Editor's Cut: On June 12, 2016, in the early hours of the morning, as exhausted, jubilant and hopeful people danced the night away, a young man walked into the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and opened fire.
The aftermath of this attack left 50 people dead, some 50 people injured (many critically) and a world stunned. The attack has been labeled—branded, if you will—as an act of terror…the worst mass shooting in United States history and a hate crime.
The attack shocked the world both because of the violence and death it caused and because of the jumble of “reasons” for why the attack happened. It was because a madman could access a weapon. It was because of his homophobia…because of his own confused sexuality. It was because of his radical religious views. It was because of mental illness. What is left in the wake of these arguments is a single fact: Like all moments of loss, despair and violence, a community is fractured and left to grieve in the harsh global spotlight.
Within hours of the attack, many brands began asking what they could do. How should we react? How can we respond?
To answer some of these questions, I reached out to Jenn T. Grace, “Professional Lesbian,” expert in LGBT marketing and communications, but more importantly a friend, for some professional advice. Here are her words of wisdom for marketers and the brands we represent:
- Speak out. It is important for companies to speak up and speak out about Orlando. The community is paying very close attention to what brands are saying or not saying during this time of grief. A simple acknowledgement will go a long way. A statement on a website, in social media or to direct clients or consumers who are part of the LGBT community is a signal that you are paying attention.
- Engage in the conversation. Pay attention to what consumers are saying about your brand as it relates to the LGBT community. Engage with your LGBT and community allied employees in a meaningful way. Show them that you care and that your brand has a heart.
- Donate. If you have a product or service that you can donate to Equality Florida or another local organization, then do so. If you don't have something to donate, consider volunteering or empowering employees to volunteer. Find a way to make yourself and your brand present in the community that you are aiming to help. Convey your support in an authentic and genuine way.
- Show support. Even something small can show that you stand with the community. Many companies are showing their support by changing social media profiles to a rainbow, some are lighting up their office buildings, and others are showing up or are sponsoring pride events. If there is a way you can show your support by way of the rainbow, then do so. During this time of crisis, the more rainbows the community sees, the better.
- Get personal. As individual marketers, take the brand hat off. Reach out to family, friends and colleagues who you know are part of the LGBT community and check in on them to see how they are.
While these are words specifically about how to support the LGBT community in the wake of the attack in Orlando, these points of advice ring true for any time of crisis. Sadly, we will need to remember these points again—whether because of an act of terror or because of a natural disaster or catastrophe. These words of advice are a wise reminder for brands as we look to be part of the fabric of the communities we serve, both for our employees who are searching to find answers for themselves and their families and for our customers who will remember words of support and acts of kindness and community.
My heart, thoughts and prayers are with Orlando, including the community as a whole and the individuals touched by this horrific act. And my thoughts go out to all of my friends and colleagues who happen to be part of the LGBT community. I am and will continue to be your ally and supporter, not because of “what” you are, but because of who you are and the brilliance you bring to my life.
The lives taken cannot go forgotten, just as the lives of those snuffed out by terror all around the world cannot be trivialized, overlooked or ignored. This happens far too often, from a nightclub in Orlando to the Paris home of two police officers murdered in front of their young son and even the suicide attack on a bus in Kabul that claimed the lives of 14—an attack being reported by BBC News as I am writing this note. We marketers will sadly have far too many opportunities to display our brand’s empathy and unity with our customers and community. While there are numerous ways to show our support, the only option we do not have, and the option we cannot afford, is to remain silent or separate from the lives of the people we touch.
Be safe and be well.
Until next month,