Navigating Pride Month: Genuine engagement or performative allyship?

By Matisse Hamel-Nelis on June 11, 2023

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A woman holds up a rainbow flag in honour of Pride Month. Behind her is a beautiful blue sky with white clouds.

As June rolls around each year, a sea of rainbows sweeps across our screens, storefronts, and social media feeds. This month, celebrated globally as Pride Month, pays homage to the 1969 Stonewall uprising in New York City, a series of events that catalyzed the modern fight for 2SLGBTQ+ rights. Since then, the corporate world has increasingly become part of the Pride dialogue. From rainbow logos to themed product lines, companies have embraced the opportunity to publicly support the 2SLGBTQ+ community. However, the critical question arises: Are these gestures genuine endorsements of 2SLGBTQ+ rights or mere performative actions aimed at exploiting a lucrative market?

In an era of heightened social awareness, consumers expect brands not just to sell but to take a stand on social issues. This expectation is particularly true for younger generations like Gen Z, who consistently value authenticity and social responsibility. The onus is on professional communicators and PR strategists to ensure their brands’ Pride communications are more than just a once-a-year marketing strategy and contribute authentically to the fight for equality.

First and foremost, it’s crucial to understand that allyship is a continuous process, not a one-month spectacle. It involves creating spaces of acceptance and inclusivity within the company. Before launching a Pride campaign, assess the internal policies. Do they promote diversity and inclusivity? Is there explicit protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity? If not, a Pride campaign might come off as disingenuous. Consumers are adept at spotting performative allyship and are quick to call it out.

One way to substantiate your company’s commitment is by donating a portion of the profits from Pride-themed merchandise to 2SLGBTQ+ organizations and charities. Additionally, consider partnering with local, national, or international 2SLGBTQ+ organizations to promote inclusion and acceptance further. This shows that the company is actively contributing to the cause it claims to support.

Transparency is key in this process. Be open about the amount donated, who it’s going to, and what it will be used for. This builds trust with consumers and serves as a step towards effecting positive change within the community.

Secondly, authentic representation matters. This entails highlighting stories and voices from within the 2SLGBTQ+ community in internal and external communications. Incorporate diverse perspectives into the campaign development process, and consider hiring creators, artists, and influencers who are part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

Brands must remember that the 2SLGBTQ+ community is not a monolith; it’s a vibrant, diverse group with varying identities and experiences. Therefore, representation should be thoughtful, nuanced, and avoid stereotyping. Reflect the full spectrum of the community, including people of colour, trans, and non-binary individuals.

Finally, allyship is about listening, learning, and evolving. Inevitably, there may be missteps along the way, but what matters most is how brands respond to criticism. If the community or audience calls out a problematic aspect of a campaign, it’s essential to listen, apologize, and correct the error. Demonstrating a willingness to learn and grow is a significant component of authentic allyship.

As professional communicators, we are responsible for using our platform for positive change. During Pride Month and throughout the year, we must strive to ensure our communications are genuine and meaningful, moving beyond performative gestures to effect real change. Ultimately, the goal should be to make every month feel like Pride Month, promoting acceptance and inclusion in every facet of our organizations.

Brands and professional communicators must uphold authenticity, accountability, and allyship in their Pride Month communications. They must also carry this ethos forward, embedding it into their corporate identity and actions throughout the year. In doing so, they can help effect meaningful change and make the world a safer, more inclusive place for the 2SLGBTQ+ community. The rainbow is a symbol of unity in diversity – let’s ensure that it represents true solidarity and not just seasonal support.

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