A lot has changed since I came out.
While there’s been a ton of progress in raising awareness and championing the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community, recent developments, like Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay‘ bill and the Texas AG’s anti-trans opinion, show there’s still much work to be done.
This is where my personal and professional life intersect.
As an out gay CEO of PR firm Mark Allen & Co., I work every day with brands that have a tremendous opportunity—and I would argue an obligation—to support the LGBTQ+ community.
PR can be a powerful tool to connect with LGBTQ+ people and stand behind the issues that matter to them. But there are some common mistakes I often see brands make when it comes to LGBTQ+ PR.
Here are the top three mistakes and how to avoid them.
They generalize the LGBTQ+ community.
When attempting to reach LGBTQ+ audiences, many brands fail to recognize the rich diversity of the community.
Everything from your brand messaging and the people or imagery you use in your pitch to the lexicon you deploy in communicating with the media needs to demonstrate an understanding of this diversity. One message doesn’t fit all.
A good way to gauge the authenticity and sensitivity of your messaging is to convene a focus group of diverse members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Capturing the nuances of queer and intersectional audiences will communicate your respect and knowledge of the community to the press and will help you connect in a more genuine way.
They don’t understand the media landscape.
Another mistake I see brands make is treating all LGBTQ+ outlets as the same and failing to do their homework on the different beats, audiences, and reporters.
Out, for example, covers a wide range of topics with a heavy focus on queer pop culture, whereas The Advocate has historically leaned into politics and public policy impacting LGBTQ+ people. Gay Times takes a more global approach to its coverage with a particular emphasis on drag and fashion, while Them tends to focus on trans, non-binary and BIPOC issues.
LGBTQ+ reporters and editors are similarly specialized. Remember, they are covering a vulnerable community and often identify as and employ members of that community. Learn about who you are pitching—what they cover, what they value, and how they identify.
Make sure you’re targeting the outlet and the reporter that makes sense for your story and tailoring your pitch accordingly.
They have a single focus on Pride month.
There needs to be a recalibration around how brands think of Pride. Too often, brands only turn on the LGBTQ+ PR machine during Pride month.
Of course, it is a major time of the year for the queer community, but it shouldn’t be the only month you dedicate to LGBTQ+ outreach.
Like other communities, we’re talking about individuals who exist 365 days a year with new developments breaking every day. If you’re serious about building a relationship with the queer community, then your outreach should be year-round.
And it shouldn’t stop at PR. If you want to connect with queer audiences, then you need to demonstrate your support of LGBTQ+ causes. There are endless opportunities to lift up this community, including partnerships with charities like The Trevor Project, which provides suicide prevention and crisis intervention services to LGBTQ+ youth.
And, if you have a solid reason to do PR during Pride (like big announcements, campaign launches, or thoughtful celebrations), be mindful of how many pitches reporters receive this time of year.
Take the time to develop a strong idea and pitch early (one to two months in advance) to get reporters thinking about your pitch before their inboxes are overflowing with Pride opps.
THE BOTTOM LINE
PR is a great way to get your company’s message of allyship, sensitivity, and celebration out there. But by all means, don’t stop there.
Companies employ all types of LGBTQ+ people and the LGBTQ+ audience intersects with every other community businesses are trying to reach.
Get to know the community. Get involved. Speak up, stand up, and start now.
Mark Pasetsky is the founder & CEO of PR agency Mark Allen & Co., where he serves as a trusted advisor to top C-suite executives.