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How can brands deal with Pride backlash?

Updated: May 24

Imagine. 


You’ve just made a coffee in your company kitchen.

  

You go back to your desk to check your emails. 


Suddenly, there’s pandemonium in the office. 


You have countless emails flooding into your inbox.


The social media team keeps refreshing the company’s social pages. 


The senior leadership team all get called into the glass meeting room. 


You’re facing live backlash on social media for launching your Pride collection in retail stores.

 

This was the scene set by Polpeo – the creators of a crisis communications simulation that mimics what happens during a live outbreak on social media. You get ongoing social media trolls, endless emails from journalists asking you for a comment, and internal pressure from employees.


This experience is the closest thing you can get to live drama and panic when your company has been called out on various social media channels. As someone that’s not stepped foot into the crisis comms space before, here are my five takeaways from this learning experience: 


1. It’s all about strategic Intent 


In a crisis, focus on how your company will be remembered. Resist the urge to react to every negative comment on social media. Instead, prioritise a thoughtful, strategic response to manage the immediate fallout and protect your long-term reputation. By doing so, your company will be seen as responsible, measured, and principled, ultimately strengthening your brand.


2. Uphold your values 


Amidst the pressure to quickly address a crisis, stay grounded in your company’s core values and mission. Hasty decisions can exacerbate the situation. Ensure your actions reflect your principles, providing a consistent and authentic message. Support your employees, particularly those on the front lines. Upholding your values builds long-term trust and loyalty among stakeholders.


3. Remember the communities you’re speaking to 


Addressing backlash from both within and outside the LGBT+ community was the task we were faced with in this experience. It requires sensitivity towards and knowledge of diverse concerns. 

It’s crucial to consider the intersections within these communities and avoid actions that could do more harm than good in the long term. A nuanced approach, showing empathy and active listening, demonstrates a commitment to inclusivity and respect. This helps mitigate backlash and builds a stronger consumer base.


4. Let your strategy underpin everything 


A comprehensive crisis communication strategy should guide all your actions. This means considering both the immediate issue and the broader, long-term implications. Tailor your messaging to resonate with diverse communities while staying true to your brand values. Consistency in communication maintains credibility. Even under pressure, let your strategic approach ensure cohesive and focused responses.


5. Lean on your colleagues with expertise 


Experienced colleagues can significantly improve crisis management. During the simulation, I benefited from a CEO with a background as a Pride Communications Director and a Director with over 20 years of communications experience. Their insights and strategies helped us navigate the complexities of the situation effectively, ensuring we didn't exacerbate the crisis. Leveraging such expertise is invaluable in a crisis.


This hour-long crisis simulation revealed the critical elements of effective crisis communication: strategic intent, adherence to core values, understanding diverse communities, a solid strategy, and leveraging experienced colleagues. Preparedness, combined with a strong commitment to these principles, ensures you can navigate crises with confidence and clarity. Embracing these lessons helps companies manage crises more effectively and reinforces their reputation and trustworthiness with the public.


Was this experience a bit stressful? 


Yes.


But was it a lot of fun and provided me with some useful tactics? 


Yes. 


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