I remember attending a Pride parade a few years ago and seeing 2 very different shows of support from the brands participating. One was an alcohol brand with a float packed with male dancers in skimpy outfits dancing — and clearly trying to sell their product. The other was an airline with 50 or so of their employees walking together with t-shirts showing that they’re part of the company’s LGBTQ2+ community.
Although the airline was still trying to promote their products, the way they celebrated still came across as much more authentic than the alcohol brand — to the point where I could even see it being a great place to work for someone like me. Consciously or subconsciously, LGBTQ2+ members out in the world looking for jobs (myself included) are often thinking to themselves will this place accept me? Can I be myself there? In this case, the answer for me was a resounding yes.
But that’s just me, and I’m part of a VERY diverse community with many different facets and types of people. We each have our own backgrounds, needs and baggage. We’ve all had very different journeys to get to a place of openness and acceptance — some positive and some negative — but all influential. I could tell you that consistent participation, offering inclusive benefits and sharing stories of employees comfortable being their authentic selves at work all convey real support for me, but to someone else, support may mean something completely different.
That’s why, for this post, I asked a variety of people from the LGBTQ2+ community (some who I know and some who I don’t) to share what authentic support from brands during Pride means to them. These are not people in the Recruitment Marketing and employer brand space, and they represent a variety of backgrounds, orientations and identifications in the age range of 25 to 64. I would have loved to include even more diverse perspectives, but I hope those featured show the similarities and differences that exist in opinions of how companies can show authentic support.
I also didn’t ask what they wanted to see in brands’ marketing (Recruitment or Corporate campaigns), but simply what support looks like, with the intention that you, the recruitment marketers and employer brand practitioners of the world, can take these ideas and create amazing content to show your authentic support of LGBTQ2+ people during Pride month and beyond.
And “beyond” is the key word. Across the board, everyone who I spoke with said (spoiler alert) that they don’t just want to see support of the LGBTQ+ community in June during pride month. They want to see it all year around! Read on to learn what authentic support of the LGBTQ+ community really looks like.
Rally note: The responses I received have been organized around 14 themes (with a lot of overlap) and these are the real words of the people who contributed.
1. Support through investment
Saying things (whether spoken or written) helps, but at the end of the day, your investment often means more than your word. The same goes for support of the community, with actual dollars, time and effort spent being some of the most authentic shows of support you can give.
When a company donates, sponsors and/or provides support to LGBTQ2+ causes and organizations, I feel the show of support is more authentic.
A considerable amount of donations from each purchase — or a donation at the end of the month — needs to be made to Queer organizations, and not just the big ones such as The Human Rights Campaign, but organizations on the ground in communities as well, such as the Transgender Law Center or the Trans Legal Defense and Education Fund.
2. Support through creativity
There’s nothing wrong with showing support through typically rainbow imagery, but your creativity should go farther than this. Outside-the-box imagery, messaging and general creativity will be much better received and will let people know how seriously you take Pride.
[I’d like to see] more original designs [and] approaches. Create some distinction people… not just rainbow pandering!
What shows real support is creating high-quality content, as Oreo just did via the Alice Wu short film, that takes a stand in support of the rights and humanity of the LGBTQ2+ community.
The Note is an OREO short film by Alice Wu telling the story of one boy’s experience coming out to his grandparents.
3. Support through education
There’s still plenty of progress that needs to be made in creating a safe and supportive environment for members of the LGBTQ2+ community. Offering free education for your employees and customers, whether through internal or external sources, is a great way to do your part.
[One example of education done right was Crowley], who sent some collaborators from their LGBTQ2+ Committee to ILGA 2022, a gathering of LGBTQ2+ leaders and activists from all over the world. These collaborators then brought back their learnings to the company’s employees.
If I were in charge of planning my company’s Pride, I would create a few pieces of programming that focus not just on celebrating the community but also on educating others about the history of the community. I’d also look for opportunities to collaborate with other leaders to see how we can collaborate on programming and content to show the organization’s support.
4. Support through empowerment and involvement
Those who are actually part of the LGBTQ2+ community need to be part of your pride planning and celebration from the get-go — and feel your support. Who knows how to address the real issues and show genuine support better than actual members of the community? No one!
In my first year at a recent company, I asked for a budget to throw a Pride party. I was brand new to the team, it was my first program and we didn’t have an event budget at the time. I had a whole business case planned out but the founders didn’t even ask about it. They expressed excitement at the idea and let me just run with it. Seeing the team show up in droves (pre-pandemic) and show their support for the community was very touching (many took various party favors and different types of Pride flags with them for our local celebration).
Make sure the internal team working on the strategy is diverse in every way. Consult with a DEI or external team representing the LGBTQ2+ community to include their thoughts and have them review the strategy.
5. Support through participation
It’s one thing to sponsor a pride parade float, it’s another to actually take the time, especially if time off work is required, to show up at community events and participate in a meaningful way.
The focus of corporations during Pride typically is the parade (a giant advertisement), production lines (earned revenue) and a donation (an easy way to give back). None of these activities involve working within Queer communities to provide support where needed. Companies need to show up in the community and actually participate in the betterment of the lives of Queer folks. Show up at a queer food drive, provide free or low-cost sponsorships for queer events, help us provide for Queer Homeless Youth and the Trans Communities that are being attacked every day.
6. Support through promotion
There are plenty of other advocacy and service organizations doing great work. Use your influence, platforms and resources to help them out and shout their messages from the rooftops!
I would first approach it as a community campaign. Consider what a local gas station chain, KUM & GO, did last year. They partnered with a Queer Owned Clothing Brand, HOMOCO, to create a custom Pride Merch line with a percentage of the profits going to the Transgender Law Center. They even hired BIPOC and Queer models for the campaign. This supported not only the Trans Law Center, but also a Queer-owned Brand.
7. Support through leadership representation
Showcasing leaders belonging to the LGBTQ2+ community demonstrates the possibilities for people with similar orientations or backgrounds at your company — that your company is a place where LGBTQ2+ members can and will thrive.
One reliable sign of a company that’s a great place to work for members of the LGBTQ2+ community is when they have LGBTQ2+ senior and executive leaders.
8. Support through making a stand
Giving money makes a statement, potentially losing money makes an even bigger one. Deciding not to operate in a specific location, deal with a certain supplier or draw other lines in the sand prove that your support for the LGBTQ2+ community means more than profit.
Rally Note: These interviews were taken prior to summer 2023, when some companies made decisions to scale back their Pride support.
A supportive company is one that shows they are willing to lose customers who do not support equality, pulls business in states that have anti-LGBTQ2+ laws and takes a public stance to oppose discriminatory politicians and laws. Nike’s support of Kaepernick and Netflix’s pulling of shows from North Carolina over the “bathroom bill” were both strong stances where I felt companies put what’s right ahead of profits. I’m also mindful that these companies know their audiences skew heavily towards people who support justice.
Beyond internal company policy, and Pride month-focused marketing, Apple and Coca-Cola both also advocate for equality legislation and have annual initiatives to support LGBTQ2+ organizations. Additionally, they have continued to push for annual diverse marketing in commercials and print.
It isn’t enough for a company to say they support LGBTQ2+ communities. They need to stop doing business in jurisdictions that have anti-LGBTQ2+ laws and donate to LGBTQ2+ organizations.
9. Support through company policy
Changing the structure of your internal policies to support members of the LGBTQ2+ community leaves no ifs, ands or buts about your stance; whoever they are, people at your company are protected and included.
Examples of policy change could be maternity/paternity benefits for new LGBTQ2+ couple parents and year-round support (not just jumping on the bandwagon for Pride month).
We need support for legal rights, full benefits and complete acceptance within a company’s workplace culture. Companies need to provide equal benefits to all employees regardless of sexual orientation, as well as participate in the changing of laws to provide full legal rights for the LGBTQ2+ community. Marketing to the LGBTQ2+ community only for advertising purposes is meaningless.
We need protection and support for queer employees defined in corporate materials, global policies that restrict business with countries that persecute and criminalize gays and lesbians and representation counsel (including other minorities/marginalized communities) to ensure a seat at the table.
10. Support through normalization
We’ve all seen that movie, TV ad or other piece of media that places LGBTQ2+members on a pedestal — and not in a good way. A better show of support that doesn’t come across as pandering or opportunistic is to normalize the inclusion of LGBTQ2+members, subtly including them without trying to check a box.
MAC comes to mind. The company casually and consistently references male makeup influencers intermixed with standard beauty icons. Queer culture is not a statement, it just exists as part of the main corporate narrative.
An example of a commercial by MAC Cosmetics featuring male and female beauty influencers.
A great example of normalization is Campbell’s Soup’s Star Wars commercial featuring 2 dads. It’s sweet, family-oriented and doesn’t feel like it’s trying too hard.
A commercial by Campbell’s featuring 2 dads doing Darth Vadar impressions for their son.
I wish I saw more representation of queer and trans kids in marketing campaigns.
Lots of diversity, and I don’t mean just in terms of LGBTQ2+. Companies who are diverse in race, gender, culture, etc. are reliable signs of an inclusive workplace.
11. Support through consistency
Missing every other heritage or cultural event throughout the year and then suddenly showing your support in June for Pride doesn’t lend well to your authenticity. For people to feel like your support is genuine, they need to see your support for general diversity rather than specific communities. The same can be said for when you show this support, as real support lasts all year, not just for one month.
Authentic support is support that happens in February and not just June. It’s donating to organizations that help queer people all year round – not just in June. I want Pride flags flown all year round – not just in June. Creating a work environment that feels safe all year round – not just in June.
Honestly, visible support during Pride month is easy. I want representation and support year-round, so that when a Pride campaign appears, it has the foundation for it to be meaningful to the LGBTQ2+ community rather than be an easy cash grab in the moment. LGBTQ2+ representation is not and should not be treated like Santa Claus. It is important to a company always, or not at all.
Support of actual queer and LGBTQ2+ centers, companies, businesses and non-profits through representation, business and financial support continuously throughout the year. It’s NOT about selling “queer” themed products for a month.
Donating a portion of proceeds to specific organizations is great during a heritage month, but to only make this move during one month feels performative. Take the opportunity of the month to show your support and celebrate the community but make it a year-round impact as well.
12. Support through internal changes
Speaking of year-long support, how are your LGBTQ2+ employees already being supported in your workplace? Existing shows of support, no matter how small, give people, especially candidates, an idea of what they can expect from you, during and beyond Pride month.
I’m not looking for just a product with rainbows, but a demonstration of an investment in the community (monetary or otherwise) and ideally a demonstration of how the culture is celebrated within their own corporate / company employee base.
My current company created a Pride month signature line. I never experienced that at other companies. They also added pronouns to our signature lines as a permanent fixture.
13. Support through transparency
Are there any projects, current or planned, that prove your commitment to supporting DEI at your workplace? If you’ve had projects in motion for a while, share the progress you’re making; if you’re just starting out, share your goals and how exactly you plan to achieve them.
I want to see organizations’ Equity or Cultural Transformation Plan to ensure that antiracism and equity frameworks are present and that there is a plan to continually do this work. Affinity groups are also a good indicator of a good support network at a company.
I’m looking at a company’s ERGs, annual LGBTQ2+ initiatives, donations and HRC ranking.
14. Support through recruitment and employer brand
From a candidate’s perspective, your employer brand is a big indicator of where you stand in all things DEI. Everything from the language you use in your job ads to people you feature on your careers site, to the content you create for your careers blog answers whether or not you take DEI seriously.
Make it a priority to hire and promote LGBTQ2+ employees.
Diverse voices and images in employer branding is key. Diversity in regular marketing also shows an awareness and focus on showcasing diversity. In DEI programming, the presence of an LGBTQ2+ ERG and seeing a DEI sentiment in the company’s vision and values are great signs.
Policies and practices related to recruitment, how job descriptions are written, where job ads are placed and how candidates are engaged all play a role in shaping a DEI-friendly workplace.
I appreciate a social strategy that includes video testimonials from employees or customers about how their company is awesome.
Hopefully, you can use all of this amazing input to make sure you’re showcasing your company’s authentic support of the LGBTQ2+ community to attract talent to your workplace. And if these perspectives show you how your company can be doing more, what else can you do to bring about change?
For more ideas on how to effectively show your genuine support for different communities, both during cultural and heritage months and beyond, read our articles, How these 7 Employers Celebrated Black History Month and Women’s History Month: How to Make Your Social Strategy a Success.
Finally, I’d love to hear from you! If you’re part of the LGBTQ2+ community, how can companies continue to show authentic support or what have you done at your company to help them to more authentically provide support? Contact us and we’ll add your thoughts to this blog post or write another one to share with the Rally community. You can also feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn!