After a decade in the industry, I can no longer stay silent about what is happening in our field every day.
I set up Monumental to really empower minorities, champion diversity because of my own experiences in the marketing world. I have been successful in doing so and fostering a culture that truly celebrates that. However, that isn’t enough.
Every day, we come up against the same problems and barriers. This makes our jobs ten times harder; we don’t mind but given the times we live in we can no longer pretend everything is fine and dandy.
We work extensively in PR. Our job is to reach out to journalists in order to have our clients placed in their articles or broadcasts. The answers we get back a few too many times are comments like:
“We’ve already featured LGBT this month”
“We have already published a story about black entrepreneurs”
“Sounds great, but we would feature this only in pride month”
Here’s a newsflash…I’m gay 365 days a year, the same way a black man is black all year round.
Why is it that diversity in the media is still seen as a yearly tick box exercise? Why is it that our stories, accomplishments or struggles have the same space on your publications as a bullshit holiday like pancake day? Why is it that you publish three articles on a celebrity wearing a yellow bikini but not that they headline a capital pride?
The responses we receive are similar to those of objects. For example, if we were PRing a floral perfume we may get responses like “we covered floral perfumes last week, sorry we won’t do it for another six months”. To treat minorities in the same way you’d treat an OBJECT is disgusting.
There are, of course, exceptions to this. I’ve had amazingly positive experiences with publications like The Independent, The Telegraph and the Reach plc group. Those who created their own agenda are also mentionable – for example, Gal Dem Magazine. From my own dealings, I have always found that they will spend a little more time to ensure they are representing diverse voices wherever and whenever possible…and not just at “gay Christmas” aka Pride. For that, I applaud them.
I have been so cautious about sharing my feelings around this as I didn’t want to seem ungrateful for the content we have placed or even seen as rocking the boat on the progress we have made…but, isn’t this the problem?
People like me who receive these comments firsthand not speaking out, not taking the initiative to whistle blow. Is this because we feel grateful for the little we get? Because one weekend a year they’ll share our story. It just sounds like a bad relationship, where they give you 10% and you long for that. Too scared to stand up and show you deserve more in case that 10% goes away?
So, why now?
I was recently asked to write a piece for a marketing publication. This is something I really enjoy doing and have done quite a few articles over the last couple of months. The publication asked me to review an LGBT marketing campaign and shine a spotlight on the reasons why I liked it from a marketing professional point of view but also from a personal perspective.
I wrote the piece, my team submitted it and we never heard back. After a few follow ups the journalist just said the campaign wasn’t mainstream enough and that “it wasn’t in the spirit of their publication”. My team tried to fight this prior to letting me in on the news and prepared a great response for the journalist. When they shared what had happened with me I told them to hold fire and not bother.
I quickly realised that it had nothing to do with the campaign not being mainstream enough because this was a campaign that Google rolled out…globally (can you get more mainstream than the search engine that receives 63,000 searches per second?). “The spirit of their publication” – to me sounds like a nice way of saying we don’t want to publish an article with a video of two men being affectionate. Here’s the video for context:
The video isn’t explicit in any way. This is just an example of homophobic press…or homophobic advertisers?
Maybe the problem with the campaign I had chosen was that the LGBT aspect of it was subtle. There were no drag queens swinging from chandeliers nor gay men depicted as feminine hairdressers. The video doesn’t depict what “mainstream gay life” is perceived to be. Funnily, that specific publication describes its writing as the alternative voice of the industry.
What’s the solution?
The ridiculous part of all this is that the solution is simple. If you’re a journalist simply ask yourself “does this article show a true representation of society?”.
If the problem is deeper rooted than this and it’s your editor to push back or your publication in general that sees humans different to them as objects then be the game changer. Be the whistleblower.
If they let you go over it, it’s illegal.
Sure, you can read this article and think it’s just a bitchy gay man who’s annoyed his piece didn’t get published. Or if I were black you may think I’m being aggressive about the situation.
In my view, I am finally being authentic about my experience in the industry as I’m exhausted of being told that I’m only relevant one weekend a year.