It’s all well and good to be flying the flag for Pride, but here’s what brands should be doing for the LGBTQIA+ community the other 11 months of the year.
During Pride Month in June, social media and CIs were awash with rainbows. It was like Care Bears up in here. And while the sentiment of solidarity was nice and, in most cases, undoubtedly well intended, you couldn’t help but wonder … were they sincere or did they just change their Twitter pic for likes? It’s a question we need to be asking ourselves, too.
Which is why we chatted to Sebenzile Nkambule, executive partner for strategic partnerships at The Other Foundation. We ate humble pie. But we also learnt how we can do better.
Am I really an ally?
The Other Foundation is an organisation that works to break down the barriers that prevent people from being able to live their lives freely in southern Africa because of who they are or who they love.
They have their work cut out for them – according to research they conducted with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), 72% of South Africans feel that same-sex sexual activity is “morally wrong” and 450 000 South Africans have admitted to physically harming women who dress and behave like men in public” in the last year.
Shocked? Good. And then what did you do?
Nkambule says being an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community means you not only believe in the dignity and respect of all people, but you also take action by supporting or advocating with groups for social justice.
At a corporate and brand level, this goes even deeper.
Inclusivity starts at home
We may say the right things in the ‘About Us’ section of the website, have a functioning EE Forum and a progressive company charter, but do we have a genuine culture of inclusivity that filters down to every boardroom and is practised by staff member? Nkambule suggests ways for businesses to get their house in order:
- Have gender-neutral bathrooms available.
- Make it standard practice to share pronouns at the start of a meeting.
- Do sensitivity training.
- Put structures in place and then make sure all staff are aware of them and behave accordingly.
Walk the talk
As for what you do outside of your organisation, Nkambule says the key is to be sincere. If you’re flying the flag in solidarity with the LGBTQIA+ community…
Consider why you are flying it. “Everybody else is doing it” is not a good answer.
- Be just as vocal about choosing not to associate with brands or people who are openly against the LGBTQIA+ community.
- Use queer-owned businesses as part of your supply chain – especially for Pride Month activities.
- Support organisations that champion and advocate for the LQBTQIA+ community.
- Be mindful of who’s benefitting from your queer-focused marketing campaigns – are you helping the community or exploiting them? (As an agency, this one led to some uncomfortable introspection!)
- Remember that Pride is not an event. Brands need to have these conversations all year round, not only when it’s trending.
The good news is that we can always do better. Where we find ourselves lacking, we can unlearn old habits and learn new, better behaviour. That’s being sincere. That’s being an ally.
Ben Wagner has been an active member of the digital industry for almost two decades. As the head of VMLY&R South Africa’s Cape Town office, he is tasked with promoting the agency into the hearts and minds of marketers, clients, potential partners, and recruits. He is also responsible for driving growth and managing client relationships. Wagner served on the IAB Exco for three years, contributing to the growth of the Bookmark Awards. He was instrumental in creating and integrating a digital category into the Creative Circle Ad of the month. Obsessed with wave riding, he knows what it means to take calculated risks and that sometimes (if you want to get out of a sticky situation) you just need to put your head down and paddle.
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