What Should We Say? Brands and the LGBTQ+ Community

Holidays and special events are low-hanging fruit for corporate communications. Every Thanksgiving, election day, and Superbowl brings a wave of social media posts, ad campaigns, and news stories fighting for audience attention. It’s all for good reason, brands want to tie themselves to an inherent feeling of community. But the low-hanging fruit sours if your organization isn’t doing the work to belong in the community it’s trying to reach.

Belonging (noun) – Having a strong relationship with the other members of a group because they welcome you and accept you.

A paraphrase from the Cambridge English Dictionary.

That word, belonging, is essential when communicating with often marginalized groups like the LGBTQ+ community. A strong relationship built on trust and proof of commitment is necessary, now more than ever, as national and political leaders work to disempower queer and trans people. So, before we know what to say, we need to know what our organizations do to build relationships with the community.

If your organization is not actively working to create a sense of belonging in your workforce and community, communications to staff and a wider audience may not be received well.

Pride is not a product

Pride month is rooted in history. While it’s often seen as a celebration, pride began as a demonstration demanding equal rights for LGBTQ+ people. According to the Library of Congress, the first pride event was organized in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, one year after the Stonewall Uprising, a six-day fight for fair treatment between police and LGBTQ+ people.

Understanding this history is an important factor in contextualizing your organization’s message. Pride is more than rainbows and parades, it’s a diverse moment to empower a wide breadth of our community members who are LGBTQ+.

When businesses share pride merchandise and messaging without working to build trust and belonging in the community they are trying to reach, they sow distrust in their brand. This strategy is known as pinkwashing. The most prominent recent example of pinkwashing is Bud Light’s use of Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender social media influencer, to support their beer. When Mulvaney and the brand received hate and criticism, the brand did not have a prior relationship to stand on and, in the end, turned away customers who support the LGBTQ+ community as well as those who are against it.

This could all be avoided if organizations stick to one simple thing in their messaging to LGBTQ+ people.

Tell the truth

If your organization is creating a sense of belonging, tell that story. If there’s a strong team member who is out and proud, ask them if you can tell that story. If you volunteered with a local LGBTQ+ organization, tell that story. If you had a float in the pride parade, tell that story.

While there’s room to grow beyond telling true stories, people need to know your organization belongs in this space before they lean into more imaginative messaging.

Where do we start?

If your organization is interested in supporting the LGBTQ+ community and building strong internal and external relationships, here are a few straightforward ways to start.

Engage with local organizations

There are a wide range of LGBTQ+ organizations looking to engage in meaningful relationships with businesses and partners. For example, Louisville, Kentucky is home to the Louisville Pride Foundation, Kentuckiana Pride Foundation, Sweet Evening Breeze and Queer Kentucky. Several of these organizations host free public events to build community and share their contact information publicly for people to reach out.

Sponsor Local Events

Funding community-building events like pride parades and health fairs are a great way show your support for LGBTQ+ folks. While this tactic may be prohibitive for some, organizations often offer a range of funding and sponsorship opportunities to find the best fit for your brand.

Provide space for LGBTQ+ Employees

Let your LGBTQ+ team members know they have your support by providing a space for community and connection within your organization. This can be executed in different ways, form a task force or committee to address inclusivity within your organization to a meeting space for individuals to gather and learn about opportunities for internal growth and relationship building.

Get Certified

The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) offers a certification for companies that are inclusive. While the organization is national, there are many local chapters that connect certified business leaders with potential partners and community members.

Society has marginalized LGBTQ+ people for centuries, it built a sense of distrust. If you are working to rebuild trust and create a sense of belonging, that’s the message you need to share this pride month and all year long.

Read More News & Insights

A rainbow megaphone held up at a Pride event.

What Should We Say? Brands and the LGBTQ+ Community

Holidays and special events are low-hanging fruit for corporate communications. Every Thanksgiving, election day, and Superbowl brings a wave of social media posts, ad campaigns, and news stories fighting for audience attention. It’s all for good reason, brands want to

Read More
A group of communications professionals seated around a table in a meeting room, looking down at each others' laptop screens and collaborating on work.

Your CEO needs communications support, too

The air might seem a little different in those corner offices with sweeping views, detailed artwork and the subtle touches that mark a high level of achievement. Despite the trappings, CEOs are people with strengths and weaknesses like everyone else.

Read More