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What is rainbow washing? (and how to avoid it in your company)


8 min read

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

June, the month of LGBTQ + pride, appears to be a gigantic celebration in different countries of the world. People with extravagant clothes and colorful flags come out to flood the streets of their city. Although it is true that this is a very striking part of the movement of this group, seeing only that side is clouding with ignorance.

Surely you have seen that many brands seem to paint rainbows to support the LGBTQ + community and do not mention them again the rest of the year. This is known as rainbow washing .

The term rainbow-washing refers to when a business, organization or personality uses images and symbols of the LGBTQ + community to promote a product or service without maintaining substantial support for the movement.

“It is very easy to decide that you are going to start a rainbow campaign, but it is just as easy to decide that you are going to donate a percentage of your profits to a queer organization. That’s something they should do from the beginning, ”says Andy Reynolds, an expert in LGBTQ + advertising in an interview with Entrepreneur en Español .

Sadly, many brands take advantage of the colorful and attractive side of the fight to generate merchandise. Other businesses only paint themselves in colors and claim to be allies in June, but neither strategy usually has much of an undertone. They would have to generate profound internal changes to truly consider themselves companies that support the LGBTQ + struggle.

Why is rainbow washing wrong ?

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Image: Mercedes Mehling via Unsplash

It is important to understand why rainbow washing is harmful to the LGBTQ + community. Many will think that it is beneficial for them that big brands give them visibility, even if they keep the money. It is not a direct damage, perhaps, but the way in which Pride is presented in this superficial way, makes all the struggle behind the celebration invisible.

The history of the community is very strong and violent . The people that make it up have lived through aggression and oppression for centuries. To use the flag representing people fighting for their freedom only as a marketing strategy is to show only a very small portion of what it means to be part of the LGBTQ + movement. The media is also partly to blame for the image of pride around the world because it only shows what the audience wants to see, which are usually controversial cases that are fashionable or very entertaining.

Reynolds is a publicist who focuses on LGBTQ + clients or businesses that want to appeal to them. He has 20 years of experience in the business and has worked with very different people throughout his career. He says that solely LGBTQ + media has been declining, but that today there are many allies writing about it on more mainstream sites. However, it is difficult to get these media to talk about topics that are not trending or are not as striking as others, so advertising LGBTQ + and trying to give visibility to these people is very complicated.

It also tells how companies make an attempt to make the community visible during the month of June, but even the way they present it on their websites lacks authenticity because, instead of putting it on their home page, they create a separate one where it is concentrated all your LGBTQ content *.

Put it on your home page! If you have the courage to do that, you are telling the world that all the people who are part of this community are welcome in your company. In this way, you also show that you openly support the laws in favor of it ”, the expert comments.

Businesses are willing to “show” their support to the community to appease their consumers who are allies or are part of it. But when it comes to taking a political position in favor of the community, many do not, and that is not substantial support.

How to go beyond marketing and build a responsible company?

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Image: Jonathan Kemper via Unsplash

“It is first about what is happening within companies. It is the biggest action they can take, not a rebranding campaign where they are trying to create a new face. What are you doing now? Are your employees happy? Where is he on the list of ‘Best Places to Work for LGBTQ + Equity?’ ”Says Andy

What the community needs goes beyond representation in advertising campaigns. They need a safe place to work. Being an ally goes beyond marketing. A company has to speak out about the issues its LGBTQ + employees face and create policies that protect them.

To understand more about how it can be solved from within, I spoke with Nico Barawid, CEO and co-founder of Casai, a company that has a technology platform that provides accommodations in Latin America and was built with ideals of inclusion. Nico talks about how, being part of the LGBT community, it is important to him that the company reflects his values and is able to help with his services.

“It is important that it sells inclusive products, supports inclusive organizations and is a workplace where people can live and love openly. You don’t achieve those goals by putting a rainbow in your logo, ”says Nico.

Nico shares with us three things that seem essential to him when building a company that wants to be inclusive.

  1. Make sure your company reflects the environment in which you operate
  2. Have very strong cultural values. “We have 5 values with which we evaluate people to make sure we want to promote or hire them.”
  3. Check that your Human Resources policies are inclusive from the beginning. It is easier to build a conscious company from scratch than to try to make changes to it elsewhere.

How to know if a company is a true ally?

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Image: Delia Giandeini via Unsplash

Many people believe that being a conscientious consumer requires a lot of research. On the one hand, this is true, but Andy Reynolds points out that now only one person is required to find out and share it on social media. You can review the lists that come out annually that list the best companies to work for. There are also different blogs or network accounts that you can review.

In case that is not available to you or you cannot find information about the company you are looking for, Nico recommends paying attention to what they do throughout the year, not just in June.

“It is important to see the marketing that they use throughout the year. Are the people who appear diverse? Are there of different races, genders and orientations throughout the year or only when there is a month in which it is expected of them? It is also very important to look at the product, is it made for everyone or just for a particular type of person? ”Explains Nico.


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How To Avoid Rainbow-Washing In Your Pride Marketing Efforts


Rainbow logo: check. Here’s what else you should consider.

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I get pitched a lot by publicists, agents and agencies for this column. Because I often use the behavior of certain people or companies as a jump-off point for articles, it makes sense that PR professionals would seek out similar coverage for their clients.

Publicists and account reps have many different resources for building their network, and an increasingly popular approach is to join and participate in online communities such as PR-focused Facebook groups. I’m in a few of these myself to stay informed, and the other day I saw a passing post that mentioned some new LGBTQ-related research. I’m always interested in seeing and referencing new data-backed studies, so I commented and asked for the press release.

I thought I wrote “Feel free to send that report my way.” But from the looks of my inbox the past few weeks, perhaps I blacked out and actually said something more along the lines of “Open Sesame!”, because the number of pitches I’ve received lately has been bonkers. 

Brand after brand has forwarded me their “revolutionary” new campaign in which they’ve printed a rainbow version of their product and are giving a portion of proceeds to an LGBTQ-focused charity. I’ll certainly never turn my nose up at a company’s charitable giving efforts. But I’m also worried. For many of these companies, a rainbow version of their product for the month of June feels both performative and — dare I say it — lazy. 

We know that we exist. So we want to see more than awareness in your pride marketing; we want to see allyship and innovation. Here are a few ideas on what that could look like — and why companies should care.

Related: The LGBTQ+ Community Has $3.7 Trillion In Purchasing Power; Here’s How We Want You to Sell to Us.

Consumer psychology has changed

Consumers increasingly look to where a brand stands on topics of social justice to determine their loyalty. Your customers and clients want to follow your company and buy your product not only for what it does, but also for what you stand for. 

We all like to purchase from companies that get us. And according to polling data from Gallup, the roar of both the LGBTQ community and economy is only getting louder. Highlights from that data include:

  • 5.6% of Americans identifying as LGBTQ, up from 4.5% in 2017,

  • 9.1% of millennials identifying as LGBTQ, with about half of that population identifying as bisexual, and

  • Nearly 16% of gen Z identifying as LGBTQ, with 72% of that population identifying as bisexual. 1.8% of Gen Z identifies as transgender.

Translation? Queer people exist, and younger people identify as queer in greater numbers. Oppression efforts continue to run rampant, so we need your help.

As of this writing, 17 anti-transgender bills have already been signed into law this year, per a press release from the Human Rights Campaign. The impact these bills will have on trans youth is staggering; a University of Arizona study found that trans youth experience far higher suicide attempt rates, but an affirmation of their identity and pronouns by parents can greatly reduce this number.

Financial data on the LGBTQ community also paints a complex picture. Mainstream stereotypes depict queer people as lavish and fabulous. But overall, LGBTQ people are more likely to experience socioeconomic inequality, according to a demographics report from UCLA.

As you create awareness for the LGBTQ community during pride month, take time in your messaging to give context. Share with your audience about the current challenges we face as well as where your company stands.

Related: This Is What LGBTQ Customers Actually Want to See During Pride Month

How to attract loyal customers who promote you on their behalf

If pride marketing feels like walking on eggshells this year, here are a few steps you can take that are largely guaranteed to make a difference.

  • Hand the microphone over. Instead of rainbow-washing a community’s needs, partner with a community leader who can speak to important issues in an informed, compelling way. Influencer marketing is still a slippery slope, but spokespeople have been a tried-and-true visibility tactic for decades. The approach is win/win.

  • Do something outside of June. If you’ve missed the opportunity to promote pride in June… there are LGBTQ-related awareness days throughout the year. Your campaign is less likely to get caught in the rainbow-washed echo chamber that is June, too.

  • Go local. GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide includes a directory of community organizations to spotlight and be aware of. What are your local organizations, and how can you encourage supporting them? These grassroots initiatives often make an immediate impact and can literally save lives.

Related: As Pride Month Ends, Here Are 3 Ways To Continue Supporting The LGBTQ+ Community

The LGBTQ economy continues to grow, and as a result the pride marketing landscape is changing. Instead of phoning it in, use marketing dollars to spotlight issues that truly matter to your customers. Challenge yourself to zig when others zag, and you’re more likely to command our market’s attention for months and years to come.


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This Former Lesbian Says Surrender Is the Secret to Godly Obedience — Charisma Magazine


Priscilla Du Preez Unsplash
(Unsplash/Priscilla Du Preez)

“Jessica, how do I get rid of all these same-sex attraction issues?”

This is the No. 1 question I receive around the world from LGBTQ individuals who desire to be obedient to the voice of God in their lives.

The answer: “Total and complete surrender.”

We former members of the LGBTQ community have learned what it truly means to surrender. Surrendering is not a one-time thing but a way of living.

Parents constantly guide their children in what to do, how to think, what to change and how to relax. Parents also constantly guide children by doing the one thing most disliked: They discipline. No child is thrilled by their parents’ constant guidance. But as children grow older, they see how this parental support has shaped who they’ve become.

There are various types of parents, and we see the results of these parenting styles. Some make us upset and cringe, while others cause us to smile and take note.

Would you rather surrender to a parent who lets you do whatever you want? Or would you prefer to surrender to a parent who may seem a bit overbearing but grooms you up to be a fruitful and productive member of society?

Check out my latest episode of The Victory Is Greater Than the Struggle on the Charisma Podcast Network as I show you how to press forward, even when you don’t understand the circumstances around you. Torch1

Read articles like this one and other Spirit-led content in our new platform, CHARISMA PLUS.

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Great Resources to help you excel in 2019! #1 John Eckhardt’s “Prayers That…” 6-Book Bundle. Prayer helps you overcome anything life throws at you. Get a FREE Bonus with this bundle. #2 Learn to walk in the fullness of your purpose and destiny by living each day with Holy Spirit. Buy a set of Life in the Spirit, get a second set FREE.


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UK Pastor Calls for ‘Ministry of Reconciliation,’ Responds to Backlash for Church’s Traditional Views on Sexuality — Charisma Magazine


Pastor Agu Irukwu Of Jesus House
Pastor Agu Irukwu of Jesus House (Facebook/Agu Irukwu)

Pastor Agu Irukwu of Jesus House in northwest London meets the needs of his community in practical ways, most recently with a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination site on Good Friday, as he knows access to such resources are often limited for members of Black, Asian and other minority groups.

Unfortunately, Irukwu and his congregation were subjected to a “torrent of hate-filled, abusive and bullysome” messages following the visit of the leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, who tweeted his regret on visiting the church upon learning of its biblically-based stance on marriage and sexuality.

The Evangelical Alliance spoke with Irukwu to unpack what happened leading up to and following Starmer’s visit—and what the backlash has meant for the faith community.

“It was a positive meeting,” Irukwu said of the visit with Starmer, who made Jesus House a stop on his “Let’s Vaccinate Britain” campaign at the Labour Party’s request. During his visit, Starmer met with the workers and “spoke with young Black members of the church, listening to their views on the vaccine and its impact on our community.”

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Irukwu says Starmer commended the church’s “work in responding to the needs of some of the more deprived areas of the community.”

A member of the Labour Party recorded the pleasant exchange, posting it on social media for updates on the campaign. Members of the LGBTQ community within the Labour Party immediately condemned the visit, to which Starmer removed the video from his social media account. He also issued a public apology for visiting Jesus House:

“I completely disagree with Jesus House’s beliefs on LGBT+’s rights, which I was not aware of before my visit. I apologize for the hurt my visit caused and have taken down the video. It was a mistake and I accept that.”

Irukwu is no stranger to backlash from those who disagree with the biblical values upon which the church is based. The issue started in 2006 over Jesus House’s opposition to proposed sexual orientation equality laws, of which more than 150 other church leaders were also opposed.

And yet, Irukwu is confident that Christ’s message of love will reign through their response. What worries him, Irukwu says, is the indication that situations such as this reveal a “society sliding into intolerance of views and opinions that are different” than their own. As such, Irukwu believes Starmer’s response to the backlash proves to be a “missed opportunity to model strong leadership” in this area.

Continuing to stand up for his beliefs, Irukwu calls for believers to join him against cancel culture and “speak up in the characteristic loving and gracious manner of our model: our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

“The ministry of reconciliation is one which God commends to us as Christians,” Irukwu says. “We can certainly start by praying more for the Spirit of God to work in this ministry of reconciliation. We can also pray for more of the fruit of the Spirit to allow us to be more effective.”

For those who wish to pray for the ministry of reconciliation that Jesus House and Irukwu are striving for, he has a call to petition:

“We would like to ask you, as our brothers and sisters, to pray for more grace for us. We would also like to ask you to pray for unity in the body of Christ. Please pray that we will not grow weary in doing good and that, despite all that has been thrown at us, we will continue to obey the injunction of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to ‘bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you’ (Luke 6:28, ASV). We believe that God is working out His own plans and purposes and ultimately His name will be glorified.” Torch1

Read articles like this one and other Spirit-led content in our new platform, CHARISMA PLUS.

Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.

Great Resources to help you excel in 2019! #1 John Eckhardt’s “Prayers That…” 6-Book Bundle. Prayer helps you overcome anything life throws at you. Get a FREE Bonus with this bundle. #2 Learn to walk in the fullness of your purpose and destiny by living each day with Holy Spirit. Buy a set of Life in the Spirit, get a second set FREE.


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