Pride month is being celebrated in the US right now and soon, the rainbows will fade from mega-corporate logos and branding. Making a constant commitment to inclusivity and anti-discrimination isn’t always easy and marketing has minefields aplenty.
So how does a small business navigate this? We’re starting from a deficit of trust and there are a few reasons why.
The large-scale, mega-corporate marketing and PR targeted at the LGBTQIA+ community that goes on in June for Pride month, collectively referred to as “rainbow washing” (or sometimes even less flattering pandering accusations), has come under fire for being largely lip service and sometimes downright harmful by community advocates.
For example, one independent journalist penned an editorial, putting AT&T on blast for publicly supporting LGBTQIA+ causes while funding political initiatives that negatively impact the community. I’d consider this a prime example of what not to do.
Businesses that want to be genuine in their commitment to pride have plenty of options that don’t require vast marketing or PR budgets.
Pride is ultimately about celebrating progress and obstacles surmounted by the community and highlighting the work needed to promote equality for everyone, regardless of identity or orientation.
The first thing any business can do is reflect internally. Address any dirty laundry that might be kicked behind the couch in the corner.
Try asking these questions:
- Are our policies gender-neutral?
- Do any job titles involve gendered terms?
- Is the language in morality clauses modern?
- How do your benefits packages handle LGBTQIA+ health issues?
The other thing businesses can do, even if you are a business of just one person, is be an active member of your community.
Below are a few accessible, actionable suggestions on how to promote a welcoming and inclusive world:
- Listen – Be informed about what goes on in your locale. Sometimes just being aware is more than half the battle.
- Speak – if there is something going on in your community that you have a strong opinion on, speak up. Twitter is popular these days. Few things are more impactful than a call to city hall or the commerce department from a local business owner. You have more power than you probably realize. And yes, it IS good for business because it builds trust and loyalty within your customer base. Good things happen to those who make an effort to do the right thing.
- Ask Questions – Nothing beats good old honesty and accountability. Colleagues, customers, and the community at large will respect you more if you are willing to open a dialog. This can be individual conversations or a short survey in a newsletter or social media post. This builds trust and gives you an opportunity to serve as a role model for others.
- Back Local Events – Get your name and logo out there. I know this one feels inaccessible to smaller businesses, but hear me out. Obviously, organizations running events like financial or in-kind contributions. If you can do that, great! A lot of organizations struggle with finding safe meeting spaces- can you unlock the office for 2 hours one evening after work one night a month? Something as simple as volunteering your parking lot for some extra space or putting a banner on your webpage for a week makes a big difference too. Push their events on your socials. Can I borrow your printer?
At the end of the day, every day, everyone just wants to be treated equally, with kindness and compassion.
Last I checked, those are two things we haven’t put a commercial price tag on yet. So, above all else, be kind. It’s amazing how far that can get you.
This editorial was originally published on July 14, 2021.