Every year in June, many countries, companies, and other organizations or groups celebrate LGBT+ pride month. These celebrations take on countless forms ranging from outreach and civil rights campaigns to parades such as Europe's epic Christopher Street Day celebrations, to those little rainbow filters on everyone's social profile media pics.
June Pride Month was originally observed in the United States in remembrance of the June 1969 Stonewall riots in which large numbers of LGBT+ demonstrators in New York City, demanding better civil rights and treatment, clashed with police. The violent altercation is often considered to be one of the key events in the 20th century fight for LGBT+ rights in the US and elsewhere around the world.
Fast-forwarding to today, June Pride Month is increasingly celebrated in many countries, especially in the United States and Europe.
This increasing trend has brought diversity both and the issue of discrimination to the forefront of society, and fueled largely by social media, has turned into a loud, proud, global celebration and forum.
In many places, businesses of all sizes are trying to lead the way towards a more inclusive and accepting world - and they're bringing their marketing efforts and content along for the ride.
Pride Month and the business of being "woke"
As organizations increasingly latch onto social media marketing as a powerful tool for selling products and services, networks such as Facebook and Twitter, among others, have served as drivers for branding and sales in unprecedented ways over the past decade, and that's not going to stop any time soon.
Companies of all sizes around the world with social media presences are buying tickets for the pride wagon more fervently - and sometimes outlandishly - than ever before; trying to one-up each other at every turn and bask in the appreciation of the masses for their tolerance, diversity, and inclusivity. Every year the gestures become grander, more colorful, and more expensive.
And it's not hard to see why.
On social media, a business that does not openly and authentically demonstrate its support, tolerance, and inclusivity is a business that is, for better or for worse, likely going to fall behind its more "woke" competitors.
Content creation is a constant pursuit for many companies these days - and it should be. And luckily, global events driven by social media and a generation of digital natives are a veritable goldmine of content ideas, especially when they let companies highlight their wokeness and demonstrate how cool they can be both as product or service providers, community members, and as employers.
But amidst all this noise and rainbow flags, parades, and the fanciest way to turn your logo into something colorful, there are many points that companies should very strongly bear in mind when creating content for social media – or in general, when it comes to inclusivity, diversity, and awareness.
Inclusivity in content production
People need to feel seen and heard and your content says pretty much everything about your company.
Celebrating diversity and championing equality in the workplace and in general should not be something that we limit to the month of June, but something our content should reflect year-round.
Inclusivity, furthermore, does not only imply support for members of the LGBT+ community.
Here are some tips to help your company to promote inclusivity and equality in ways that are meaningful but not tacky or awkward:
1. Know what you're talking about
This is probably the most obvious but may also be the most important tidbit for any company taking part in Pride Month, or, you know, doing anything at all. Ever.
It should likely go without saying that getting your information straight is a good rule of thumb when saying things to our fellow humans. Your social media followers probably aren't stupid, and they love to fight, so don't give them a reason to!
Educate yourself first. You don't necessarily have to hold employee diversity training sessions (you could, if you thought it'd help), but your content writers and social media managers should consider brushing up on current trends, do's, don'ts, and arm themselves with facts. This is especially true for advertisers, as well.
Despite what should be common sense, marketing departments in companies around the world have published some pretty cringey things on their sites, on TV, and of course on social media over the years.
Messing up on a post that has to do with LGBT+ topics, matters of race, disability, or other sensitive topics is not something you want to risk on social media. Get it right!
2. Know who you're talking to
Anyone writing content or operating on social media knows that they must maintain a solid awareness of the people they're addressing. Knowing about their interests, demographics, and other key information is not just good marketing, it's essential to keeping content well targeted.
Having this information can help you choose the tone and style with which you present your Pride Month social media or other digital content any time of the year.
This style may also be industry specific. B2B businesses may choose to focus more on employer branding and community building, whereas B2C companies may keep things more product and customer oriented.
A clothing line for young adults will likely already have established its own digital style and presence suited to its target buyer demographic across social media and other forms of advertising. It may make more sense for a company like this to promote empowerment and progress.
Conversely, a construction company may instead decide to focus on community building.
3. Get your wording right
This piggybacks off of the points above. One way that your content can stay in line with the times, send a good message, and play it safe is by making sure that the terminology you're using aligns with the expectations of your audience, but doesn't sound patronizing.
This can become a bit of a linguistic balancing act, and it's not always easy to know which pronouns to use, which terms have become outdated or come into recent fashion, or to try to find a one-size-fits-all solution.
That will probably never happen.
For example: Facelift has used the LGBT+ initialism within our written and social media content despite there being numerous alternatives, such as LGBT, LGBTQ, LGBTQIA+, and so on and so forth. We made our decision based on information and suggestions from this publication.
Our goal is to be consistent.
And this will be true across all topics and groups, not just the LGBT+ community. When talking about matters of race, gender, or any group, within cultural and historic contexts, getting it right on social media is of paramount importance. It's impossible to please everyone, but it's still best to try to play it safe.
You can often use generic terminology, and even use things like keyword searches on Google to discover the most-used words or phrases, just be sure to use credible sources!
And when in doubt, ask.
4. Create inclusive content, not exclusive content
Pride Month does not have to be solely about showering the LGBT+ community with praise and limited-edition rainbow t-shirt designs. It should be about celebrating diversity within your online community, your company, and society in general. Your content should not be patronizing, focus on silly stereotypes, or be overly garish.
Instead, focus on fostering a message that anyone can relate to, regardless of their orientation, race, or other background.
5. Be authentic on social media
We know that chances are that your company does genuinely care about its people and its community.
Unfortunately, the social media world doesn't always see it that way and it's easy to be painted along with other companies who are "just doing it to make more sales". This practice is called "rainbow washing" and it's a pretty solid no-no during Pride Month.
There is a thin line that separates the authenticity of a company's social media or other diversity from rainbow washing and lip service designed to drive sales and cast the company in a better light.
It seems that each year, the pride displays, the loudness of advertising, the volume of blog articles (yes, we know...) and social media campaigns increase exponentially. This isn't in and of itself a bad thing – it highlights diversity and equality, sends a good message, and in many cases fosters outreach, support, and understanding.
In order not to be seen as simply pandering to the masses like you would any for holiday, think instead about how your company's content genuinely contributes to awareness, factuality, and how it creates an atmosphere of support.
A rainbow filter over your logo is a nice gesture, but are you doing it because you want to or because you feel like you have to?
Is your pride for sale?
6. Be inclusive in your writing, video production, imagery, and other content
This is not something you should do simply because it's Pride Month. Inclusivity is something your company should promote year-round, and your content itself is a great way to highlight it at any time of year.
Take time to create equal representation. Use imagery that is truly reflective of the diversity your online community possesses, as well as that of your company. Ensure that your writers and creators are a diverse team whose voices are heard.
Not only is this a good move for your company as a brand, it's also a way to create a more inclusive and more welcoming work environment for your current and prospective employees.
7. Prepare for moderation
Unfortunately, while the world seems headed in the right direction overall, equality, civil rights, and other issues faced by the LGBT+ community, opponents remain.
They too are on social media. And they, too, are looking for a fight.
What does this mean for you? It means you may have to up your communication and moderation game. Be sure that your social media management teams are keeping a close eye on community engagement, comments, and any trolling that may arise.
How your company handles negative messages at any time of year, whether they are racist, sexist, homo or transphobic, or any other sort of prejudice, is likely to be individual, but no matter your strategy, it should be pre-arranged by your team in advance.
Remember that the engagement, whether it's positive or negative, that your social media content stirs up will reflect back on your company. It is essential to be aware, anticipant, and able to act accordingly.
8. Diversity always matters
The points we're trying to make here carry weight year-round, and there's no reason for your company to throw the rainbow flags back in the basement for next year – metaphorically speaking, anyway.
Pride, diversity, and awareness are something you should strive to foster always.
We use the term "woke" in a rather tongue-in-cheek fashion, and we know that the word can carry some mildly sarcastic notes, but the idea behind it isn't a bad one. From a purely business standpoint, being "woke" and supporting workplace diversity and community awareness is important. It highlights your company in a general and quite literal sense, and it's great for employer branding.
But, while those are nice perks, it's important not to simply rainbow wash your company and sell your pride. It's pretty easy to spot and it can have the exact opposite effect that you're looking for.
Regardless of the season, try to make sure that your social media and other web content is:
inclusive without being patronizing.
tasteful without being bland.
genuine without being tacky.
And if we all want to keep claiming that people truly are our greatest assets, we should take more steps, externally as well as internally, to maintain that as truth, and to demonstrate it authentically.