Pride 2020: A time to refocus

By Ollie Tunmore,

The first of June typically marks the beginning of Pride season, which spans the duration of summer and focuses on celebrating the diverse history of the LGBTQ+ community – past, present and future.

This year, however, due to the ongoing disruption caused by COVID-19, the summer calendar of events for Pride in 2020 is empty.

Consequently, brands around the world are having to drastically re-imagine their involvement with the movement in a matter of weeks, or even days for some.

‘Pride’ as we know it originates from the Stonewall Riots of 1969, when police raided the Stonewall Inn venue in New York City one evening. Three nights of unrest followed, with LGBTQ+ people such as Marsha P. Johnson fighting back from police brutality. Now, as we approach the 51st anniversary of this historic event, Pride in 2020 is set to look incomparably different to any other year before.

With hate crimes growing in recent years, the need for substance within Pride support has never been more necessary. As recently reported, there has been a staggering 55% increase in reported hate crimes towards LGBTQ+ people in London alone in the past five years.

Over the years, the issue of ‘Pink-washing’ or ‘Rainbow-washing’ has increasingly crept in – referring to the idea of companies effectively ‘hopping’ on the trend of Pride season, for their monetary benefit. In more recent years, there have been examples of unsuccessful campaigns, which have highlighted the exact issue of the terms mentioned.

Supermarket chains, train companies and consumer product brands often are found in the dark, after carrying out what is regarded as the bare minimum effort. For example, adding a rainbow logo to their social media, some multicoloured bunting to their stores or painting the front of a train with a rainbow and considering this sufficient…

Fortunately, a growing number of companies are waking up to the need to create authentic, genuine and impactful Pride campaigns that add to the positive movement of supporting the LGBTQ+ community in the ‘season’ of celebration.

For instance in 2018, Absolut Vodka took over two bus routes in London, installing NFC chips to the back of seats to enable quick and easy donations to LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall, and playing video messages detailing Pride history for passengers to learn.

Similarly, Starbucks has proved itself year after year as a company which heavily engages with the community. In 2019, it paired with Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way Foundation’ which helps LGBTQ+ youth, by matching donations up to $250,000. Earlier this year (and refreshingly, months ahead of the typical Pride marketing campaigns from large brands) it launched the sale of limited edition Mermaid cookies, which raised funds for the Mermaids charity, which has supported transgender and gender-diverse youths since 1995.

The extreme political unrest of present makes for an excruciatingly sensitive time for millions of people across the world.

Globally renowned brands now have an opportunity to speak up, to vocalise important messages and provide platforms for otherwise under-represented voices.

We as PR professionals should know better than any others that audiences want and need content which is delicately handled, appropriate and most importantly – authentic.

Therefore, I urge the PR industry of today to utilise this shift and these troubled times; viewing the coming months as an opportunity to do good, to make right and most importantly, to command respect for those who deserve it the most.

Ollie Tunmore is a PR professional and recent graduate of Bournemouth University. He specialises in technology PR and writes on LGTBQ+ culture.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

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