PR Lessons from Pride Month

June marks pride month, an annual worldwide celebration of the LGBTQ community filled with festivals, parades, and support. It is a time when both LGBTQ individuals and allies gather in solidarity. Below, I have listed three lessons PR specialists can learn from major brands this Pride Month.

Gathering Psychographic Data: Facebook’s Pride Reaction

 Facebook has added a pride reaction for users just in time for Pride Month.

In order to gain this additional feature, one must like the official LGBTQ@Facebook page. Once the page is liked, users are free to showcase their pride all around the social network.

On the surface, it seems pretty straightforward and thoughtful. Facebook is an enormous company wielding a great deal of economic, social, and even political power. By making this feature available, the LGBTQ community gains greater visibility and normalization. However, it is also important to remember that Facebook’s greatest asset is not so much the social network itself, rather, it is data—lots and lots of data.

Marketers, advertisers, and PR specialists alike use Facebook’s robust data to target select groups of consumers. While Facebook already gathers data on users’ gender identity and sexual orientation based upon a range of factors, having a specific, clear metric that measures pro-LGBTQ attitudes is gold to marketers.

The LGBTQ@Facebook page now has over 22 million followers and provides marketers with more valuable data. If a company (including politicians, nonprofits, etc.) must target consumers with pro-LGBTQ attitudes, focusing on this page can meet that objective.

Other prominent LGBTQ publications, sites, and advocacy organizations only have a fraction of likes that the LGBTQ@Facebook page has (see my chart below). LGBTQ@Facebook has a significantly larger audience that can easily be divided into subgroups (ie by geography) for marketing or communication purposes.

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The pride reaction has received positive reviews as it further legitimizes a plethora of LGBTQ identities. A good move for Facebook, as it further projects an image of inclusiveness while also collecting valuable psychographic data.


Taking Note of Current Events: MasterCard’s “Restroom for All”

MasterCard took full advantage of the current political climate with their NYC Pride Parade installation—a restroom. This particular restroom, however, unlocks when users place their hand on a palm sensor located on the door. What’s the message? That all humans can use the restroom, regardless of gender identity. In the past year, several states introduced “bathroom bills”—bills that require individuals to use public restrooms consistent with the sex on their birth certificate. This obviously creates problems for transgender individuals. MasterCard took note of the situation and showcased their inclusivity by creating the “Restroom for All.”

While the concept was timely and fit perfectly in an LGBTQ setting, it was ultimately the social media engagement (using the hashtag #AcceptanceMatters in the bathroom mirror) and influencer partnerships that elevated the campaign and delivered results. The campaign generated 10 million earned impressions globally for Mastercard. Online influencers, who have large followings, spread the message over social media.

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This campaign is interesting because it shows how (1) responding to current political issues gains attention (2) partnerships with influencers can lead to virality and (3) selecting the right campaign venue is crucial.


The Importance of Company Culture: McDonald’s and Transgender Employees

While public acceptance has skyrocketed in the past decade, it is important to remember that discrimination still persists for the LGBTQ community. This past month, a transgender McDonald’s employee sued the company for discrimination. According to the lawsuit, the employee was subjected to sexual harassment and was disallowed from using public restrooms and forced to use the broom closet.

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From a public relations perspective, the lawsuit damages McDonald’s brand reputation. It comes at a time when McDonald’s is taking a firm stance in support of LGBTQ issues. The fast food chain has made appearances at pride events and has recently introduced rainbow fry boxes for Pride Month in certain locations. With this lawsuit gaining attention, the company’s pro-LGBTQ campaigns seem like cheap pandering in order to gain public favorability. Internal policies are extremely important to LGBTQ consumers, as one study found that over half of gay consumers checked a third-party source (such as the Human Rights Campaign indices) to see if a company was fair to gay employees. Additionally,  researchers have found that 55 percent of LGBT consumers will choose to do business with companies that are committed to the diversity/equal treatment of the LGBT community. It is obvious that the first step a company should take—when attempting to appeal to the LGBTQ community—is to thoroughly review their company culture and internal policies before making public statements about inclusivity, pride, or acceptance. Hypocrisy and insincerity are damaging.

So as June turns into July and LGBTQ issues are placed on the back burner, the PR lessons listed above extend to the whole year for professional communicators: Understanding how data is collected, keeping updated on current events, and remaining aware of company culture. It will be interesting to see if brands will learn from the mistakes and successes of others to appeal to a growing, vibrant community of Americans who are continually making their voices heard.

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