The Importance of Identity: Tips for Organisations Considering LGBT Engagement

July 21, 2011


I was asked recently, “What is your identity?” 

Let's see. On paper, I'm a 30 year-old, white, American female. I'm a lesbian. I'm an ex-pat living in London. I'm also a blogger, pet-lover, fan of the National Trust, twin, tweeter, university graduate, etc…

We define ourselves in infinite ways. Our online personas are just as amorphous. So If we're nearly impossible to categorise, what chance is there for an organisation to successfully engage the LGBT community? For many organisations, committing to work with the LGBT is a brave first step if you consider existing hierarchies or internal politics. Then, there are the challenges such as demonstrating ROI of a first-year programme to that same group of stakeholders.

We can also be a vocal bunch, guarded and even cynical as a result of poorly executed marketing campaigns from the past.  So why even bother?

First and foremost, consumers want to engage with brands. LGBT are no different. Chances are, we'll welcome most brands with open arms. We'll remember your sponsorships, donations and guest speakers if done right. And we'll be thankful for it.

Here are a few factors organisations should look at when considering engaging the LGBT community:  

We are powerful.
Here in the UK, the “Pink Pound” is estimated at approximately £6billion a year. According to the BBC, “the gay travel market could be worth $142bn (£90bn) next year.” This year's incoming census data will give visibility to hundreds of thousands of Britons – some for the first time ever. Once published, virtually every sector will pour over the census data and leverage it for new business, votes and what have you. Will the LGBT community become a priority for fundraisers?

We are loyal.
The LoveBox music festival in London re-branded it's third day this year as Out & Fierce. However, nearly all online chatter, including every single one of my gay friends' Facebook status updates, referred to it as Gay Day. Each year hundreds gather for Gay Days Anaheim, the unofficial LGBT day at Disneyland USA. Organised mostly by the community, those who attend are encouraged to wear red shirts to be recognised by their peers around “The Happiest Place on Earth.” There's a reason the LGBT community loves certain brands. We remember your support whether formal or informal.

We are untapped.
There are the parade-goers, social singles and high-income bracket who are usually targeted by organisations. But there are emerging niche groups within the LGBT community that remain untouched. Legalised marriage in the US and rising adoption and surrogacy in the UK have caused LGBT couples to emerge as a hugely desirable market. Here is an entirely new growing segment of families looking to engage with family-friendly (and gay-friendly) brands. Successful engagement in this space by a major brand could lay the foundation for the rest of their industry, potentially others.

There are risks for organisations when reaching out to any new community, despite even the best intentions. However, if the emphasis is put into understanding what matters most to your target, how and where they identify, you stand a better chance at forging meaningful relationships — relationships that may lead to brand ambassadorships, votes or sales.

Sound familiar?  Consider this a new take on the ageless PR motto: know your audience.