Companies have a bad reputation when it comes to allyship - and for good reason. Every June there is a flood of rainbow-branded products or new LGBTQIA+ spokespeople, followed by a lack of follow-through or advocacy for the other 11 months of the year.
Unfortunately, these practices are not limited to LGTBQIA+ issues as advertising tactics like femvertising and pinkwashing still exist.
Advocacy and allyship for the LGBTQIA+ and other underrepresented communities cannot be one-month sprints, they must be marathons. If brands are seeking to engage with these communities, they need to be committed to intentional and long-term advocacy work.
According to Charlie Amáyá Scott, an Indigenous, queer, trans-femme scholar and advocate, “as much as I would love to give a checklist of activities, like a progress report, and BOOM, cultural and social change is accomplished, that is not how life works, currently.”
When Charlie is asked the frequent “what can I do to be a better ally or advocate for [insert marginalized community]” question, they start by sharing the 4R’s – respect, relevancy, responsibility, and reciprocity, which were outlined by Kirkness and Barnhardt in their 1991 article on the relationship between Indigenous students and higher education.
These self-reflective questions are critical to ask before engaging in any advocacy and allyship work.
“Once you decenter yourself and center the experiences and issues of a marginalized community, then you are already a better ally and advocate. Continue to change the world for the better.” - @dineaesthetics
Meg Ten Eyck, CEO of EveryQueer and a Diversity and Inclusion Consultant, says that brands can create positive and lasting change through internal workforce efforts, partnering with influencers, and broader marketing initiatives.
A company’s values start from within the organization and emanate out to its larger audience, so it’s important to start with your closest community first - your employees.
Influencers play an important role in the LGBTQIA+ community because they are “creating, curating, and distributing information” that builds and upholds the community, according to EveryQueer. As influencers are an essential part of a brand’s community, it’s important to ensure you are intentionally partnering with them.
“Influencers fill a hole in the market caused by a lack of diverse representation. Queer influencers aren’t just changing the game for the internet – they’re changing our community.“ - @everyqueer
Partnering with influencers is just the first step when it comes to supporting marginalized communities. Brands need to look at their marketing initiative holistically to ensure they are being inclusive - not pandering.
What’s important to remember is it comes down to “what is it that [these communities] want and need, rather than what a brand desires. Advocacy and allyship is not about us, but about the community” says Charlie, @dineaesthetics.
For us at Traackr, we feel a duty to not only do our best to live our values but also reflect on how we can effectively and sustainably incorporate social activism into everything we do. You can find our sustainable action plan here which details our short term and long term initiatives.