Don't just add a rainbow flag, please!

Don't just add a rainbow flag, please!

Diversity Standards Collective founder Rich Miles reveals some key opinions from the LGBTQIA+ community.

“I am honestly always jaded when a brand capitalises on pride. I see brands who never mention LGBTQIA+ issues except during June and it really puts me off.”
DSC Asian, Trans Masculine consultant.

“It feels performative and fickle in my opinion, pride ends after the event, the most marginalised few failed and forgotten until the following year.”
DSC White, Pansexual, consultant.

“Changing your logo to a rainbow one for a month doesn't mean anything if things aren't changed within.” 
DSC Black, Trans, Non-binary consultant.

And that’s just three of a raft of negative comments from the LGBTQIA+ community from a recent DSC Community Council big enough to save everyone on the Titanic.

Pretty worrying if you’re a client.

Now for something slightly more depressing.

A quick search of previous Pride-themed articles across the past few years shows a whole host of pieces talking about how Pride shouldn't just be a calendar point in June where one ad comes out—then nothing for a year.

But here we are again. 

Coming to the end of this year’s Pride month, and I’m trying my hardest to write a piece that gives some insights and advice and doesn't just trot out the same “Pride is more than a month” messaging. But it's hard because the same mistakes keep being made. The lessons don’t seem to be learned.

And because of these, you end up with members of the community saying things like the people above. These comments were taken from a recent DSC LGBTQIA+ Community Council we did where we asked: “Please list as many brands as you can think of that are having a positive involvement/impact with Pride and why their involvement is positive”.

Like I said, depressing.

So let’s flip the switch. Pride is a celebration, so let’s at least celebrate some success.

When we asked what brands had actually done a good job we got these responses back.

“Levi’s and post office supported open letters to Queer Britain - the UK’s first LGBTQIA+ l museum that has now opened its doors.”
DSC Black, Trans Masculine consultant.

“Post Office, because they actually clap back at all of the homophobic comments.” 
DSC White, Non-Binary, consultant.

And this year there were some brands that need to be celebrated—Microsoft, Pantene and Lego, among others, all doing great work. 

One of my favourites, though, was Oreo, which not only put out a limited edition pack where people could write messages of affirmation, but donated $500,000 (one of the larger brand donations), to non-profit PFLAG National, which provides support to families, parents, and friends of LGBTQ+ members.

Instead of just trotting out a list of things you can do to ensure Pride isn’t just a once-a-year tactical objective, let’s give a hand to one client who didn't just “slap a rainbow on and say love is love and leave it at that.” 

Here is how to do it properly.

Bloom & Wild, a year-round supporter of the LGBTQIA+ community, decided it wanted to create a campaign which would raise further awareness of the excellent work the LGBTQIA+ community does in supporting itself and others while encouraging people to donate more money to the cause.

This is usually the endpoint for most clients and agencies—if they have got that far at all. However, this is what Bloom & Wild did next, in the words of its head of brand, Jo Reason:

“Firstly we consulted with our two internal Diversity & Inclusion networks at Bloom & Wild – one for those who identify as LGBTQIA+ and another that covers D&I more generally - on the initial campaign idea. And made some immediate changes to our direction following their feedback. However, as we moved into further development we felt we needed additional consultation to ensure our approach was robust.

“Our key concerns were ensuring that our campaign was not performative and that our execution would reflect our ambition to support the community. Since the idea at the heart of our campaign was to celebrate important figures from the community, we also wanted to make sure we were doing justice to their stories. Tackling these concerns meant doing some rigorous due diligence homework including reflecting on our internal policies, speaking to members of the LGBTQIA+ community within our business, getting input from LGBTQIA+ Foundation and engaging with the DSC.

“The DSC facilitated a Professional Community Council where our campaign idea was discussed by five experts from the LGBTQIA+ community who also had professional experience across relevant industries such as brand, strategy and creative. This blend of lived experience and industry expertise was so helpful and important for us to be able to develop our campaign at pace. They gave us both community insight and actionable creative advice.

“We worked through our broader concerns in the session – avoiding performative actions, landing the campaign tone correctly and doing justice to the stories of Pride heroes we wanted to highlight. We also got opinions on some of the executional elements of our campaign. We heard first-hand how important ongoing support from brands is – that Pride is not a calendar moment, but a year-round commitment. We also heard that we needed to carefully balance celebrating the achievements of the community without glossing over the struggle they continue to face.

“One of the steps we took coming out of the session was to appoint an external creative director from the LGBTQIA+ community to lead our campaign output and advise us throughout the process. We shot our campaign with 5 incredible figures from the community, supported by a talented, fully LGBTQIA+ crew.”

So, in conclusion I’d like to do what the DSC does best.

I want to let people from the community have their say on how brands and agencies can make their campaigns more authentic and representative.

“Use pride month as a launch pad, then roll that content out again in September, even January to show support to your LGBTQIA+ consumers all year round.” 
DSC Asian, Trans Masculine consultant.

“Speak to members of the community and ensure that they treat their LGBTQ staff decently, don't just pay lip service and court the pink pound.” 
DSC White, Pansexual consultant

“Educating in their company. Allowing their employees to have a safe space to be who they are. Put things in place to ensure this.”
DSC White, Non-Binary, consultant.

“We need allies to stand against hatred and ignorance, to demand not just tolerance but equality, to finance the groups that help and support all LGBTQIA+ people every day, not just during Pride season. Once we've got that, by all means, give us rainbow pens and fancy stickers.”
DSC Black, Trans, consultant.

Let’s not still be worried about slapping a flag on next year and make some real change by listening and taking action.

Pride rainbow 'red flags' summarised by Ben Pechey, writer, diversity and inclusivity specialist and LGBTQIA+ advocate

🚩 Last-minute campaigns

🚩Not offering payment for queer talent

🚩Messages that ignore trans people, bisexual people or basically anyone who isn’t cis and white!

🚩Campaigns with no clear info on how much money is being donated - and when you get to it it’s 1% of profits!

🚩Misgendering and incorrect pronouns in emails.

🚩Clear lack of research and empathy for the community.

🚩Pure ’love is love’ bullshit

🚩Campaigns that have been signed off without a single LGBTQIA+ person being consulted!

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