PridehouseTO: Inclusion in Sports or a Longer Pride Week?

Fgo    July 25, 2015

Organization: PrideHouseTo

Industry: LGBT rights and entertainment.

Contact: Matthew Cutler

Web References: PrideHouseTo

PridehouseTO: Inclusion in Sports or a Longer Pride Week? 

The Pan-American games are an incredible opportunity for Toronto and its people to create a legacy in sports, business, infrastructure, and social programs amongst other benefits.

The PrideHouseTO was in the beginning an original project with a great idea: to create inclusion in sports for the LGBT community. The individuals, artists, and professionals that are or were part of the PrideHouseTo are an amazing and talented group of people. They collaborated to create a great project that has entertained many people in the LGBT community during the Pan Am games in Toronto, but it is easy to say that the games are the most inclusive games in history. PrideHouseTo managed to create a great party for the LGBT community, just like having an extension of Pride week into the Pan American games. Has anyone else outside of the LGBT community learned anything from this?

When it comes to human and social rights, the LGBT community has been a brave fighter and frequently a great achiever in countries like Canada. But people need to understand that those achievements won’t get real until the majority of the population gets closer to those ideals, have the knowledge of what is happening, and people get exposed to what the LGBT community is saying.

Sports are one of those fields where LGBT athletes and people have been facing discrimination, hostility, pressure, exclusion, and they have been rejected by those who lack sensibility, knowledge, and do not have enough education to understand what Brian, Patrick and Brendan Burke once had to say: If you can play, you can play.

The majority of the marketing, social media and communications that come from LGBT friendly organizations, businesses and people, are geared towards their own community. In many cases, products, services and organizations that have an LGBT oriented marketing goal, tend to be redirected towards LGBT channels either on the Internet or other LGBT oriented media or apps. But how do you connect with the rest of the world when you keep enclosing your ideas into the LGBT community? The social media and marketing attempt of the PrideHouseTo became a self-oriented strategy with no reach to the rest of the population. This excludes those who are not active members of the LGBT community. Uninviting messages and attitudes from the organization and their message on-line did not catch the attention or reached anyone else attending the Pan American games.

As an organization that is based on volunteer work, PrideHouseTo failed in their leadership skills. Some volunteers were not treated well or rewarded accordingly. One of the problems was the wrong social media strategy, which basically was “no strategy”. The few people who had access to control their social media channels did not have the tools to make it happen. There were barriers to go ahead with plans. The battle for power and the lack of trust and support towards the talented pool of volunteers were evident. The organization that was looking for inclusion ended up excluding many people. PrideHouseTO became a one more place to have a beer and go to a party in the Toronto LGBT village, but it is hard to see how they initiated for real a changed in our society.

What went wrong with their Social Media?

– Broken links everywhere, from website to Facebook, twitter and other channels. This is something that you should avoid. People lose their interest right away.

– Disrespectful attitude towards volunteers. For an organization that is looking for inclusion, they needed to be inclusive and respectful too. Lack of communications, lack of response to petitions and questions, aggressive behaviour towards proposals, silence, and making fun of people were some of the attitudes that I personally found in the organization during my experience.

– Conveying the wrong message. Are you an organization that is organizing parties for the LGBT community during the Pan Am Games? Or are you an organization that is looking for inclusion in sports in the whole province? The first one was clearly the case,  also their message to create inclusion in sport was geared towards the same community. Why?

– The image was 100% related to the LGBT community. It did not let others be identified with their proposal. It excluded graphically the rest of the population. No program, brochure, activity or anything else pulled the attention of anyone else. When we see the “You Can Play” marketing strategy, they have a clear idea of the hockey world, players, and colours. People interested in hockey could identify themselves with the content and get the idea: if you can play, you can play!. That made a change in organizations and players.

-No reach: Again, the PrideHouseTo, was a concept for the PrideHouseTo people.

– Social media posts and publications that in most cases did not exceed 6 to 50 likes until the beginning of the games, and a maximum reach of less than 300 clicks during the games. When you have a whole province that is interested in the Pan American games, the strategy was inexistent. There was much more to do.

– Wrong material, pictures of internal meetings and irrelevant content for the public. Their posts on Facebook were just re-posting articles from somewhere else or photos of them in meetings or working.

Some of their pages and likes count. 

The beginning was promising, Saad Rafi attended the PrideHouseTo project launching, and the media was there. It started in the right place, but it never went out beyond the core of the LGBT community.

Lesson for others.

Many proposals were not launched; there was a miscommunication from the leadership team towards some volunteers and a lack of response to petitions. All the marketing strategy and social media reach simply did not go through.

The organization could not reach their goal of inclusion. People in general were not exposed to their activities. In future opportunities it would be important to focus on who you are, what do you want to achieve and find the right words and social media strategy to implement that plan.

Posting a picture of a meeting is not something that will catch any attention, and will not make people think that you are working hard in the project.

At the end of the day, a party does not change the attitude of sport organizations towards the LGBT community, it does not make heterosexual players conscious about the importance of inclusion, it does not change the vision of spectators in sports venues. Who told them anything about inclusion? How did PrideHouseTo impact our society in those fields?

It would be important to build an app to connect the volunteers, stakeholders and people in general. Building an app or an internal website where volunteers and leaders can connect and get organized can help organizations to establish a better control of their operation and planning.

Creating an app that people can download with all the events, initiatives and information, videos and photos can be an important asset for organizations like this as well.

Involving people outside of the core community helps to have a better understanding of how to reach different markets. That creates inclusion and helps the organization to believe in inclusion as well. We can still see that the whole fight for inclusion is always done by the LGBT community towards the LGBT community, but hardly connects with anyone else outside of it.

Submitted by: Fernando Gomez, Social Media for Business Performance program. University of Waterloo.

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