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Thomson Reuters Foundation

Writing a Global Wrong in LGBT+ Media


How do you create and launch the first truly global news organization devoted to news for and about LGBT+ people?

Out of a global population of 7.5 billion, it’s estimated that between 300 million to 700 million people identify as LGBT+. Yet being an LGBT+ person is still illegal in 73 countries. And, it’s punishable by death in 14. 

Even mainstream media aimed at the LGBT+ community is in fact biased toward affluent gay men over other LGBT+ groups. Up to this point, no news outlet has published news for the entire LGBT+ community. This is especially true for those living in countries where homosexuality is illegal, or nations where gay propaganda laws encourage homophobia. 

In this case, no news is very bad news, and the Thomson Reuters Foundation came to FleishmanHillard to create a brand and launch campaign for the first news platform dedicated to underreported LGBT+ news from around the world. 

Introducing “Openly.” Unbiased news for a world that isn’t.  

We set about launching a news and information platform created by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, with the aim of becoming the ultimate source of LGBT+ news around the world and giving voice to the issues and discrimination they face. 

Launch events were held in New York during the United Nations General Assembly week and in London the following week, attracting hundreds of influencers and media.   

We hit the world’s most popular commercial intersection — Times Square — and turned it into the world’s biggest newspaper, using ad space on the Thomson Reuters building to display shocking, homophobic media headlines from around the globe. All of this was timed to coincide with the United Nations General Assembly in New York and National Coming Out Day in London, and the resultant coverage was both widespread and positive. 

The coming out wasn’t just a hit. Today, it’s breaking barriers. 

Since its launch, Openly content is now taken by and running across 750 broadcasters in 115 countries and over 1,000 newspaper groups and digital publishers. It reached 118 million readers in 48 countries, including Russia, Uganda, Bangladesh, Qatar, Turkey, Pakistan, Jordan, Israel and Malaysia in the three months following its launch, and has undoubtedly secured its objective of becoming a credible and trustworthy voice. 

In March 2019, Openly broke a story that Brunei planned to impose the death penalty for gay sex. It sparked worldwide news coverage and outrage, and gave a bigger platform to Brunei’s LGBT+ community. Responding to the international backlash, Brunei announced the death penalty would no longer be imposed.  

And within three months of launch, Openly achieved big impact for the LGBT+ community of Malaysia when it reported on a discriminatory sex education campaign run by the government of Malaysia at the end of 2018. The resultant media pressure prompted the Malaysian Health Ministry to amend the program, dropping the “gender identity disorder” content they had initially included. 

The United Nations’ Human Rights Officer, Fabrice Houdart, has described Openly as having made a “significant difference to the lives of LGBT+ people. 

OpenlyStats, influence and accolades: 

  • 118+ million readers globally
  • 14,500+ followers on social media
  • 115 countries reached
  • Named “Best Equality and Inclusion Cause Campaign” by PRWeek’s Campaigns for Good Awards
  • Malaysian Health Ministry dropped “gender identity disorder language” after Openly broke the news
  • First to break the news of the barbaric Brunei death penalty for LGBT+ people, which resulted in a media and social backlash that led to Brunei renouncing the penalty