Thought Leadership

How can the marketing industry more authentically engage with the LGBTQIA community all year round?

As the marketing industry looks to move beyond Pride washing we ask industry leaders how to meaningfully support the queer community

Georgie Moreton

Deputy Editor, BITE Creativebrief


With Pride month upon us as a general election sneaks around the corner, it is becoming increasingly more difficult for brands to stay silent on the issues that matter.

Pride month was once a sea of rainbow logos on Linkedin. Yet arguably, today businesses and consumers alike are immune to rainbow washing. Instead, businesses that show commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community and stand by their values all year around are the ones that remain in favour.

In an era of politicisation and polarisation, a growing number of  brands are staying silent for fear of backlash or getting things wrong. The rainbow logo might once have been the pinnacle of lazy performatism however now brands are going one step further and doing nothing at all.

In an industry where our actions have the power to change the narrative either through authentic representation that increases visibility or via unpicking a media ecosystem that is quite literally funding hate crimes, doing nothing is not an option. If your organisation or brand is forgoing a Pride campaign because it seems performative, then what meaningful action are you taking instead? What are you doing year round to more authentically support the LGBTQIA community?

Advertising data shows that 60% of LGBTQIA+ people in the UK believe that brands should express their views on political and social issues compared to 41% of non-LGBTQIA+ people. Given that 67% of LGBTQIA+ consumers are more likely to recommend items that they see in advertising than their non LGBTQIA+ peers (49%), it's important to take note.

We asked the industry, how can the marketing industry more authentically engage with the LGBTQIA community all year round?

Anthony Leeds

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Communications Co-Director and Senior Account Director

Outvertising and Propeller Group

In recent years, Pride Month criticism has often outweighed celebration when it comes to brand involvement. As a community, we have become very good at spotting tokenism and rainbow washing from a mile away. After years of one-dimensional representation or LGBTQIA+ people and their lives, stereotypes borne from not consulting queer people during the creative process and using Pride month to sell awful merch in the name of inclusion, we are now demanding greater authenticity from brands. This means going beyond what they share externally but also in how they behave internally. Organisations don't need to be perfect, but they need to be better at assessing and addressing their allyship before they externally communicate.

Authentic allyship can only come from genuinely held values. You need to develop and publicly articulate your purpose and values, consider LGBTQIA+ inclusion in all major initiatives and decisions and actively champion LGBTQIA+ inclusion. Support and properly resource your LGBTQIA+ employees and integrate them into both creative and strategic decision-making processes. And ensure all of your policies and processes are inclusive of LGBTQIA+ people.

With your house in order, then begins the work to change the societal tide. At a time when there is growing hostility and sometimes violent opposition to brands committing to LGBTQIA+ representation, we need brands and agencies to be brave. Stand up, speak up and brave the backlash. And most importantly, love is love, but money talks. Cash shouldn’t flow one way; brands should materially support LGBTQIA+ communities wherever they do business. Support with your wallet by allocating corporate funds to LGBTQIA+ groups or providing pro bono services for example, and we’re more likely to support you with ours.

Jasmine Dawson

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SVP Digital

BBC Studios

The marketing industry has accomplished a lot to champion progress in wider society but more can be done to move the conversation on from performative allyship for the LGBTQIA community. To embed lasting values within your organisation, you need accurate representation on screen; getting the right talent behind the scenes, and aligning with the right brand partners who share your sentiments.

The UK’s rich history of programming in this area helps to inspire action for any brand. The new season of Doctor Who introduced a fantastic trans character in Rose Noble for the 60th anniversary specials (the inimitable Yasmin Finney) as well as the incredible Ncuti Gatwa as the first Black doctor - who shared the show’s first onscreen same sex kiss just last weekend.

When supporting staff behind the scenes, it’s important to lead by truly understanding their needs. Digital teams are at the forefront of connecting with audiences on any brand’s content and often see the reality of hate and discrimination online. Both leaders and brands need to know when to stand beside their people - and when to stand in front of them.

Know your talent and staff, so you can provide different types of support and be thoughtful of conversations to have internally. Brands can set their teams up for success by protecting them while allowing them to use their voices and have a meaningful impact.

Ella Britton

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Strategy Director


If a brand throws out a rainbow logo and a couple of t-shirts in June, alarm bells should immediately start ringing. Pride isn’t a trend, filter, or chance to sell more burgers but rather an opportunity to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community and those who have worked and continue to work so hard for international rights and recognition.

To support the queer community in a meaningful way, brands have to think about doing something actually meaningful. Put the money set aside for a logo redesign to good use, donate to brilliant queer causes, elevate your queer colleagues and create a long-term strategy to support the queer community.

Be committed to constantly adapting and evolving in line with the needs of the community and ensure you're engaging the right people in the right conversations! If you do the latter, chances are you won’t land on a series of hollow gestures and instead a plan for year-round support and commitment.

To practice genuine allyship, it’s probably best to leave the flag alone, think beyond the month of June and elevate the people doing the actual work. Happy Pride everyone!

Josh Chi (He/Him)

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Managing Partner, Head of Media & Strategy


Develop a deep understanding of the LGBTQIA+ community and their relationship with your brand, work with credible partners to engage regularly, and offer real value through brand actions. Identities often have implications on people’s lifestyles and how they interact with brands. Understanding the different ways in which the LGBTQIA+ community really engages with your brand is an important starting point for inclusive comms. Listen to their stories and experiences, understand their differing needs, and adapt accordingly. The LGBTQIA+ community isn’t a monolith, there’s nuances, different perspectives, and needs. Similarly, consider basing these comms around when the communities may appreciate brand involvement the most, rather than just a calendar month.

To connect with them, it could be a combination of creating bespoke initiatives, as well as ensuring conscious inclusion across major campaigns all year round. It’s about bringing things of value to the community specifically. Recognising people’s identities and helping to drive acceptance also matters a lot. Working with LGBTQIA+ publishers or influencers is a great way to generate authentic content while delivering reach, and navigating the limitation of targeting.

According to Outvertising’s consumer report, the LGBTQIA+ community is a vibrant and receptive audience. 67% (vs only 49% of non-LGBTQIA+ individuals) are likely to recommend advertised brands, demonstrating the value of conscious inclusion.

Tom Ghiden

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Managing Director

JOAN London

Put simply, they need to prioritise continuous visibility and recognition all year round. This isn’t just about one month.

Firstly, LGBTQIA individuals and stories should be consistently showcased across campaigns, ads and social media content so they are woven into the brand work. This means moving away from stereotypical and tokenistic practices, and instead, featuring LGBTQIA people in a wide range of roles that validates and reflects our experiences. By integrating LGBTQIA representation into everyday marketing, brands contribute to normalising and celebrating our identities throughout the year, encouraging acceptance and unity.

Secondly, it’s imperative for the LGBTQIA community to be recognised through meaningful partnerships. Partnering with LGBTQIA creators, influencers and organisations for various campaigns and events, and ensuring that these collaborations are equitable and beneficial for the community is paramount. Not only does it amplify brand impact, it shows that brands stand for more than just profit, and wish to tackle challenges faced by the community and advocate for their rights. Additionally, LGBTQIA recognition must be reflected internally. Committing to LGBTQIA-inclusive policies that protect employees and are integral in external messaging ensures that brands are seen as – and behave as – genuine allies, reinforcing their commitment to equality.

Everyone – both inside and outside the community – can tell when companies are going through a box-ticking exercise rather than interested in genuine cultural affiliation or change. True support comes all year round, and then it will result in deeper connections and lasting positive impact.

Jon Pollard

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Head of Strategy


To move beyond Pride-washing, the first and most obvious thing that we can do as an industry is to limit hinging on ‘Pride’ as the focus – both as an event and as a label.

With Pride events happening from February all the way through to at least September, making June the month when we ‘do LGBTQ+ stuff’ is reductionist to say the least, and seems as if we’re simply ticking a box. I know I’m not the only one who’s seen DE&I calendars with June boxed off for ‘Pride’.

While I’m a big proponent of embracing pride in its ‘the opposite of shame’ sense, I’m also an advocate of not calling every LGBTQ+ event ‘a Pride Thing’. Next month at RAPP, for example, we’re taking over the regular company quiz night and Queering The Quiz. Taking place in July rather than June, because that’s when there was a free slot, we’re normalising baking LGBTQ+ elements into things that we do anyway, rather than creating entire separate streams of queer-specific activity. Ensuring that we become part of the fabric of the business rather than just a rather fabulous subgroup.

Stephanie Nadi Olson

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We Are Rosie

Authentic engagement with any community starts with inclusion on your own team. Diversity and Inclusion has to be woven into the fabric of your company and show up in the values of your company and team, not just in your outward-facing image. Your employees and your clients will see through performative activism, which is a beautiful gift of accountability.

For marketers, you simply can’t create meaningful marketing when the communities you want to reach don’t have a seat at the table, contributing to the work you put out in the world. Since I started We Are Rosie six years ago, more than 30,000 marketing professionals have joined our community for connection to flexible and independent work. Their reasons for leaving the corporate world are as diverse as they are, but one that we hear over and over again is that they felt “otherized,” traumatized by traditional work, and discriminated against for being themselves.

Remote, flexible work frees marketers from company cultures where they aren’t seen as whole humans. It provides a layer of psychological safety. For those coming from the agency world, it means they get to choose which clients they work with, never having to compromise their values to earn a paycheck. For people who have been “otherized,” it provides a way for them to contribute their gifts on their own terms. How can you, as a leader, create circumstances where more and more people feel safe and welcome on your team? How can you incorporate your commitment to inclusion all year long- into the very fabric of how you work- instead of just one month each year?

If you’re a brand or company leader who wants to support the LGBTQ+ community all year long, look at how your team is working. If it’s strictly 9-to-5 in-office, then you’re missing a critical piece of inclusion in your internal structures, and you’re missing out on a whole lot of talent who can shape your external presence in authentic, meaningful ways.

Related Tags

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