Inclusion is good for business; Make sure your marketing reflects it
Thursday, May 04, 2023
In April, EDASC hosted the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA), the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ chamber of commerce, for an afternoon of education and discussion around inclusion.
“Business is the equalizer that brings us together,” GSBA President & CEO Ilona Lohrey said.
The GSBA recognizes inclusion broadly, she said, not just for those identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community. One example she cited is the organization’s women/minority business owner programs, which are open to all whose business is woman- or minority-owned certified or could be.
“We constantly need to make sure we’re relevant – and that means being inclusive,” she said.
Chris Marcacci, director of membership and programs for GSBA, emphasized the importance of messaging that welcomes LGBTQ+ patrons to your business.
“Being welcoming in your business isn't just about hanging up a rainbow flag,” he said. “You have to expand this message to your language. If you don't say it in your marketing, people won't feel like you're prepared to be welcoming.”
Not only customers but also potential employees will notice those efforts, he said. “You need to let people see themselves as employees or customers.”
Joey Chapman, GSBA's membership director, added that when businesses do use inclusive words and images, they must then “be ready to welcome folks who look like that.”
Lohrey stressed that allyship is an action, not just a state of being.
“No movement has ever succeeded without allies,” noted EDASC CEO John Sternlicht.
One LGBTQ+ member of the roundtable said her partner has felt unsafe or unwelcome showing affection in their community. Another participant mentioned that mixed-race couples are also often the recipients of unwelcoming actions.
These lived experiences are not always perceived by community members outside of minority groups and is a reminder that while our communities may feel like they generally do a good job of being welcoming and inclusive, work remains to be done, said Sedro-Woolley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Monique Brigham.
Inclusion efforts boil down to teaching people to accept different communities, Lohrey said.
“When we don’t, that’s what keeps us separate.”