In the past few years, companies have become increasingly vocal in their support of social causes, organizations, and celebrations. One of the most prevalent and recognizable is Pride Month.
Like any diversity and inclusion effort from businesses, the support is welcome as long as it is authentic and not self-serving. How many companies actively support LGBTQ+ rights year round? How many actually implement real change?
It goes without saying: There’s a right way and wrong way for brands to participate in Pride Month. And today, we’re taking a look at both the good and the bad. Let’s get into it.
What is Pride Month?
LGBTQ+ Pride Month occurs annually throughout the United States in June. Commemorating the Stonewall riots, which occurred at the end of June 1969, events are held as a celebration of LGBTQ+ self-identity, inclusivity, and equality.
One of the most important aspects of Pride is that you don’t have to fall into one of the LGBTQ+ categories to participate. Pride is meant to be celebrated by everyone, regardless of age, gender, or sexual orientation.
How do businesses celebrate authentically?
You have no doubt seen countless companies on social media incorporate the rainbow-colored Pride flag into their logo this month. And while that looks nice in your social feed, it can be somewhat of a hollow gesture if not followed through on with purpose.
So, how do businesses avoid this and participate in Pride month authentically? Here are several ways socially-conscious companies can make a real difference for the LGBTQ+ community this month and throughout the year.
Be honest and transparent
Changing your logo for a month isn’t enough. With all Pride Month initiatives, make sure you are honest and clear about your purpose.
- Define what your support means
- Show that you are not just joining in on the trend
- Don’t use vague or non-committal language
- Outline internal and external steps your company is taking to support the LGBTQ+ community
- State how the company is currently, or plans to, give back through charity
- Follow through on all initiatives when you say you will
Get employees involved
Listening is a critical part of inclusivity. By getting a diverse group of employees together to brainstorm, plan, and execute your celebration, ensure more voices will be heard and a greater body will be represented.
By listening to and implementing employee feedback, it will help facilitate a sense of engagement and support within your company. It will also potentially prevent you from saying or doing the wrong thing and undermining your efforts.
Be inclusive and authentic
Representation matters. Ensure your company’s recruiting, marketing, and PR efforts are inclusive year-round, not just this month. Be careful not to use outdated or stereotypical depictions of LGBTQ+ individuals in your messaging and advertisements. Don’t draw special attention to it either. Use your efforts as a way to normalize these communities and give them a voice.
Educate yourself and others
Pride Month is more than just a celebration, it is also a time to reflect on history and the opportunity to acknowledge where we can still do better.
Use this occasion to educate yourself, your employees, and your customers through education and resources. Employees can participate in company-wide continuous learning efforts to promote awareness, diversity, inclusion, and support. On the public front, ensure your messaging includes substance and contributes to conversation rather than just ringing hollow.
Don’t use it as a selling tool
While it may seem like an advantageous situation, exploiting social initiatives like Pride to reach sales or business goals is never a good idea. In fact, it is undermining and exploitative.
Yes, statistics do show that supporting social causes can increase your brand’s reputation (which can lead to increased sales and improved employee recruiting), it should not be your driving motivation.
Ask yourself: Are your efforts adding value to the conversation? Do you see your company as a safe space or ally? What are your motivations? If sales or business strategy is near the top of your list, you are doing it for the wrong reasons.
Prioritize internal support
While so much focus is on public outreach, Pride Month is an excellent opportunity to look inward at your company’s internal policies as well.
- Does your company emphasize in its mission and value statements, the fair treatment and open support of ALL people, including the LGBTQ+ community?
- Does your company have a written anti-discrimination policy with clearly defined consequences for those in violation?
- Does your company provide equal benefits for all employees regardless of their sexual orientation—including pay and health?
- Does your company offer diversity and inclusion training to ensure a safe workplace for all employees?
- Does your company have a diversity and inclusion committee or other social responsible groups to support minority groups?
Support causes year-round
The LGBTQ+ community (including your employees and customers) needs year-round support. June is only one month out of the year—and the safest way to show support without fear of backlash. To be a true ally, it is necessary to show support all the time, not just when it is trendy.
If your company does not already support the LGBTQ+ community through equality, education, and charitable giving throughout the year, use Pride Month as a conversation starter to lobby management and staff to do so.