Taking pride in the PR industry
Although you will often hear people at Stone Junction referencing PRide, we are normally talking about the CIPR's annual awards scheme. But this blog post is different. To mark Pride month in June 2021, Stacie Plast, account executive at Stone Junction, addresses rainbow-washing in the PR industry.
As the clock hits midnight on June 1 each year, companies start performing — they slap a rainbow on their logo, launch advertising campaigns or release limited-edition products, only to forget about it for the rest of the year. But allyship, the idea of actively promoting a culture of inclusion through positive action, is not just for Pride.
While this is well meaning, it’s inauthentic. A product-centric campaign or a new sales discount, for example, is about promoting products, not allyship — there is a careful line to toe. While bringing attention to the LGBTQ+ community during its month of celebration is important, companies must be careful not to rainbow wash for their own gain. For many people in the community, including myself, it’s seen as disingenuous and exploitative.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community working in PR, I think it's important for companies to vocalise their allyship. But here’s the catch; it’s not real unless you’re doing it all year round. You don’t have to scream “I’m an ally!” from the roof of your building, simply ensure you and your employees are creating a safe and healthy workspace for potential LGBTQ+ co-workers.
LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace
According to leading charity Stonewall, 35 per cent of LGBTQ+ individuals hide their identity in the workplace out of fear of discrimination. There is a clear need to promote inclusivity within the workplace as well as externally to society. Instead of using June as a marketing opportunity for the business, companies can turn inwards, taking time to evaluate and self-reflect.
For example, assessing your workplace policies on inclusion and ensuring you provide a safe work environment for all employees. Stonewall provides plenty of resources on best practice, as well as helpful toolkits. When brands understand and respect their own LGBTQ+ individuals, they can engage with Pride month authentically.
Being a genuine LGBTQ ally
On my first day, I learnt about how Stone Junction ensures equal pay for all employees regardless of age, gender identity, race and sexual orientation using a SMART objectives system. Discrimination of any kind is not tolerated (unless you’re wearing a Manchester United shirt, in which case you must buy everyone cakes).
During a conversation about Pride month and performative allyship, I decided to come out to everyone in the office and received a positive outcome, with no discriminatory behaviour. It was left to me as a member of the community to decide how Stone Junction should engage with Pride month, which is why I am writing this piece.
I know this isn’t the case for everyone that wants to come out in their place of work. The same Stonewall survey found that a worrying ten per cent of LGBTQ+ employees report leaving a job due to a discriminatory environment.
So, the message is this.
Look internally, as well as externally, this month — and all year round. If we do that, every team can have meaningful conversations, listen to each other’s concerns and create an environment where the whole group can thrive. And that’s a great way to take Pride, or even PRide, in the PR industry.