No More Trust-Washing: Walk the Walk, Don’t Just Fly the Flag

By Steve Heywood, GM, Edelman Amsterdam.

As Pride month draws to a close across the world – and companies remove the rainbows from their logos, my view is that it remains critical for companies to demonstrate deep systemic commitment to LGBTQ – walking the walk as well as flying the flag.

As an agency which recognizes how diversity of all types enhances our vibrant work culture and provides our clients with a range of perspectives, our view is always that when communications aren’t aligned with business purpose brands get into hot water.

Audiences can sense inauthenticity and when our 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer shows that business is expected to engage with and act on the concerns of employees and consumers, with most respondents believing that both consumers (68%) and employees (62%) have the power to force corporations to change – glib nods to Pride month could seriously backfire.

My heart always sinks after the summer when Pride season is over and brands across the world slowly remove rainbow flags from their social profiles. Indeed, our CEO Richard Edelman has previously termed this ‘Trust-washing’.

This is to say nothing of the immense – and depressing – gap between talk and action that you sometimes see when it comes to diversity in the senior leadership bench. None of us alone can bring the right balance of perspectives and life experience to solve the business problems of our client. It takes a genuinely diverse team to deliver the best work.

We’ve still got work to do to ensure that we remove every barrier to allowing everyone to achieve their potential – but I’m proud that when we show up to meet with clients, they’re getting a diverse range of perspectives from comms and marketing professionals.

Critically, in these uncertain times, acting with an authentic voice, and genuinely integrating purpose-driven communications into real initiatives and genuine societal change has a direct link to business performance.

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