How to stay relevant with the LGBTQ+ community in uncertain times
Markets are reeling, schools are closed, many public spaces are off-limits, supply chains are disrupted, people are losing their jobs and their lives. To say we are stumbling through unprecedented times is an understatement. Yet we push ahead, trying to anticipate what the world might look like after COVID-19 and positioning our businesses for long-term success. History tells us we will prevail and become more efficient, but knowing this doesn’t do much to solve our immediate problems.
As the executive director of the It Gets Better Project, I see the impact a visible and vocal support system can have on young LGBTQ+ lives. Uplifting and empowering the next generation of LGBTQ+ people to live their best lives is our business. Part of that business is Pride. With marches and festivals being canceled or postponed around the world, the LGBTQ+ community will face an unprecedented attack on the progress it has made over the last several decades.
Pride began as a protest—a demand for equality—and it will march on until those demands are met. It does not stop for anything, even a pandemic. Brands that look to Pride in the midst of coronavirus and think “How can we help?” versus “How can we hunker down?” will be the ones that are welcomed into our homes. LGBTQ+ nonprofits need the support of their corporate partners. This is not the time to pull or postpone support. This is the time to hone in and get creative.
In response to global isolation protocols, the LGBTQ+ community has shifted its focus to digitizing the Pride experience. This will give rise to new content strategies, new forms of entertainment and other ways of celebrating the visibility that past and current generations have made possible. Everyone with access to the digital world is taking advantage—and so should brands interested in maintaining relevance with LGBTQ+ consumers. Here are a few considerations to fuel your 2020 Pride approach:
- Purpose. It’s not about the product, it’s about purpose. A product emblazoned with a rainbow flag may drive sales, but a company with purpose drives sustainability. A retreat in the midst of a crisis can send the unintended message that the LGBTQ+ community only matters when there is something to sell. Collaborate with a nonprofit partner to develop a mutually beneficial strategy. The community insights a nonprofit can offer are invaluable and will ensure a campaign’s authenticity.
- Pride 365. As important as Pride is to the LGBTQ+ community, so are other moments throughout the year. Pride is just one window of opportunity the It Gets Better Project leverages to engage with LGBTQ+ youth. LGBTQ+ History Month, National Coming Out Day, Transgender Day of Visibility, the year-end holiday season, spring break and prom are all viable opportunities to connect with young LGBTQ+ people. If you show up throughout the year for the LGBTQ+ community, they will show up for you when it matters most.
- Focus. With all large-scale media production halted and a mass shift to remote content, there is a renewed demand for user-generated content. Drag queens, fitness instructors, makeup artists, musicians, chefs, etc. are all surging in popularity right now. Find a way to leverage what is already being done—help others amplify content that has proven its value in the mad dash to entertain the masses. The It Gets Better Project has partnered with LGBTQ+ talent including fitness influencer Caleb Marshall (The Fitness Marshall), beauty guru Gabriel Zamora and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” season 12 cast members like Jackie Cox and Heidi N Closet,
- A good story. Storytelling is at the forefront of everything we do at the It Gets Better Project. Stories have power—and they don’t have to be lavish productions. A touching LGBTQ+ employee or customer story can say a lot about what a brand values. Share a story and engage your audience or customer base to do the same. Stories shape our culture, so use them strategically to change our world for the better.
Pride will most certainly look different this year, but if there is a silver lining to this crisis, it’s the inevitable innovations that will be born from it. Be cost-conscious, be smart, be strategic—whatever it takes. But do not retreat. Never retreat. This is the time to collaborate with LGBTQ+ nonprofits around a Pride strategy that places purpose before profit. Capture the resilience endemic of the LGBTQ+ community and power through to honor Pride as an essential symbol of hope during this challenging time.