How to avoid ‘rainbow-washing’ and include allyship and innovation in your Pride marketing efforts instead

Parade-goers make their way down 5th Avenue during the NYC Pride March
Parade-goers make their way down 5th Avenue during the NYC Pride March.

  • Companies often turn to rainbow versions of their products during the month of June for Pride.
  • Rainbow-washing can be lazy, and there are better ways to show support for the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Create awareness, give context, partner with community leaders, and do something outside of June.
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I get pitched a lot by publicists, agents, and agencies for this column. Because I often use the behavior of certain people or companies as a jump-off point for articles, it makes sense that PR professionals would seek out similar coverage for their clients.

Publicists and account reps have many different resources for building their network, and an increasingly popular approach is to join and participate in online communities such as PR-focused Facebook groups. I’m in a few of these myself to stay informed, and the other day I saw a passing post that mentioned some new LGBTQ-related research. I’m always interested in seeing and referencing new data-backed studies, so I commented and asked for the press release.

I thought I wrote, “Feel free to send that report my way.” But from the looks of my inbox the past few weeks, perhaps I blacked out and actually said something more along the lines of “Open Sesame!” because the number of pitches I’ve received lately has been bonkers.

Read more: Young sellers making thousands a month on Depop reveal how they got their start

Brand after brand has forwarded me their “revolutionary” new campaign in which they’ve printed a rainbow version of their product and are giving a portion of proceeds to an LGBTQ-focused charity. I’ll certainly never turn my nose up at a company’s charitable giving efforts. But I’m also worried. For many of these companies, a rainbow version of their product for the month of June feels both performative and – dare I say it – lazy.

We know that we exist. So we want to see more than awareness in your pride marketing; we want to see allyship and innovation. Here are a few ideas on what that could look like – and why companies should care.

Consumer psychology has changed

Consumers increasingly look to where a brand stands on topics of social justice to determine their loyalty. Your customers and clients want to follow your company and buy your product not only for what it does but also for what you stand for.

We all like to purchase from companies that get us. And according to polling data from Gallup, the roar of both the LGBTQ community and economy is only getting louder. Highlights from that data include:

  • 5.6% of Americans identifying as LGBTQ, up from 4.5% in 2017,
  • 9.1% of millennials identifying as LGBTQ, with about half of that population identifying as bisexual, and
  • Nearly 16% of Gen Z identifying as LGBTQ, with 72% of that population identifying as bisexual. 1.8% of Gen Z identifies as transgender.

Translation? Queer people exist, and younger people identify as queer in greater numbers. Oppression efforts continue to run rampant, so we need your help.

As of this writing, 17 anti-transgender bills have already been signed into law this year, per a press release from the Human Rights Campaign. The impact these bills will have on trans youth is staggering; a University of Arizona study found that trans youth experience far higher suicide attempt rates, but an affirmation of their identity and pronouns by parents can greatly reduce this number.

Financial data on the LGBTQ community also paints a complex picture. Mainstream stereotypes depict queer people as lavish and fabulous. But overall, LGBTQ people are more likely to experience socioeconomic inequality, according to a demographics report from UCLA.

As you create awareness for the LGBTQ community during pride month, take time in your messaging to give context. Share with your audience about the current challenges we face as well as where your company stands.

How to attract loyal customers who promote you on their behalf

If pride marketing feels like walking on eggshells this year, here are a few steps you can take that are largely guaranteed to make a difference.

  • Hand the microphone over. Instead of rainbow-washing a community’s needs, partner with a community leader who can speak to important issues in an informed, compelling way. Influencer marketing is still a slippery slope, but spokespeople have been a tried-and-true visibility tactic for decades. The approach is win/win.
  • Do something outside of June. If you’ve missed the opportunity to promote pride in June … there are LGBTQ-related awareness days throughout the year. Your campaign is less likely to get caught in the rainbow-washed echo chamber that is June, too.
  • Go local. GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide includes a directory of community organizations to spotlight and be aware of. What are your local organizations, and how can you encourage supporting them? These grassroots initiatives often make an immediate impact and can literally save lives.

The LGBTQ economy continues to grow, and as a result, the pride marketing landscape is changing. Instead of phoning it in, use marketing dollars to spotlight issues that truly matter to your customers. Challenge yourself to zig when others zag, and you’re more likely to command our market’s attention for months and years to come.

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Florida governor banned transgender girls from competing in girls’ sports on first day of LGBTQ+ Pride Month

Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a news conference in December 2020 at Tampa General Hospital in Tampa, Florida.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Tuesday banning transgender girls from participating in girls’ sports in high school and college on the first day of LGBTQ+ Pride Month.

The “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” which was introduced by GOP state Sen. Travis Hutson in February, designates teams “on the basis of students’ biological sex at birth,” meaning transgender girls whose birth certificate says “male” as their biological sex are not allowed to participate in girls’ sports teams.

The law also expressly prohibits those whose “biological sex” on their birth certificate denotes male from participating in girls’ sports, but those whose “biological sex” is noted as female can play in boys’ sports.

When asked if there was a meaning behind signing the bill on June 1 ahead of its June 12 deadline, DeSantis said: “It’s not a message to anything other than saying we’re going to protect fairness and women’s sports.” The legislation goes into effect on July 1.

“We believe in the state of Florida protecting the fairness and integrity of women’s athletics,” DeSantis said at an event at the Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville. “I can tell you that in Florida, girls are going to play girls’ sports and boys are going to play boys’ sports.”

Supporters of the legislation say the act eliminates an unfair biological advantage by prohibiting transgender girls from competing in girls’ sports.

“We all know that men are stronger than women,” GOP state Sen. Kelli Stargel said at the Jacksonville event, which also featured a video of a track athlete who sued over transgender girls competing in high school girls’ sports.

Stargel, who championed the sports legislation, said in response: “When you’re looking at that video, it’s evident the woman, the transgender woman who competed, or self-identified woman, ran very differently than the others in the competition. It’s physiologically different. Men are stronger, they have bigger lung capacity, stronger muscles.”

Critics – including Stargel’s daughter Laura – said the legislation discriminates against transgender athletes and could have a negative impact on their mental and emotional wellbeing.

“Excluding transgender children from sports will exacerbate feelings of discrimination and severely impact their mental and physical health,” Laura Stargel wrote in an op-ed published in the Orlando Sentinel.

“I played sports all throughout middle, high school and college,” she added. “Not once did I stop to consider what gender my teammates were assigned at birth.”

Democratic lawmakers in the state also condemned DeSantis’ decision to sign the bill.

“This is yet another hate-driven attack from the governor and Republican legislators, and it’s insulting that they’ve staged this morning’s photo-op on the first day of Pride Month,” state Sen. Shevrin Jones said. “At the end of the day, transgender kids are just kids.”

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, who became Florida’s first openly gay Latinx legislator, tweeted in response: “Appalling. First day of LGBTQ Pride Month and @GovRonDeSantis signs SB 1028 which bans trans kids from school sports.”

“FHSAA has allowed trans kids to participate in FL since 2013 with ZERO problems,” Smith continued. “This fuels transphobia and puts vulnerable kids at risk for no good reason.”

The Senate passed the anti-transgender sports bill in April, and it initially had a deadline to be signed into law by DeSantis on June 12 – the same day as the five-year anniversary of the shooting at the Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, that left 49 people dead.

Read the original article on Business Insider