Proud to support Pride

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  • This year’s Belfast Pride Festival was the most successful to date, with more than 55,000 participants and spectators thronging the city centre. Chris Love, who has handled public relations for the festival, discusses what local businesses here can do to show their support for the LGBT community...

    More and more businesses are coming out to support Pride. Pick up the recent edition of GNI or this year’s Belfast Pride guide and it’s packed full of companies proud to show their support. 

    Supporting Pride can be part of an organisation’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme where they can be seen to be doing good supporting a cause - which more often than not - places them in opposition to government. In a recent report by Forbes, 64% of Americans were found to be more likely to buy from companies who were LGBT inclusive, which is good news and profitable for business.

    Barclays for example, lead sponsor of Pride in London, have won several awards for their workplace inclusivity policy. They support several LGBT charities as well as featuring LGBT employees in their advertising. The company states, “although we have made significant progress to date, we will not rest on our laurels.  Instead, we are fully committed to carry on this vitally important work going forward in our quest to create an environment at Barclays and beyond which is truly LGBT inclusive”.

    However, brands must have a deep emotional connection with customers and have authority to talk about a cause otherwise it may result in a backlash from customers.  Brands can be heroes if it works, but it must run deep from inclusion in the work-place to supporting a diverse customer base.  Pride is just a starting point, brands must embrace their campaigns and causes on other days of the year too otherwise it means nothing.

    In the tech community, Apple has launched a Pride band for the Apple Watch with some of the proceeds going to selected LGBT charities. Facebook has created an opt-in Pride reaction with users already attached to the rainbow reaction, while Google will identify Pride parade routes on Google Maps for selected cities all of which go a little way to help and support their users.

    Smirnoff have been long supporters of Pride. This year they are using social media monitoring tools to identify LGBT twitter users who have been subject to online abuse and turning offensive tweets into illustrations themed around love.

    And while some are critical of big businesses throwing their money at Pride, there are benefits from enabling many of the Pride events to remain free of charge to presenting Belfast as an inclusive city. But for CSR to be successful, it’s important for businesses to understand that support for LGBT sector runs deeper than a seasonal advert.

    If brands really want to be taken seriously as supporters of the LGBT community, theyshould embrace the economically vulnerable members of the community as much as the affluent ones buying their products and services. They also need to look at ways to improve the working conditions of their existing LGBT employees, from the shop-floor all the way to the boardroom.

    As the Pride celebrations have closed for another year, brands should reflect whether they are jumping on the rainbow to make a quick buck or are they supporting what the gay community has achieved and what is yet to be won to achieve equality.  For the gay community there’s a long way to go, hence the need for Pride - and for businesses to go further than flying a flag and counting the pink pounds in the till.

    Chris Love is an award-winning Chartered Public Relations consultant.

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