Wednesday, October 14, 2015

LGBT Public Relations vs. News and Information

By Gentry Bennett,

On June 26, 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that marriage is an equal right, no matter your sexual preference. The marriage equality movement had finally received it's victory, and they weren't the only ones celebrating. Brands across many industries celebrated the ruling in strategic public relations moves. Here is a sampling of brands' Twitter responses to the ruling:
These brands all show support of the ruling while sticking to their brand. It's very important for the integrity of a brand to stick to their branding and voice when promoting agendas such as marriage equality.

I am certain these brands had a PR plan ready to put to work for the ruling, as it is a tremendous opportunity to promote corporate policies and inform consumers of the support they have. Large companies released pre-written press releases detailing their commitment to LGBT employees and customers. These tweets were also pre conceived, which you can tell due to the proximity of time in which they tweeted after the ruling came down.

Gay filmmaker Parvez Sharma said “It is not a question of whether Islam will accept me. The question is if I accept Islam, and I do — but on my own terms" (NY Daily News).

This statement shows that Sharma did not change who he is to support a religion, but rather that he is blending in to a religion on his own terms.

Similarly, brands must blend in to support as Mentos, PETA and Burt's Bees did in June. Stating that the brand supports marriage equality without using their own branding and voice would be a serious mistake that one cannot afford in the ever-evolving world of social media. Now that these tweets are posted, they will never be deleted from the internet. Somewhere out there, there is record of every post that goes online. Deleting a tweet could make the brand seem as though they are easily influenced by people's opinions and retracting support for this issue in general could cause them to lose customers. Similarly, releasing a campaign that doesn't sound like the brand's voice could be detrimental to the integrity of the brand.

It is important to note that brands were doing this before the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage. In 2014, Allstate released this video as a part of an LGBT campaign:

Allstate's message of being 'in good hands' is something that nearly everyone knows. This utilized their branding and their voice to communicate a message that is very important to them.

When it comes to news and information journalism, communicating LGBT messages can get a little more complicated. I didn't realize this until hearing this interview with Parvez Sharma, the filmmaker quoted earlier in this blog.

While reporting on LGBT issues in America, reporters are not afraid of arrest or even death. Sharma's experience with reporting and creating his films while being gay in the Muslim world could have led to arrest or death. How do ethics play in to this? Do the codes that we abide by as journalists apply to reporting in other countries?

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