June is Pride month, which for many companies, means 30 days of rainbow visuals and colourful logos on social media with little else done to elevate LGBT+ community. This is known as rainbow-washing. While it’s always exciting to see brands bring attention to marginalized communities, a true statement of allyship goes further than rainbow tees and themed dance parties. When it comes to being an ally, authenticity is always better than performative activism—we need to go beyond the rainbow and show up not only during Pride month, but all year long.
Bring Representation to Your Social Media
Pride shouldn’t just be an external badge we wear for the month of June. If someone were to look at a brand in July, would it still appear inclusive? If the answer is no, then a bigger conversation probably needs to be had.
“If what you’re putting out into the world on social media is more than what you’re doing internally, that’s an indicator that you need to look inside your company first,” says Alex Varricchio, co-owner of UpHouse Inc.
There are many ways that we as marketers can bring representation to our communications. First, ensure that the work environment we’ve created is a safe and supportive space for people in the LGBT+ community. We should be asking ourselves if the policies and practices we employ promote growth and provide empowerment for these voices.
It can also be a good idea to temporarily hand over your social media channels to a leader within the LGBT+ community. Creating spaces where people can tell their own stories is important, and a large platform can really help amplify a positive message.
Lastly, we need to consider whether marginalized groups see themselves represented in our brand messaging. Are we using inclusive language? Does our content showcase a diverse range of people and voices?
Don’t limit your support for a community to one month. Diversity should be celebrated year-round, and a big part of that starts with representation within your own walls.
Make Your Giving Relevant to a Community
One of the biggest concerns around rainbow-washing is when brands profit from Pride-themed products without giving back to the communities they highlight.
If your brand wants to create merchandise for to support Pride, consider donating proceeds to a charity run by and for the community you’re celebrating. If you’re posting about it on social media, make sure there’s tangible purpose behind your post — like all good marketing include a strong call to action — this could be a push to donate to a mutual aid network that supports LGBT+ rights or attend a charity event.
We can also generate support for the community by bringing attention to LGBT+ owned and operated brands. People don’t need to buy a rainbow sweater to support Pride. Anything purchased from someone within the community helps, and we can use social media to highlight these companies and their stories and successes.
Provide Leadership in Your Industry
To become a leader within your industry, one of the most important things you can do is take the time to learn and listen to the communities around you. When communication lines are open, we become better people and better leaders.
“We need to be able to admit that we don’t know it all and be comfortable and ready for people to challenge us and push us to do better and do more,” says Alex. “Instead of shying away, we need to lean in because that’s a necessary part of making things better.”
It's difficult to understate the impact that advertising and marketing has on our society. It doesn’t just reflect the views and culture of our world, it shapes our culture as much as, if not more than, it mirrors it. Our platforms are powerful tools that can help boost important causes, and we have the opportunity and responsibility to use them for positive change. Advocating for equality means making your position known, so share what you’re doing with your followers to encourage others to take action in allyship roles.
“One of the worst things about social media today, is that when something happens in the world, instead of asking what we can do as a company and as individuals, we ask ourselves what we should post,” says Alex. “This only turns the conversation back onto ourselves again.”
Brands need to come from an authentic place and focus first on what we can do for the community, not how we can protect or benefit ourselves. Once we’ve decided on a course of action, then we can create a post to reflect that.
Conducting your own self-audit will help you fully understand where your company is and where it needs to go. Once you’ve figured out what needs to change, you can help inspire others to make those changes, too.
“Pride evolved out of protests and people fighting for what is right. They were marching for policy change and highlighting systems that excluded them,” says Alex. “So if you are an organization that wants to honour Pride, the best thing you can do is look at your own systems, practices and policies and ask yourself if there are things you can do to make them better.”
Rainbows and colourful visuals are a beautiful representation of a community that is celebrating acceptance in the face of adversity, across the world, there are still so many who continue to be persecuted for who they are and who they love. We can bring attention to the cause with updated profile images and posts, but we can do so much more when we take and encourage action that help the communities that we serve.