With more access to information than ever, today’s consumers approach brands with a significant degree of skepticism—in fact, a 2021 survey of nearly 400,000 consumers around the world found that 71% had little faith that brands would deliver on their promises. And while consumers expect brands to take a stand on social issues, they’re quick to call them out when they feel a brand’s messaging rings hollow.
This skepticism was on full display during Pride 2022. From Twitter users to media outlets, the LGBTQIA+ community and their allies didn’t pull any punches when it came to questioning the sincerity and authenticity of brands celebrating Pride month. And there’s good reason for them to do so. After Pride, many brands go silent on LGBTQIA+ issues (so much so that it’s become a popular meme).
But authentic support isn’t just a one-month commitment. To truly be an ally, it needs to take place year round.
When the extent of a brand’s LGBTQIA+ activism is little more than a rainbow logo or a few social media posts during Pride month, it often signals that they’re trying to earn ally points without doing real work. To make a difference, brands can’t just “rainbow wash” — they need to genuinely connect with the community on an ongoing basis. And one of the best ways to start is by looking internally.
Given the discrimination and harassment that many LGBTQIA+ people face in their careers, the community is in urgent need of a more welcoming work environment — and brands should consider starting a dialogue with their LGBTQIA+ employees to understand how they could foster one. This might include things like adding pronouns to email signatures, allowing employees to use Pride-branded assets all year round, updating internal policies such as the dress code to better reflect the queer experience, and creating an employee resource group to provide support and foster community.
When it comes to external communications, regularly teaming up with influencers in the LGBTQIA+ space is a great option. Make sure to reflect the diversity of the community, though. Collaborate with a wide range of folks from all across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, not just white, able-bodied, cisgender men. Allowing these influencers to have input on campaigns year-round, not just during pride month, can go a long way toward meaningful connection with the LGBTQIA+ community.
CONNECT TO THE COMMUNITY
Another way brands can demonstrate their support is by using their influence to speak up and make a difference, especially when something timely or urgent comes up, like debate around anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation. Take, for example, when brands like Etsy, LinkedIn, and Slack (among others) signed an amicus brief with the Human Rights Committee in an effort to prevent North Carolina’s 2016 anti-trans “bathroom bill” from passing — now that’s walking the walk.
But remember, even the most meaningful actions risk coming across as lip service if a brand regularly works with anti-LGBTQIA+ businesses or political groups. Authentic allyship means partnering with organizations that support—and fight for the rights of—the community. To make a real impact, consider developing a longer-term partnership. Macy’s, for example, has been working with The Trevor Project for over a decade, and has raised millions to help them better deliver on their mission to end suicide among LGBTQIA+ youth.
There’s no doubt that Pride month is worth celebrating as a brand—but make sure that your support of the LGBTQIA+ community is not just an annual affair. By applying the same energy they devote toward LGBTQIA+ rights and recognition in June all year round, brands have the potential to become a powerful force for good.