Despite great strides of progress over the past few decades, the fight for full equality and acceptance of LGBTQ people is far from over.
Corporates has been a growing ally and critical partner in many key moments for LGBTQ rights, including the movement for marriage equality, the fight to decriminalize LGBTQ people in India in 2018, and the successful 2017 campaign to repeal the anti-LGBTQ HB 2 in North Carolina. Brands have immense power, especially in their advertising, where LGBTQ visibility and representation matters. This brand power extends outside of advertising as well – to all internal and external communications.
A number of corporations and brands prioritize workplaces where LGBTQ employees can achieve and have equal benefits and opportunities. But this is just one step on the journey toward true allyship. Corporate accountability does not begin and end with employee benefits and hiring practices – it extends to how a corporation spends its dollars, philanthropic and political. It extends to how a corporation takes public stands and lobbies against anti-LGBTQ legislation, and how it supports and lobbies for pro-LGBTQ legislation, because this legislation impacts LGBTQ employees and consumers.
Protecting all LGBTQ people, including LGBTQ people of color, members of the trans community, and LGBTQ youth, is both good for business and good for the world. The journey to true allyship for LGBTQ people is not always easy, but it is always important. Any company that wants to be a true ally of the LGBTQ community should work toward the below recommendations. Recent high-profile calls to action from LGBTQ employees and LGBTQ consumers have shown that the bar for corporate allies has been raised. Community leaders and press actively research a company’s political donations and other internal information and speak out if a Pride or other LGBTQ-inclusive marketing campaign conflicts with a company’s internal policies or political giving.
Note that these recommendations should not be considered an exhaustive checklist, at the end of which a company is “done.” Being an ally is an active, ongoing, principled journey.
Especially during LGBTQ Pride Month, and for Pride campaigns:
- June is LGBTQ Pride Month, and a time when many brands showcase support for LGBTQ people. June should not be the only time this support is exhibited, but it is the loudest time of year for allies to express support for the community. At a time when brands are trusted by many consumers, and advertising and brand marketing have the opportunity to educate the general public on LGBTQ people and issues, GLAAD recommends that companies showcase support and include LGBTQ people in campaigns year-round. The following are best practices for public or internal Pride campaigns, though they should be used for campaigns outside of Pride Month too.
- Don’t market to the moment, join the movement: Give back to LGBTQ advocacy and direct service non-profits. Involve LGBTQ employees in deciding the causes and organizations to support, and include state and local organizations, as well as organizations led by and serving transgender people and LGBTQ people of color.
- Showcase the diversity and intersectionality of the LGBTQ community in advertising, marketing, public advocacy, internal communications, and employee programming. This includes ability, age, body size, ethnicity, faith, geography, race, socioeconomic status, and more.
- Feature more LGBTQ talent and community members in external mainstream and community specific campaigns and programming. Compensate LGBTQ talent for appearances and panels, both internal and external facing, at corporate events and in promotion of LGBTQ-inclusive campaigns.
- Include LGBTQ consultants who specialize in storytelling and out LGBTQ creatives behind the scenes. Take a comprehensive inclusive approach, from the creation of the campaign to the final product. Include LGBTQ professionals on marketing, production, and other third-party consulting roles.
- Bring in LGBTQ voices early for LGBTQ Pride Month campaigns. LGBTQ consultants, talent, employees, and nonprofit partners should be a part of conversations around Pride initiatives as plans are being developed. Allow ample time to bring LGBTQ voices, professionals, and beneficiaries into planning for June.
- Devote budgets to Pride campaigns that are consistent with other programmatic campaigns, consistent with LGBTQ consumer behaviors.
- Be very aware who the target for Pride initiatives are. Some initiatives will primarily benefit LGBTQ employees. Others may target consumers. Others may target the community where you operate. Each one of those targets will have a distinct, if overlapping, focus.
Every day of the year, including LGBTQ Pride Month and beyond:
- Extend support to the political fight. True corporate allies do not donate to candidates or elected officials who introduce, vote yes, or otherwise support anti-LGBTQ legislation or block passage of pro-LGBTQ legislation like the Equality Act. Develop criteria to vet elected officials and political donations by evaluating candidate platforms and LGBTQ voting records.
- Use your company’s leverage and internal resources, including social media, marketing, public relations and government affairs, to speak out against local and national anti-LGBTQ legislation, and engage other businesses to do the same. Speak out and support pro-LGBTQ legislation when proposed.
- Support LGBTQ media via advertising buys to get your message heard. Include LGBTQ publications, digital and print, in media plans during Pride and all year round.
- Support the notion of Pride 365 and plan LGBTQ-inclusive campaigns and support for the community year-round, not just during Pride month. Consider including LGBTQ people and families in holiday creative, Mother’s and Father’s Day, and other moments of recognition like Black History Month.
- Seek out Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) training, including LGBTQ-specific workshops, for yourself and your employees as well as. Seek out resources like the GLAAD Media Institute.
- Commit to employee recruitment initiatives that include the LGBTQ community, including outreach to transgender people and LGBTQ people of color.
- Use meetings with your LGBTQ ERG to learn what LGBTQ issues are arising where your company does business, and to help form strategic responses with support from external LGBTQ experts and consultancies.
- Tell authentic and accurate LGBTQ stories, spotlighting LGBTQ people and issues year-round on social media, in editorial, and in internal communications, with consideration for how these stories enter into a cultural context and conversation.
Speaking out against anti-LGBTQ legislation: Apple
- Amidst an unprecedented wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation in 2022, Apple utilized multiple offices to take action. Apple lobbied against these harmful bills, filled court briefs in cases involving LGBTQ people, and encouraged other large companies to take public stands against this legislation. (Read more here.)
Building authentic LGBTQ campaigns that give back: Can’t Cancel Pride, PUMA
- In 2020, iHeartRadio and P&G developed Can’t Cancel Pride, a concert in celebration of LGBTQ Pride, available to all via iHeartRadio livestream. In 2022, the now annual effort brings top out artists including Lizzo, Elton John, and Kim Petras, to raise awareness of current LGBTQ issues and support from more than 20 brands to donate funds to GLAAD, SAGE, The Trevor Project, the National Black Justice Coalition, CenterLink, and OutRight Action International. (Read more here.)
- When ideating on their 2022 LGBTQ Pride Month efforts, PUMA collaborated with LGBTQ talent, creatives, and advocates from start to finish. PUMA partnered with Texas-based out queer artist Carra Sykes to design a Pride footwear collection, partnered with Cara Delevingne to help promote the collection, and collaborated with out photographer LaQuann Dawson to lead the collection’s photography. Proceeds from the collection benefit GLAAD.
For media inquiries, contact [email protected]. The GLAAD Media Institute consults behind-the-scenes on LGBTQ representation with brands, Hollywood, journalists, tech products, and more content creators. To learn more about the GLAAD Media Institute’s workshops and trainings for corporate allies, contact [email protected].