Tips for an Authentic Pride: How to Avoid Corporate “Rainbow Washing”
Like clockwork, after midnight on May 31st, many companies roll out a rainbow carpet in the form of ad campaigns, product launches, and social posts. While the messaging is supportive to the LGBTQ2+ community, does the sentiment ring hollow to audiences? It can. This is known as “rainbow washing”— outwardly positive support for Pride, that is not perceived as genuine due to inconsistent support and misaligned actions.
If you’re asking yourself how to avoid this trap and represent your company as an ally during Pride and beyond, here is how you can ensure your efforts are authentic and on the right track:
1. Visible Inclusivity
Pride should not solely be treated as a marketing opportunity. Consumers and employees should feel represented every day. Intentionally support the LGBTQ+ community — be vocal and visible!
If your company does not yet have supportive and visible messaging year-round, consider signage or message somewhere on your website or social media accounts to ensure and reinforce your position. Many companies avoid this as to not be seen as “political,” but in practice are then seen as inconsistent or unsafe. Remember — allyship is never assumed or claimed, it is given.
Be conscious of the quality of content you are publishing. Truly diverse and inclusive content resonates consciously and subconsciously with the audience. It requires thinking more deeply, from your audience research to your team structure, from your style guide to your user experience
Building an inclusive and diverse workforce includes having a diverse team and ensuring that all employees feel represented, especially when it comes to leadership. Diversity in a final product is often missed when there is limited perspective on a team, so consider this when consulting on work or in the hiring process.
2. Consistent Education
To foster an inclusive work environment, educating your workforce on the topic is most effective. Creating a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (or DEI) initiative year-round will allow for both your LGBTQ2+ employees (and others of diverse and marginalized backgrounds) to have representation and a voice within your company. Promote a safe space and welcome questions!
Refer to employees and peers by using neutral terms such as “folks,” “team,” or “everyone.” Avoid using co-opted terminology used in marginalized circles within your marketing and internal communications for Pride and beyond. Using borrowed slang can be viewed as treating the community as a caricature or as a repository for “buzz words.”
If you have said or acted incorrectly in the past, it is best to acknowledge, apologize and move forward with renewed intentions for a changed course of action. With new education comes new understanding; supporting marginalized groups like the LGBTQ2+ community is an ever-evolving process.
3. True Authenticity
Educate yourself on the history of Pride year-round. Be mindful of companies you associate with who may hold contradictory sentiments. Being supportive is not enough when you are accepting of those who hold intolerant or harmful positions and can cause any of your positive messaging to backfire.
Support through donation to LGBTQ2+ causes during Pride, and consistently year-round if you are able. This does not necessarily have to be a monetary donation, but a donation of time or resources would also be a positive step.
Lift LGBTQ+ Voices
Consider broadening your approach to including LGBTQ2+ speakers throughout the year and raise the LGBTQ+ voices within your teams.
Senior Designer, Creative Services
Senior Coordinator, Conference & Event
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