Out Marketing

4 Ways To Reach LGBT Customers Authentically

When Richmond Region Tourism approached Virginia Commonwealth University’s Brandcenter last year about rebranding its tourism campaign as OutRVA, the destination marketing organization had already developed a strong LGBT marketing foundation through working directly with the community for over four years.  

A region previously overlooked by LGBT travel media has shifted to one that’s now covered by travel writers from across the nation thanks to the work of Richmond Region Tourism.  And according to Community Marketing, Inc, a clearinghouse for research in this segment, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people contribute an estimated $100 billion to the travel economy each year.  

The success of Richmond’s campaign combined with the potential economic impact to position the state as more a welcoming place led Governor Terry McAuliffe to form a statewide LGBT Tourism Task Force.

Since its inception, OutRVA has grown to fully encompass what it means to market Richmond as an LGBT-friendly city, a mission that focuses on authenticity above all else.  I’ve been fortunate to serve on the the regional committee since the campaign began and will be serving on the Governor’s task force with the campaign’s creator Katherine O’Donnell, Vice President of Community Relations at Richmond Region Tourism, and several of our OutRVA colleagues.

Here are four takeaways that any organization can use to incorporate LGBT marketing into their messaging.

Inreach before outreach.

Before you reach out to the community, it's important to make sure things are solid at home - including employment policies that protect based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  Equality Virginia’s VirginiaFairness.org offers template policies and opportunities to get involved in ending workplace discrimination. Covering the groundwork allows for a stronger campaign to grow naturally.

Connect with the community

Richmond Region Tourism’s campaign has strong roots because it is so closely tied to the community.  In the beginning, RRT’s staff was intentional about including a mix of LGBT business owners, community advocates, and PR and marketing professionals on its committee. Start with the diversity in your current community and customer base and build from there.

Tell real stories

Throughout the campaign, it was important to include real Richmonders telling stories about why they love their city. Real people sharing in a true and powerful way speaks more than any paid actor or model.  It allows the true nature of the city to shine through in both the words and the images of real LGBT people in Richmond.

Make it a part of your overall marketing mix

In lieu of purchasing ads exclusively in LGBT media, use real couples in your traditional media buy.  We’re seeing a lot of national brands use this effectively to showcase the diversity of their organizations.  I love this Cheerios ad from last year.

Big Spoon manages the digital side of the OutRVA campaign on behalf of Richmond Region Tourism.  Learn more at RichmondIsOut.com.

Kevin Clay