Pride month is over and most major pride parades, at least in the UK and the US, are held for the year. We sat down with Robbie de Santos of Stonewall and Alex Lewis of Revolt, Stonewall’s partner agency on his successful “Take Pride” campaign, to ask: How can brands and agencies take Pride seriously in the world? over the next 11 months?
Pride, emotion, can be precious in fleeting moments, but the real goal is to be proud of who you are all the time. This idea is behind much recent criticism of the behavior of brands and companies during Pride month, under the rubric of pinkwashing and symbolism: pride is not pride if it is not permanent.
The origins of Pride Month and the marches lie in protest: the inaugural march in New York City commemorated a year after the Stonewall Riots, in which LGBTQ+ people organized against police raids and unfair treatment under of the law. The Pride events that followed were acts of defiance: pride in LGBTQ+ identity in the face of abuse and inequality.
The UK’s first Pride took place in 1972, making this year’s events the 50e anniversary. Robbie de Santos, director of communications and external affairs at Stonewall (the UK charity named after these inaugural events), told The Drum that the mood of this year’s events told a story. “The energy at Pride in London this year was really different to what it has been in recent years, where it felt more like a parade than a protest,” he says. “The energy was felt a lot more on the side of the protesters this year.”
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It’s no coincidence: 50 years later, de Santos says, there’s a lot to celebrate, but there remain very real threats and barriers for LGBTQ+ people. As we speak, for example, a leadership race to decide the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is descend in an all-too-familiar stack against transgender rights.
“There’s a real sense of urgency,” de Santos tells us. “There is real fear over the rise in hate crime, which has more than doubled over the past five years, with a disproportionate effect on trans people. We live in a time of what we call “plastic moral panic,” where this cultural narrative is really taking hold. It’s not based on any reality that LGBTQ+ people are a threat in the world, but it was made to be one. We are seeing real threats to our lives, increasing violence, and people are angry and scared.
It would be remiss not to mention that Stonewall, and certain people associated with the organization, have recently been at the center of heated debates over the priority of trans rights. For de Santos, the charity’s position is clear: “We at Stonewall are very clear that we support trans people, we are an LGBTQ+ organisation…basically we believe that trans people deserve to live a free, happy and safe life.”
To be proud
There ‘be proud‘, developed with Stonewall’s partner agency Revolt (which was previously working on a Stonewall rebrand), is designed to reaffirm the year-round, company-wide commitment needed to claim and protect equal rights and treatment for LGBTQ+ people. The campaign will run, they say, for years as a “sub-brand” campaign.
“We wanted to deliver a message that was simple, unifying and really related to the fact that LGBTQ+ equality was not only won by a few marginal activists; it was won by people in the workplace, people in schools, friends and families, all of whom showed up for the LGBTQ+ people in their lives,” de Santos says. “Really, there is an element of complacency about it. This complacency stems from a lack of ownership. The idea behind this campaign is to help people take ownership of their role in our Pride movement, whether they are LGBTQ+ or not, and engage in it on an ongoing basis.
This continuous foundation means creating “multiple moments throughout the year, beyond the day/week/month awareness cycle”, such as the ‘Rainbow laces‘ country. Organizations also need to focus on the overall schedule; de Santos’ prognosis here is actually quite good: “Most organizations don’t just do some sort of above-the-line activation for the month of June; most of them actually go quite deep.
The problem is that “they don’t have the narrative to talk about it… I think there’s a tension between the D&I teams and the communications teams in those institutions where the good work is done all year round , but communications teams are often the ones to say, “we can’t talk about it unless there’s the Pride Month hook.” One of the challenges for communications and publicity teams , across all sectors, is to better integrate and celebrate the good work they do.”
De Santos is clear on what he wants to see next from Pride and those close to him: “Stand up, fight and hold on, because now is not the time to win new rights. It’s about protecting the existing rights that we fought for, before we can think about meaningful progress.
Meanwhile, Alex Lewis, co-founder of goals agency Revolt, who has partnered with the campaign, believes the industry trend toward authentic, goal-driven marketing is here to help. stay. He purposely compares the position of the industry to its position on digital transformation 20 years ago (thus: nascent but very clearly going in one direction). It encourages brands to take a more granular look at “the ‘fights within the fight’, which is quite an interesting space for brands, because I think it makes it more clean and distinctive, rather than just associating in as a mark with the macro rainbow and the concept of pride.
Lewis is clear on the question brands should ask themselves. “What’s in your own DNA, your own product and service, your story, that can be geared towards something a little more granular and focused, which would be a real benefit?”