Beyond Pride

This post was originally published on The Voice of AAF DC on May 31, 2019.

Tomorrow, we welcome another Pride Month. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer+ (LGBTQ+) communites come together every June to celebrate the right to be themselves and love freely. Pride events are held nationwide; for some, it is the only occasion where they can be out in their community.

While Pride Month has long been associated with rainbow flags, parades, and celebrations of diversity, it has also become famous as the month where companies push their LGBTQ+ marketing campaigns.

Many advertisers see Pride season as a prime opportunity to take their message directly to LGBTQ+ consumers. Media is awash with brands slapping rainbows on fry boxest-shirtslogos, and tv commercials, but how many companies really support the message of diversity year-round?

Money is Power

Helping corporations better understand and reach the LGBTQ+ community is part of a larger purpose for Community Marketing & Insights (CMI), the world’s leading and most-respected LGBTQ+ research firm. For 25 years, CMI has produced consumer market research for leading brands, companies, organizations, universities, and government institutions seeking to understand, reach, and serve the increasingly diverse LGBTQ+ community authentically and effectively.

As LGBTQ+ acceptance increased, more companies were incentivized to target these consumers, who have an estimated buying power nearing $1 trillion. When companies neglect the LGBTQ+ community, they miss out on opportunities to reach a valuable market segment and undoubtedly leave money on the table.

But this audience doesn’t only exist in the month of June.

365 Days of Pride

LGBTQ+ consumers are eager to spend their hard-earned dollars with companies that not only recognize them but align with their values. Corporations cannot assume that the LGBTQ+ community will notice their support based on a month-long bombardment of staged inclusivity.

Completely aside from advertising dollars, brands need to embed LGBTQ+-specific practices into their global operations, which affect millions of people. In short, to get the LGBQT+ community to invest in your brand, you need to invest in the LGBTQ+ community and let them know about the effort.

Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for LGBTQ+ Americans, provides a list of best practices for marketing and advertising that can help brands get the ball rolling. The list includes suggestions to stay consistent despite conservative backlash and to avoid stereotyping.

HRC also works to improve the lives of the LGBTQ+ community by advocating for equal rights and benefits in the workplace. The Corporate Equality Index report provides an in-depth analysis and rating of large U.S. employers and their policies and practices pertinent to LGBTQ+ employees. Businesses rated 100 percent are recognized as “Best Places to Work.”

That’s how to prove that your brand is a true ally — support an inclusive culture and advocate for corporate social responsibility, even beyond Pride Month.

Hella Insecure: Relationships and Media

This post was originally published on The Voice of AAF DC on February 22, 2019.

Left to right: Panelists Aaron Abernathy and Krysten Copeland listen as Shaiday Dancy discusses a Tiffany & Co. ad

Have you stopped to wonder how social media and advertising have come to influence modern-day relationships? Members and guests of Ad 2 DC dissected this age-old question at the Hella Insecure Panel. The event included panelists representing people of color and the LBGT+ community leading an insightful conversation over happy hour bar fare.

The panel, moderated by President of X+PR Xina Eiland, consisted of: public relations and communications pro Mercy Chikowore; Founder & Chief Strategist of KC & Co. Communications Krysten Copeland; creator of Sunflxw Artistry Shaiday Dancy; and pianist and songwriter Aaron Abernathy​​. Their mission was to set things straight about professional and personal relationships in the era of social media.

The panel dug deeper into the effects that mainstream commercials and print ads have on modern-day relationships, much like what we see on the HBO series Insecure. Panelists also discussed the way relationships have changed for better or for worse since the introduction of social media and other technology. After introductions from each panelist, the discussion kicked off with the first question: “How would you describe the relationship between dating, love, pop culture, and media?”

Black Culture and the Creation of Black Twitter

The consensus was that pop culture is Black culture and it has changed the way brands structure their advertising. Panelists agreed that the African-American community has an influence that stretches beyond our own diaspora through fashion, music, and social media. A number of brands look to Black culture for ‘inspirational direction,’ “but there is a thin line between appreciation and appropriation,” as Eiland reminded the crowd. Copeland remarked that “Black culture has been setting trends” but with the introduction of “Black Twitter,” the conversation begins to expand.

“Black Twitter” can be defined as a “collective of active, primarily African-American Twitter users who have created a virtual community that participates in continuous real-time conversations.” Much of the content on Black Twitter surfaces during a crisis that impacts the black community, and on a lighter note, when discussing media content such as TV shows, movies, and award ceremonies from the black perspective. The development of this virtual community has changed the way we manage relationship expectations including the $200 Date Debate, the phenomenon of relationship goals, Tinder meetups, cuffing season, and Netflix and Chill. For many millennials, Black Twitter has given us a new representation of relationships.

Media and Relationship Diversity

The discussion also included recent ads by some of the world’s largest brands. Panelists pointed to Tiffany & Co’s Believe in Love and Gillette’s #MeToo-inspired ads as examples that are either getting relationship diversity right or completely missing the mark. The panelists attributed this new trend of diversity and representation to brands trying to tag onto trending topics and current events. Brands are seeking a creative way to get into the social media conversation, which doesn’t always result in authenticity. Abernathy and Dancy both agreed that your social media platforms are a resume of sorts: They are your public portfolio, regardless of whether you’re a major brand or a small, personal brand.

Ad 2 DC Diversity & Inclusion Chair Iyana Moore (center) with panelists (left to right) Xina Eiland, Mercy Chikowore, Aaron Abernathy, Krysten Copeland, and Shaiday Dancy

Final Thoughts

The panel discussion concluded with a Q&A session. Audience members were excited to ask the panelists how they balance their professional lives with relationships. DJ and WPFW DC radio personality Bobby Rox asked about push and pull media becoming more blurred with the continued development of technology. The group agreed that push media was becoming more prevalent with social media making messages more pervasive than ever.

This diversity event was a great opportunity for young professionals to network and connect with people outside of their normal 9-to-5 circles. The biggest takeaway from the event was that social media is a tool for all types of relationships and we all have the ability to utilize our full power as consumers and professionals to create better, more meaningful content. As Chikowore said: “Being authentic on social media is all about deciding what your purpose is. So, whether you are looking for the Michelle to your Barack or a new job, be mindful and genuine!”