Steps for reaching an LGBTQ audience
July 2, 2012
According to Nielsen, ABC’s “Modern Family” was the most well-liked show during the 2011-2012 TV season. With the popularity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ) characters on television as well as the increasing coverage of LGBTQ issues, such as marriage equality and sexual orientation-based bullying and suicide in the mainstream media, LGBTQ individuals are receiving more attention than ever before.
For PR practitioners tasked with the goal of reaching diverse audiences, including sexual minorities, it is imperative that we look beyond the media-constructed imagery to gain a true understanding of who LGBTQ individuals are today. Below is a list of tips for starting this process:
- Understand the diversity within the LGBTQ label. Segmentation based on sexual orientation can be effective if done intelligently, but it is essential to recognize diversity within the LGBTQ communities as well. The LGBTQ population is composed of individuals representing all ages, gender identities and expressions, racial and ethnic categories, and various abilities. Therefore, messaging used to reach 18-34 year old gay males should vary from messaging used to reach 35-54 lesbians, just as cultural differences should also dictate the verbiage and media outlets used to target various segments within the broader LGBTQ population.
- Recognize that one label doesn’t fit all. While the acronym LGBTQ is widely used to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals, not all LGBTQ individuals use the acronym when referring to themselves or others.
- Know where to get LGBTQ-related information. Because of differences in same-sex attraction, behavior and identity, as well as the reluctance of many people to identify as LGBTQ due to homo-, bi- and transphobia, there is not an absolute number of LGBTQ individuals in the United States today. But you can obtain some figures as long as you know where to look, such as the 2010 U.S. Census for information about same-sex couples; UCLA’s Williams’ Institute for an in-depth analysis of Census; and PR firm Witeck-Combs’ for updated social science-based estimates about the U.S. LGBTQ population.
- Be familiar with LGBTQ-specific and LGBTQ-friendly media. The 2000s brought numerous changes to U.S. media, including the launch of an LGBTQ-targeted cable channel (Logo), satellite radio channel (Sirius’ OutQ) and a plethora of online media outlets — notably, the recent introduction of Huffington Post’s Gay Voices. In addition to having baseline knowledge of what media LGBTQ individuals consume, it is important to understand how these media outlets are shifting shape along with other trends.
- Reach out to communication professionals who have worked on LGBTQ campaigns. As LGBTQ-specific messaging is in higher demand, more strategic communication professionals are gaining experience reaching this niche audience. Before targeting LGBTQ individuals on your own, consider reaching out to others who have done so with success or at least review their websites for case studies.
Laurie M. Phillips, Ph.D., is assistant professor of public relations in the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon. Her research centers on strategic communication and LGBTQ audiences.