With June now upon us, there will be heightened attention on two diverse groups. As marketers, while your intentions may be pure and authentic, if they are not executed properly, celebrations, events, special product launches, and even employee engagement can come across as insensitive. Today we are sharing some advice to help avoid potential missteps.
Realize where you are. There is nothing wrong with saying ‘we don’t know.’ It is better to say that than to find your organization in a brand reputation crisis. It is also okay not to say anything at all, especially if you are just starting to explore what DEI means to your internal and external audiences. A DEI strategy is no longer a nice to have, but a necessity, and Current Global’s experts can provide the counsel needed for specific moments in time and beyond.
Here is what you should know:
The month of June marks the celebration of LGBTQIA+ Pride Month, inspired by the Stonewall Uprising, a social movement that occurred in New York in 1969 to bring attention, awareness, and support for people who identified as part of the community.
In the marketing world, content and media have become more inclusive with LGBTQIA+ representation, while brands work to reach LGBTQIA+ audiences with special products and other messages. However, discrimination of LGBTQIA+ individuals is still pervasive, with companies and brands finding themselves impacted by ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bills being introduced and passed in some states, disagreements around LGBTQIA+ education for youth, and more. Now is the time to make sure you are aware of how your actions could affect this landscape.
Avoid ‘Rainbow-Washing’: Gilbert Baker, an artist and drag queen, created the Rainbow Flag in 1978 as a symbol during the push for a more inclusive nation for LGBTQIA+ Americans. For this community, the Rainbow flag has a sacred meaning and the use of it on products, internal and/or external content – without a tie-in to its original meaning – can show a brand’s lack of awareness, respect, and empathy.
Engage Employees as Resources: Consult internal resources like business resource groups or employees who can speak to authentic, lived experiences as a person who identifies as LGBTQIA+ or as an ally. If an employee option is not available, our DEI team can assist with the appropriate counsel. Employees are your first – and often vocal – ambassadors, so embrace their expertise. This can also build morale and demonstrate a commitment to fostering an inclusive work environment.
Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19 each year and became a federal holiday last year. It commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, when troops in arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to ensure all enslaved people were freed. The date is significant because it happened more than two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.
Often dubbed the oldest African American holiday, Juneteenth has only recently been commercialized outside of the Black community. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder in 2020 – which sparked demands for policy changes, racial equity, and more transparency from corporate America – we saw heightened attention to engage with African Americans. Many brands made external commitments and launched campaigns with messages and products specifically targeting Black audiences. There were scores of community commitments, as well, through donations and tailored programs designed to create a sense of inclusion and equity.
Pay Attention to Progression and Purpose: If there are plans to make announcements about new or continued initiatives to amplify the Black community, ensure there’s progress to report and/or a detailed plan of action supporting authentic efforts. We anticipate a news cycle that will actively report on past years’ commitments, innovative ideas, and programs. But we also have seen significant backlash towards brands that have tried to profit off Juneteenth with poor execution and insensitivity.
Make the Necessary Gut Checks: It is important to recognize that Black people often still find themselves (outside of their communities) considered as ‘less than’ or ‘not worthy,’ and face constant reminders of systemic racism. Therefore, any activations or announcements planned around Juneteenth should be considered carefully, especially considering corporate missteps dominating the current news cycle. The events that led to Juneteenth are still very real and should be managed with empathy.
For more information about Current Global’s DEI consulting expertise, led by Rebecca Roussell, Senior Vice President, DEI Communications, please reach out.
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