This weekend, the annual Pride in London parade will mark an important date in the diary. People will come together to celebrate the community and help raise awareness of the struggles still facing LGBT members of society.
What many PR agencies still need to learn is that Pride is not another event to be added to the PR calendar. It’s not an opportunity to promote a new product by referencing a lifestyle or reinforcing a stereotype via a LGBT themed feature that fits your chosen agenda. You can’t ‘ride the wave’ if you or your client have no intention of fully supporting and investing in the cause long term.
Skittles came under fire recently for doing just this. Though creative, their choice to drain the rainbow because “only one rainbow matters this Pride” came under widespread criticism. Many argued the move to all white skittles as unreflective of racial equality and others questioned how the campaign benefitted the LGBT community – with no obvious support provided to a relevant cause.
The backlash was strong and largely from millennials. As Nick Rowland wrote for the Guardian “Today, the LGBT community is no longer a niche consumer segment but an influential group whose voice grows stronger all the time. LGBT culture has become a driving force of the mainstream There are 1.8 billion so-called millennial consumers across the globe (those born between 1982 and the early 2000s), a group characterised by, among other things, its attitude of open-mindedness and tolerance.”
Another marker of this group is that they are engaged. Ready and willing to question ill thought out decisions made by largely heterosexual, middle aged white men in a board room.
But unlike Skittles – many brands get it right. Levi’s annual Pride Collection donates 100% of its profits to the Harvey Milk Foundation and the Stonewall Community Foundation. Adidas have a Pride Pack of their own, with profits again supporting Stonewall – specifically their Rainbow Laces campaign which promotes equality for lesbian, gay, bi and trans fans and players in sport.
Ultimately, PRs and brands need to wake up to what it means to get behind a movement. Ensure your support is considered. Help make a difference. Question your actions every step of the way. Talk to people with personal experience. Be proud of your work.