THE PROBLEM WITH PINKWASHING

THE PROBLEM WITH PINKWASHING

Or Not So Much In The Global Pandemic…

I know these are unprecedented times! How could we forget! But it’s weird out there in the PR landscape at the moment.

Social media usage is through the roof, TV and online media are thriving, most people have completed Netflix, but it seems like brands are being very quiet.

Businesses are pushing harder than they have ever pushed before, we are seeing huge opportunities for spokespeople and commentators to share their experiences and opinions on the ever changing world around us. 

But on the flipside – I have written two columns for PR Week in the last month about creativity and campaigns. The first focussed on LGBTQ+ marketing and Pride month, as June has become known, and a creative hits and misses column last week.

There wasn’t much out there.

Leon launched a brilliant initiative to deliver books by LGBTQ+ author Olly Pike to people ordering certain dishes via Deliveroo in June. I love this campaign because it’s offering a platform to a much needed voice from a marginalised community within our society. Literature is still very white and straight in the main and we know that reading about, watching and listening to other experiences is the best way for us to learn about and understand the challenges people not like us face.

A brilliant example of genuine engagement has been Peleton. When we were locked down my husband and I bought an exercise bike (cliche) and it’s brilliant, it’s not a Peleton because he’s a ‘serious bike rider’ allegedly. But I use the Peleton app for spin classes. Throughout Pride month the Pride rides delivered by the Peleton coaches – many from their own homes on lockdown – have been brilliant. There is a constant, genuine stream of awareness building and inclusion. Last week I enjoyed a class with a soundtrack inspired by the Lesbian women of pop and this week a class where the instructor talked throughout about the origins of the Voguing movement. The whole spirit of Peleton is togetherness and inclusion, it’s about working together to achieve your goals. It can be cheesy and American but it’s also authentic, lead by the people who belong to the community and it’s a brilliant array of voices, experiences and stories that really filter through as you sweat through a hill climb. 

That seems to be it for Pride month apart from the usual Skittles and various trainer campaigns.  I know that brands have teams on furlough and budgets cut because of decreased spending, but it feels a bit like the pandemic has shone a light on how superficial some of these commitments to equality and inclusion might have been.  

There are many issues reaching fever pitch at the moment with race, gender and health all dominating the news agenda. I think maybe some brands are scared to act because they don’t want to be seen to be tokenistic but silence isn’t enough anymore.

Obviously brands want to sell to LGBTQ+ people, they want to sell to everyone, but now more than ever we look to brands to show us what they believe in. How they treat their staff, how diverse they are, what do they advertise and what does this look like – sticking a rainbow on a sandwich or high-tops doesn’t say much apart from that you want to sell some more sandwiches or high-tops.

Throughout the six years that we have been delivering comms and marketing for Manchester Pride, I have worked with some brands that do get it. Autotrader, a company I would never have expected to care so much about equality and inclusion, genuinely lead the way, then there’s Virgin Atlantic, the greatly missed Thomas Cook Airlines and the likes of Co-op, who all strive constantly to create the best environments for everyone who works with them or touches their stores in any way.  

These companies have internal LGBTQ+ equality policies, teams dedicated to delivering them, conferences, they give money to charities and they communicate both internally and externally what they do and why.  

An Autotrader employee survey found that more than 80% of their LGBT+ colleagues feel like they can be their true selves at work. An outcome that must be felt at across the whole business.

So, as Pride month comes to an end, I appeal to other brands to do the same. Especially right now, please think about the money. Pride organisations like Manchester Pride are either charities or are a vital fundraiser for other charities. They deliver support to LGBTQ+ people, help groups support communities, provide safe sex support, HIV support, Manchester Pride’s cultural arm, Superbia, gives grants to LGBTQ+ artists to make new work – the list is endless. In a time of crisis this has all become more important, but without Pride events the corporate pound has frozen in the most part.