flags with you.
If you need communications support, click here to get in touch with the spottydog team.