Conference ponders gay and lesbian PR challenges

CHICAGO: Although the gay and lesbian market numbers 16.5 million consumers with an estimated annual buying power of dollars 450 billion, few PR agencies have oriented their marketing efforts towards this huge, potentially lucrative audience. Hoping to change this, the organizers of an upcoming conference will evaluate the benefits of doing PR and marketing for gays and lesbians - as well as the equally sensitive task of avoiding any backlash.

CHICAGO: Although the gay and lesbian market numbers 16.5 million consumers with an estimated annual buying power of dollars 450 billion, few PR agencies have oriented their marketing efforts towards this huge, potentially lucrative audience. Hoping to change this, the organizers of an upcoming conference will evaluate the benefits of doing PR and marketing for gays and lesbians - as well as the equally sensitive task of avoiding any backlash.

CHICAGO: Although the gay and lesbian market numbers 16.5 million

consumers with an estimated annual buying power of dollars 450 billion,

few PR agencies have oriented their marketing efforts towards this huge,

potentially lucrative audience. Hoping to change this, the organizers of

an upcoming conference will evaluate the benefits of doing PR and

marketing for gays and lesbians - as well as the equally sensitive task

of avoiding any backlash.



The conference, organized by the Little Falls, NJ-based International

Quality & Productivity Center, will be held March 28 and 29 in

Chicago.



It will examine what tactics have proved successful as well as what

mistakes to avoid.



While corporations are more inclined to make overtures to gay and

lesbian consumers than in the past, they still often face internal and

external resistance, according to Witeck-Combs marketing manager Tony

Hain.



’The key is to have a communications plan in place when addressing the

market, so everyone understands why the company is doing it,’ he

said.



The natural starting point, Hain insists, is with a company’s own

internal policies.



One company that failed to grasp the need for consistency in its

policies and communications towards gays and lesbians was United

Airlines. At a time when the company was supposedly reaching out to gay

and lesbian consumers, the airline took a leading role in opposing a San

Francisco ordinance requiring that companies conducting business with

the city had to offer domestic-partner benefits. After a judge ruled

that the airlines involved in the suit must offer limited benefits,

United announced a package that went beyond the city’s requirements.



By contrast, American Airlines has been supportive of gay and lesbian

issues for years and has seen results in the form of seizing a sizeable

share of the gay/lesbian market.



Among the PR and marketing professionals scheduled to speak at the

conference are Bob Witeck and Wes Combs, partners in Witeck-Combs

(hailed for its gay/lesbian programs); Coors corporate relations manager

for the gay and lesbian community Mary Cheney; and Tim Kincaid, a senior

representative for corporate communications with American Airlines.



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