Media ups coverage of gay issues

Although once a controversial audience, gays and lesbians are gaining more media coverage, both through targeted outlets and in the mainstream media.

Although once a controversial audience, gays and lesbians are gaining more media coverage, both through targeted outlets and in the mainstream media.

The current debate over gay marriage may be a legal watershed event for the same-sex community, but it's had surprisingly little impact on overall press coverage of the gay and lesbian lifestyle. "The changes that are taking place in coverage aren't so much attributable to gay marriage," notes Lance Buckley, national media director with Pierce Mattie Public Relations. "It's been a steadier growth with Will & Grace, the rise of the metrosexual, Queer Eye [for the Straight Guy], and Rosie O'Donnell." Over the past decade, gays and lesbians have grown from a potentially controversial audience that many brands avoided to one of the hottest targets for advertisers. "There is a buzz out there that the gay and lesbian audience can be an affluent consumer," says James Sharp Brodsky, president of both PR firm Sharp Communications and Sharp Edge, a marketing company specializing in the sophisticated gay audience. "The majority of gay households are still childless and don't have to worry about issues such as a child's college education." This flood of ad dollars isn't only driving the growth of targeted national outlets, such as Out, Instinct, Passport, And Baby, Curve, and Metrosource, but is also fueling an increase in gay coverage among mainstream outlets. Newsweek now has a dedicated gay beat writer, and Viacom announced plans to launch Logo, a new gay-themed cable channel, early next year. Reaching gay audiences Brodsky suggests the biggest change might be the realization by brands that they can reach that coveted gay audience through mainstream outlets. "I have statistics that show 60% of gay Americans read national news magazines first and foremost, and many sophisticated gays are not reading the niche publications that only talk about the gay audience," he says. "They look at car, sports, and home magazines." But Travis Stanton, managing editor of Minneapolis-based magazine Lavender, says the gay audience still wants to be acknowledged in any PR or marketing effort. "There is some resistance to companies that come in trying to get the gay dollar without doing anything to earn it," he says. "A pitch aimed at the gay community from a PR firm indicates that the company it represents is comfortable with the gay community and a gay message coming from that company." Curtis Steinhoff, executive director of Phoenix-based Riester-Robb Public Relations, adds, "We've seen an increase in interest from gay publications in general-interest stories, such as pet insurance, as long as we tailor the pitch to speak directly to them." That's not to say gay marriage hasn't had any impact on same-sex media coverage. One of the most successful recent gay-themed national campaigns was Philadelphia's "Get your history straight and your nightlife gay" travel message, which was picked up by outlets ranging from The New York Times to Comedy Central's The Daily Show. Jeff Guaracino, director of regional communications/gay market for Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing, credits some of the campaign's success to its timing, noting that gay marriage and the recent US Supreme Court decision to overturn sodomy laws has provided a ready-made news hook for same-sex lifestyle features. "Instead of 'if it bleeds, it leads,' it's 'if it's gay, it leads,'" he says. "Gay in the headline always gets attention." Showing similarities But perhaps more important, says Alice Leeds, communications director for Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), the same-sex marriage debate has shown the media and the public just how similar the gay and straight US populations are. "All broadcasts from the gay weddings taking place in San Francisco showed that gay couples are just as dumpy and just as regular middle-class as everyone else you know," she says. Leeds went on to predict an increase in overall gay and lesbian coverage going forward, in part because the coveted youth demographic seems increasingly comfortable with alternative life- styles. "Younger people in almost every poll show inclusive attitudes, support for marriage equality, and general live-and-let-live attitudes," she says, adding that in recent months PFLAG has worked with CosmoGIRL and Teen People on stories. The gay and lesbian media began with the rise of local and regional newsweeklies that can still be found in virtually every market in the US. Chronicle Books publicist Calla Devlin says that even with the rise of gay websites, cable channels, and glossy magazines, weekly newspapers, such as the Gaily Oklahoman, will continue to play a key role, especially in smaller markets, where they're often the only source for same-sex nightlife and other news. "They're targeted and have a captive audience," says Devlin, who does PR for many same-sex related books, including titles on gay weddings, gay cinema, and the upcoming Is Your Straight Man Gay Enough? Pitching... gay and lesbian lifestyle
  • There's danger in always lumping the gay and lesbian audience together, especially for lifestyle and travel pitches - men and women, regardless of sexual preference, often have very different interests
  • If you can't tailor your pitch specifically for a gay audience, then at least androgynize it so that references to attracting women, for example, are not the central theme of a men's product line
  • A gay audience can be found in a lot of mainstream outlets, so don't focus a same-sex pitch solely on niche publications

  • Have you registered with us yet?

    Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

    Register
    Already registered?
    Sign in

    Would you like to post a comment?

    Please Sign in or register.