To most people, June is a month-long celebration of the LGBTQ+ community: a haze of parades and rainbows.
But Pride Month is so much more than that. Its history is rooted in the struggle of a long suppressed and persecuted community, and it celebrates not just the people, but the fight for rights and equality.
As part of our commitment to center, highlight, and celebrate underrepresented communities, we are taking time to recognize Pride Month, especially considering how intertwined the Black and LGBTQ+ communities have always been.
Now is the time to educate yourself on the history of Pride. So we’ve put together a few resources, as well as some steps that all of us should take as marketers to make sure we do the LGBTQ+ community justice. Because just slapping a rainbow on your product and calling it good is not going to cut it.
Here is your brief guide to Pride Month and how you should (and shouldn’t) market around it.
Early in the morning of June 28th, 1969, a police raid of the Stonewall Inn—a popular Greenwich Village gay and lesbian bar—turned violent and set off a wave of riots in that New York neighborhood.
The Stonewall Riots marked the beginning of a new era in activism and liberation efforts, and would form the foundation for the modern fight for LGBTQ+ rights.
Several of those present during the Stonewall Riots would become notable leaders in the movement. Marsha P. Johnson, an outspoken gay-rights advocate, was active in the Stonewall uprising, and would go on to found and inspire several LBGTQ+ outreach and support groups.
Johnson and her close friend Sylvia Rivera, another significant gay and trans civil-rights activist, founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), which provided housing and support to gay, gender-non-conforming, and transvestite homeless youths. STAR would also serve as a foundation for other organizations advocating for and supporting LGBTQ+ groups.
In the years after the Stonewall riots, marches and parades were held at the end of June to commemorate the day. But Pride Month became what it is now when President Bill Clinton declared June “Gay & Lesbian Pride Month” in 1999, and then President Barack Obama dubbed June “LGBT Pride Month” each year he was in office.
Now, Pride Month serves to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and gives a louder platform to the advocates and activists fighting for LGBTQ+ civil rights.
But far too often, corporations and businesses see it as a publicity opportunity, which consumers can see right through. To make sure you get your Pride Month marketing right, we’ve got a few tips for what you should and shouldn’t do.
Whether you are using artwork from an LGBTQ+ creative genius or consulting with someone on a campaign, you need to actively compensate them for their work. Mention the artist and link to their work or website, and make sure their paid rates are the same as any other artists or consultants you work with. Additionally, make sure that your hiring process goes beyond “not discriminating” against new LGBTQ+ hires.
This can mean showcasing your LGBTQ+ customers like this recent MeUndies campaign, or featuring more LGBTQ+ creators on your social channels similar to the #sharethemicnow posts. Remember to ensure you are centering their voices, not adding them in for a “diversity play.”
Supporting queer organizations (like any of the ones listed below) can mean donating your time, your platform, or your money to the cause. These are just a few ways to show your audience that you put action behind your words.
No matter what you are doing, make sure you’re being intersectional and including as many identities as possible. This is especially important with Queer and trans POC who often get left out. You want to have the most representation possible in your marketing efforts, in both creation and creative.
Making DEI a regular and central part of your company’s conversations can help to push for more advancement in diversity, equity, and inclusion, even when it isn’t marked on the calendar. It also shows your staff that you are dedicated to creating a better all-around company culture.
Avoid simply putting a queer person in an ad for a “diversity play” or working with LGBTQ+ creators without paying them or mentioning their contribution.
Creating a rainbow product or changing your logo to a rainbow is often just a publicity stunt, and unless you back it up with the real work from the list above, your “statement” will come across as misguided and hollow.
While this kind of messaging is not actively harmful, it’s better to focus your messaging on the bigger, more specific issues facing the LGBTQ+ community. Your messaging should reflect an actual desire for meaningful change.
Running a sale on your rainbow product without contributing to any queer non-profits is just not going to make a real difference, and it is going to signal to your customers that you care more about your pocketbook than the real meaning behind Pride Month.
June 30th may mark the end of the official Pride Month, but it is in no way the end of the fight for LGBTQ+ civil rights. And it should NOT be the end of your advocacy and support for the movement. All of the recommendations we listed above can and should carry over into the rest of the year, because the real goal is diversity, equity, and inclusion every day, all the time.