June is a month dedicated to uplifting and celebrating the voices of LGBTQ+ people.
Although Pride is often associated with brightly colored parades and festive parties, it is essential to understand that the celebration we know today started out of protest. After facing centuries of extremely inequitable laws that repressed LGBTQ+ people, the patrons of The Stonewall Inn fought back and started the modern Gay Liberation Movement.
When deciding how your organization will recognize Pride, it is vital to remember its origins and focus on authenticity.
As the month is coming to a close, it’s a great to time to reflect on how we’ve celebrated and the opportunities that exist for ongoing initiatives and future celebrations.
#1: Highlight Real Stories
To add authenticity to your messaging, allow LGBTQ+ people to tell their stories. Speak with your company or community members to find compelling Pride stories. Allowing your platform to be a way to amplify LGBTQ+ voices is an excellent way to show support that can easily be scaled for many different business models.
In 2019, Macy's took this idea to the next level by partnering with a group of LGBTQ+ influencers to create their video series, “Find Your Truth.” The videos followed the individuals as they consulted with a Macy's personal stylist and discussed living an authentic life. Most importantly, this campaign was never an advertisement for Macy's but a vehicle to share stories and create a human connection. The videos were integrated into Macy's YouTube page as well as their website and a coordinating media campaign supported the content creation. Ultimately, the campaign delivered over 1.8 million ad impressions, 441,000 video views with an average 23% view rate and 6,500 clicks to the website.
Another approach is asking your employees what Pride means to them and how they celebrate. Use the stories and images to create social media posts that profile personal celebrations. This emotional connection will both show inclusivity to your LGBTQ+ team members and offer potential customers an opportunity to connect with your business.
In the spirit of sharing stories, here are a few ways our team members at Miles celebrate Pride:
“Being a queer family with a 3-year-old, Pride has special meaning. It's more than us standing together with other LGBTQ+ and saying, ‘we're proud of who we are.’ We are standing together to remind everyone (and ourselves) that we will not be oppressed and not stay silent as our rights and identities are belittled. Pride marches haven't been something we could participate in the last few years with the pandemic, but this year we plan to fully participate in the city march and fair again! And you know we'll be at a Drag Queen Brunch with the entire family!” — Dennis Koster, Travel Media Sales and Marketing Executive
“My best friend from childhood and his husband host a Pride Brunch before the parade in Denver. We get the group together at their house, go see the festivities and head back to their house for an afterparty. It’s a fun celebration with great friends.” — Carrie Tomlinson, Account Director
“My dad started volunteering at Denver Pride several years ago. Every year, my family and I support him in those efforts however we can, whether through education, events, groups, clubs, etc. We also support pride-based products year-round.” — Leisa Cashman Trujillo, Interactive Producer
#2: Harness the HRC Municipal Equality Index
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is an organization seeking equal rights and fair treatment for the LGBTQ+ community. The group maintains several advocacy campaigns throughout the year and supplies resources to LBGTQ+ individuals and families. One major campaign that concerns the travel and tourism sector is the HRC Municipal Equality Index. Regularly, the organization evaluates destinations on how inclusive the area's policies, laws and services are to LGBTQ+ people. Criteria include non-discrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement and leadership on LGBTQ+ equality. Destinations are scored and receive a rating between 0 – 100.
Now is a great to time to see how your destination currently ranks and to set a reminder to track change over time. If your destination received a high score, consider highlighting the initiatives responsible for it and brainstorm ways to amplify them. This could be done at a local Pride event for your community as well as on social media, website content or advertising. If your destination did not receive a high score or if you are currently not one of the 506 cities evaluated, you can use the criteria to identify growth opportunities and highlight policies or programs your community has that seek to further inclusivity in the destination.
#3: Avoid "Rainbow Washing"
One of the most common strategies seen during Pride month is brands utilizing the rainbow flag. You'll see it on social media header images, logos, packaging and more. Although this can be seen as a sign that the company is inclusive, if the company's actions do not match the usage of the rainbow flag, then the gesture is empty.
A more meaningful strategy would be to connect your organization to action. Internally, this can include providing employees with engagement opportunities and resources. Externally, this can include partnering with advocacy organizations to assist with established initiatives. Start researching in advance to determine which partner organizations align best with your organization’s goals or intended area of impact. For example, you can partner with a chapter of a national organization such as PFLAG or a local advocacy organization such as Equality Virginia.
There are many different ways to celebrate Pride—during the month of June and beyond. As you reflect on your own organization’s approach to being inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community, remember that the most important component is authenticity. Engage with your customers and your community to create a genuine experience. Connect your marketing to action with volunteerism, advocacy or donation. And, more than anything, remember that Love is Love.