A Corporate Guide to Pride — How Companies Get it Right (and Wrong)

If you’ve spent any amount of time on social media during the month of June, you’ve likely seen some big-name brands announcing their support for the LGBTQ+ community in honor of Pride Month.

Most notably, companies have rebranded their corporate social media profiles to feature rainbow-colored logos, cover photos, products, and entire rainbow-themed campaigns in tribute to the Pride flag.

Although this outpouring of support is great in theory, it raises some major questions. How many of these companies work to implement real change for the LGBTQ+ community? How many of these companies actively show their support and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights year-round?

It goes without saying: There’s a right way and wrong way for brands to participate in Pride Month. And today, we’re taking a look at both the good and the bad.

Before we jump in, here’s Jim Donovan, ZoomInfo’s VP of sales, celebrating Pride month, encouraging everyone to “live your true life.”

The Do’s and Don’ts of Pride Month

Before you work with your design team to overhaul your campaigns for Pride Month, take a step back and make sure you’re taking the right approach. Here is a look at our top do’s and don’ts to help you celebrate Pride this year.

Do: Get employee input during the planning process.

Before you dive into planning your corporate Pride initiatives, it’s incredibly important to get a wide range of employees involved in the planning process. We recommend putting together a committee of employee volunteers to serve as a sounding board and to provide their input as your plans begin to take shape.

Getting your employees involved in Pride planning will accomplish several things. It will demonstrate your commitment to listening to and implementing employee feedback, it will help facilitate a sense of support and community within your company, and it will help prevent you from making mistakes that may ultimately alienate and frustrate members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Don’t: Exploit  social initiatives and conversations as a means to reach business goals.

Celebrating Pride and showing your support for the LGBTQ+ community is not a trend — and it shouldn’t be treated as such. If you’re simply posting rainbow branded imagery or tweeting to “get in” on the important conversations happening this month, you’re likely being disrespectful.

Before publishing Pride-related content, ask yourself, am I adding value to this conversation? What am I hoping to gain from inserting myself into this conversation? What are my motivations? Do I want my company to seem like a safe space or ally? Or do I actually want my company to be a safe space and ally?

Remember, Pride Month is not about your business goals.

Do: Support LGBTQ+ initiatives year round.

If you don’t already take steps to support the LGBTQ+ community year-round, take the opportunity to discuss doing so with management and staff during Pride. To be a true ally, it’s important to show this level of support year-round.

Do: Prioritize the internal support of LGBTQ+ employees and initiatives.

Before you look to publicly promote inclusivity and announce your support of the LGBTQ+ community, it’s important to take a look at your internal policies. If you’re not sure where to start, we recommend implementing the following:

  • Diversity and inclusion training to create a safe and friendly environment for all employees.
  • A clear mission that emphasizes fair treatment and open support of the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Equal benefits for all employees regardless of their sexual orientation — including time off for adoption leave, parental leave, health benefits, and pay.
  • A social responsibility program to help organize and take steps to demonstrate clear support for the LGBTQ+ community.
  • An anti-discrimination policy with clear and enforceable consequences for those who don’t comply.

Don’t: Create external campaigns for the sole purpose of monetary gain.

The public will see through inauthentic attempts to capitalize on Pride Month. Although public support of the LGBTQ+ community is always welcome and appreciated, taking steps to create a fair and safe work environment is much more important in the grand scheme of things.

If you’re not sure if your Pride campaigns or celebrations will be received well, it’s best to put them on hold until you work with your HR department or even a committee of volunteer employees who want to get involved.

Do: Act with transparency.

Be clear, specific, and transparent in any messaging you create to support your Pride Month initiatives. Explain exactly what your support means, how you currently give back to the community, as well as any future plans you have to expand those efforts.

When you outline precise steps, you are making it clear to your audience that you take Pride Month seriously and that you aren’t simply jumping on the bandwagon to reach a wider audience.

Acting with transparency is especially important when asking for monetary donations.

Do: Educate yourself and those around you on the origins and history of Pride Month.

Pride Month has a rich political history that companies often fail to understand and recognize as they participate in Pride Month. The origin of June as Pride Month stems in part from the Stonewall Riots — named after a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn in New York, where patrons and other community members fought back against police harassment in 1969.

Not only is Pride a time to recognize the progress that’s been made since the Stonewall Riots, but it’s just as important to acknowledge how far we still must go as a society.

Do: Put your money (and time) where your mouth is.

Instead of treating Pride like a marketing campaign, put your efforts toward an activity that will positively impact the LGBTQ+ community. While monetary donations can be helpful, volunteering at community events or spending time with LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations may be a more valuable experience. Take a look at the example we’ve included from TJX — the parent company of many major retailers.

Image-TJX-Facebook-Post

This post features real TJX employees participating in Pride celebrations across the country — including the proud display of their company logo.

The message is loud and clear: LGBTQ+ employees and customers alike, we are with you. We welcome you and we celebrate you, whoever you may be.

Don’t: Assume that the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t continue to face adversity simply because Pride Month exists.

Even though we’ve made progress as a society toward achieving many of the original goals of the Stonewall Riots, members of the LGBTQ+ community still face inequality and discrimination in the workplace each and every day. Consider these statistics:

  • One in four LGBTQ+ employees report experiencing workplace discrimination in the last five years.
  • More than 25% of transgender people who held or applied for a job in the last year reported being fired, not hired, or denied a promotion because of their gender identity.
  • More than 75% of transgender employees take steps to avoid mistreatment in the workplace.
  • Nearly one in 10 LGBTQ+ employees have left a job because the environment was unwelcoming.
  • More than half of all LGBTQ+ employees report that discrimination has negatively affected their work environment.

If your organization doesn’t advocate for meaningful change to support the LGBTQ+ community, you are treating Pride as a spectator sport.

Do: Be inclusive and authentic in your advertising efforts.

A critical step toward a more inclusive work environment and equal rights for LGBTQ+ employees is simple — and it comes in the form of representation.

Be careful not to leverage LGBTQ+ people in your advertising campaigns in a way that tokenizes or stereotypes these communities. Instead, include individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ in your campaigns as a way to normalize these communities and give them a voice.

Celebrating Pride Month as an Organization

Pride Month means something different to everyone. It’s a time of celebration, reflection, and progress. As businesses work to be more inclusive in both their workplace policies and their public-facing marketing efforts, it’s important to remember that the most meaningful support doesn’t come in the form of a rainbow logo, proudly displayed for one month of the year.

This Pride Month, we ask you and your business to make equality, inclusion, and diversity a priority all year long. Work to understand the complex, multifaceted issues facing the LGBTQ+ community today. And, above all else make sure your own workforce feels comfortable, supported, and heard.