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Walking the Talk
How Brands Can Better Employ Empathy During Pride

Although June is the perfect milestone to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, our hope is that brand efforts and progress last throughout the year — and simply become another part of doing good business.

As we celebrate and commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising in New York this week, brands should be considering how they can better empathize with, understand and meet the needs of our LGBTQ+ community.

25 years after Stonewall, IKEA became the first brand to broadcast an ad featuring an LGBTQ+ couple:

Since then, brands have continued to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, but as societal needs evolve, so does our expectation of brands’ engagements. Today, being a quality corporate citizen means not only using the scale and resources of one’s organization to help solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges, but also intimately understanding the challenges and needs of your communities – and how your organization is uniquely positioned to support.

With this year’s Pride celebration being the largest yet, hundreds of brands have, and will continue to, show their support. But for our diverse LGBTQ+ community, support often translates into over-simplification and “rainbow-washing” throughout the month of June — where brands upload variations of their logos and lines of products that sometimes raise funds for LGBTQ+ organizations — and in other cases, are nothing more than a fleeting rainbow. While raising awareness and funds are commendable, they can lack the thoughtful, systemic support that’s needed.

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So, continue with your brand’s initiatives — they are important. But let’s start to embrace Pride differently this year. Here are three ways we can better employ empathy to do this:

  • Curiosity: Brand or individual, when providing support, always start with these questions: What is the need and what should support look like? Needs across the LGBTQ+ community vary immensely, so reflect and engage in conversations regarding what it actually means to be a supportive organization. This is the first step to better unlocking the empathetic, authentic impact you’re looking for.

  • Connectivity: While Pride is a celebration, it’s also a time to acknowledge and advocate for further progress. Take a stand for LGBTQ+ folks by exploring how your brand can better support the current, intersectional challenges of the community: comprehensive healthcare and immigration reform, filling gaps in opportunity and basic resources that also contribute to becoming homeless, protections for those who are transgender and ensuring decisions about us aren’t made without us. Each of these needs should be viewed as connected to one another, rather than in a silo, to truly effect change.

  • Continuity: Although June is the perfect milestone to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, our hope is that brand efforts and progress last throughout the year — and simply become another part of doing good business. From creating a welcoming workplace culture and reshaping hiring and development practices that enhance LGBTQ+ retention, to cancelling potentially harmful corporate donations and ensuring your community initiatives are filling a need, a brand’s commitment should be ongoing.

As we enter the next 50 years of celebrating and commemorating Stonewall, it’s vital that brands more deeply understand and empathize with our LGBTQ+ community. While we’re happy to see the growing enthusiasm surrounding Pride, we also call brands to feel and push for further progress in terms of programming, policies and actions that let the LGBTQ+ community thrive.

This post first appeared on the Porter Novelli blog on June 21, 2019.