#1 – Tailor your message.
If you are reaching out to the LGBT community you need to know your audience. For example if you are putting an ad in an LGBT specific publication and you feature a straight couple you’ve basically just alienated your audience. Lack of tailoring your message signifies a lack of commitment. If you are using the same blanket message for an ad for the LGBT community, Hispanic community and the senior citizen population then you are doing something wrong. (And yes, I’ve seen companies do this.)
#2 – Be subtle.
When placing ads that are specific to the LGBT community – be subtle. There’s nothing more obnoxious than seeing a mainstream company slap a rainbow at the top of their standard ad and say “We’re gay-friendly.” The community doesn’t need to see a rainbow to understand you support the LGBT community. I know I personally pick up on the very subtle things. Such as the ad Kaiser Permanente put in Time Magazine. They were showing their support of many diverse groups and a gay couple was just part of that diversity.
#3 – Be inclusive.
Referencing the Kaiser Permanente ad again, they did a great job at being inclusive. It is great to show your support by advertising in LGBT specific publications such as the Advocate, the Washington Blade, Tagg Magazine or The Rainbow Times (among many others.) But there is even greater value in showing LGBT people in your mainstream advertising in places like Time, USA Today or Entrepreneur Magazine. LGBT people are everywhere. We are not just confined to reading LGBT specific newspapers or magazines. We are in the mainstream just like everyone else. So when I pick up a magazine and see an LGBT couple or see a TV commercial that shows LGBT people – that makes me appreciate that company more. Why? Because they aren’t just confined to advertising where only the LGBT community sees them, but they are hanging a shingle that says “we are open for business and support LGBT consumers.”
#4 – Don’t worry about stereotypes.
Stereotypes are a losing battle. Rather than get into the semantics of why you’ll never win the stereotype battle focus on just this – be authentic. If you are producing a major ad campaign – use real LGBT people and avoid stock photography. There are a lot of stock photos out there of “LGBT” people and chances are they are models that you and 100 other companies are using to represent the LGBT community in your ads. Invest the money, do it right, and get yourself some authentic LGBT photos. You can even be creative and start a contest with your current customers asking for them to submit photos – you’ll be surprised by the quantity and quality of photos you’ll receive.
#5 – If you’ve got it, flaunt it.
If your company has been recognized for the work you’ve done in the diversity space, flaunt it! Have you been named one of the HRC’s Best Places to Work? Let your audience know. It’s as simple as putting the designated logo in your ad somewhere.
Do you support the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, Out & Equal, the Human Rights Campaign or your local pride organization? If yes, ask them for a logo to place in your advertising. I’ve seen some companies do this very well, like TD Bank for example. There is nothing wrong with touting that you are a rock star in your respective industry for diversity. You’ve worked hard to gain that recognition – so take advantage of it!