EHarmony's gay dating site takes company into unfamiliar market

PASADENA, CA: In response to a settlement with the State of New Jersey, eHarmony Inc. launched its same-sex matching service, Compatible Partners, on March 31. In 2005, an individual filed a complaint in New Jersey against eHarmony, because it did not offer a same-sex matching service.

PASADENA, CA: In response to a settlement with the State of New Jersey, eHarmony Inc. launched its same-sex matching service, Compatible Partners, on March 31. In 2005, an individual filed a complaint in New Jersey against eHarmony, because it did not offer a same-sex matching service.

As part of the agreement, the company, known for its religious foundation, must "make a good faith commitment to advertise and/or employ public relations and/or marketing dedicated to its same-sex matching service,” and must work with a media consultant experienced in the LGBT community.

To that end it hired Fifteen Minutes to aid the PR campaign. The firm has a reputation in the LGBT community, and has a LGBT specialty. However, Paul Breton, director of corporate communications for eHarmony, said that while some of the PR for the launch of Compatible Partners was laid out in the settlement, the timing of the PR plan was up to eHarmony. “We started planning for the launch and creating the site as soon as the settlement was reached,” he said.

"We counseled eHarmony on the development of Compatible Partners, were very involved in the launch, and are looking forward to successfully promoting the service to gay and lesbian singles who want a great long-term relationship," said Bill Harrison, president and COO of Fifteen Minutes, via e-mail.

"In terms of reaching out to folks in the community, the first step of the process is offering a great service," Breton added, when asked about building a good reputation for the company and service within the LGBT community.

Breton said the PR campaign around the launch includes media outreach to print, online, and broadcast outlets nationwide, as well as social network efforts. Compatible Partners introduced a new Twitter account, and will use other social networks for future outreach, after determining which are best to reach the target audience.

"Right now, we've really just been focused on [making] people aware that the site's available," he said. "Over time, we'll continue to do more targeted outreach to the gay and lesbian singles community, to get across the differentiation we have… [and] our exclusive focus on long-term relationships."

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