How to run a marketing campaign during pride

It’s that wonderful time again. Lady Gaga is blasting on full volume, every brand profile image has a rainbow filter slapped on it, and social media managers are armed and ready with their best Ru Paul’s Drag Race gif’s. Oh yes, it’s pride month. And like many of the other holidays brands have started to participate in recent years, it’s a veritable choose your own adventure where the winners receive brand praise while the losers fall into the snake pit of PR disaster.

Disclaimer: Like any group of people, the GSD (Gender and Sexually Diverse) community is made up of individuals with individual opinions — trying to assume everyone thinks and feels the same is a big mistake. I’m just one person, not only do I not speak for the GSD community, I don’t even speak for the cisgender, bisexual, white woman community. I’m just here to give you some helpful considerations for running a marketing campaign that doesn’t result in a full-on Twitter dumpster fire.

Things to consider when creating a pride campaign

Look at your internal policies, funding, and track record before participating

A large chunk of gen x, and most all millennials and gen z’s, are basically professional internet sleuths. If your brand has any kind of homophobic skeletons in the closet, they’re going to be found if you choose to participate in pride. This could include:

  • Any funding to political, health, legal, or lobby groups that have ever worked against GSD equality
  • Discriminatory practices like pay inequity
  • Employees (particularly leadership) on record making homophobic or transphobic commentary
  • Gendered hiring postings

And these are just the big ones. Not having diversity and inclusion policies in place, GSD folks in your business, and or support in place for GSD people in your business is probably a sign that you might need to do some internal work before participating.

Stay true to your brand voice

I completely understand the temptation to use drag slang, I mean, who doesn’t want to spill the tea? But avoid the trap and stick to your traditional brand voice when posting about pride. It’s the better choice for a few different reasons.

  • There is a lot of controversy that much of current internet and gay slang is actually coopted from the Black community. In general, it’s best to leave slang to the communities that invented it.

“Within any culture, language is the basis for communicating ideas, and plays a role in shaping people’s sense of community. Yet, in North American pop culture, Black Vernacular English (BVE) is often used by non-Black people for social capital. Due to its social influence, BVE is often misused out of context in an attempt to be relevant, relatable, or for credibility.” – Check out this great article from Feminuity for more context.

  • Your brand voice shouldn’t change for occasions. It can come off as insensitive, insincere, and also just won’t ring true to your brand.
  • Depending on the audience you serve, you run the risk of alienating them. For instance, your older viewers might feel excluded or confused.

Amplify, spotlight, and pay GSD individuals

If you are going to run a pride campaign, have LGBTQIA2+ folks work on it. In the writer’s room, director’s chair, behind the camera, in front of the camera, on creative direction — wherever you can. Not only does it make the work more authentic, but you’re also actually supporting the community with your dollars instead of just kind words. If you have GSD employee’s consult with them about if (and how) they want to be supported and spotlit for the month. Can you give them a platform to tell their story if they do want to share it?

Finally, if you do ask GSD folks to use their work on your platforms, you have to pay them. That’s their intellectual property, and even if it seems small to you, it’s exploitive to them as a creator. And pride (for all its fun parades and events) was and is an event created to remove GSD folks from exploitation and marginalization.

Prioritize diversity in your creative collateral

When you’re planning out your pride campaign, take inspiration from the wise words of Lizzo,

“I like big boys, itty bitty boys

Mississippi boys, inner city boys

I like the pretty boys with the bow tie

Get your nails did, let it blow dry

I like a big beard, I like a clean face

I don't discriminate, come and get a taste.”

Intersectionality matters. Don’t just spotlight conventionally attractive, white or racially ambiguous, stereotypical-looking men and women. Seek out diverse faces, bodies, gender expressions, and skin tones.

Know the history

Pride in 2021 is known for celebration, joy, and fun events but traditionally (and still in many countries today) pride is an act of protest against repression. That’s why it’s not enough to just slap a rainbow on some products and call it a day. Pride is about doing the work to create equality. You can still sell your chicken burgers while doing it but consider how you can either elevate GSD people through your campaign or use partial funds from that campaign to support the community. Knowing the history of pride gives you the knowledge to avoid stepping into any insensitive campaigns.

A little less conversation, a little more action, please

Ultimately, if your pride campaign comes from a place of understanding, promotion of equality, and lived truth (i.e. you’re showing up for the GSD community 24/7 every day of the year) then you’re going to be just fine. If your campaign was the result of a social media manager suggesting you need to put a rainbow up in your profile photo and sell a bunch of rainbow socks because it’s pride, you might have a rough go. I understand the urge for brands to want to avoid “getting political” but you don’t get to reap the benefits of being an ally without doing the work to be one.

Want to learn more about pride month and being a corporate ally?

Check out these interesting articles and resources to learn more:

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