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Internal Branding and GLBT Pride

By Lavender December 2, 2010

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The concept of pride can take many forms for members of the GLBT community. Therefore, it may be helpful to put the idea of pride into a somewhat different context, allowing us to consider the notion from a new angle. A metaphor that expresses the unfamiliar in terms of the familiar can be useful for such purposes.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at the idea of pride as a product of internal branding. Perhaps doing so will give us a fresh insight into why GLBT pride can be both internal and external in its applications and manifestations. Admittedly, it might seem a little strange to think of GLBT as a brand. Yet, in a very real sense, that’s exactly what it is.

It has been said that a brand is a sum of identity, image, and aspiration. Choosing to identify ourselves as GLBT can allow us to develop a core sense of self (and of belonging to something larger than ourselves) to which we strongly relate. We become a sum of our GLBT identity; we create a unique image that we offer to the world; and we develop an aspiration to be open about who are, without guilt or shame, as much and as often as possible. This type of personal growth is at the heart of developing a sense of GLBT pride.

In the business community, increasing numbers of companies are recognizing the significance of employee buy-in to the organization and its brand. The Canadian Marketing Association defines internal branding as “the set of strategic processes that align and empower employees to deliver the appropriate customer experience in a consistent fashion.” Being an advocate for its brand can be a key to success for the company, and thus for its people.

For those of us who are GLBT, internal branding is also a process. However, because it’s also a very individualized journey of discovery, it may or may not be consciously strategic. After all, most of us don’t plan to be GLBT—we find that out about ourselves, and make the choice to accept or buy into it, over time. This process involves personal exploration; life experiences; an acceptance of our differences and similarities; a recognition of our intrinsic sexual orientation and/or gender identity; and the choice to self-identify with being GLBT.

Internal branding, therefore, becomes a way of accessing, understanding, approving, and legitimately demonstrating pride in ourselves and in our GLBT community. It’s how we come to validate who we are, and distinguish our individual/collective worth as human beings.

The benefits of internal branding for a business organization usually include better-informed employees who become happier with their jobs, their lives, etc., ultimately resulting in happier customers coming back for more.

The focus on internal branding for employees involves a legitimate business strategy aimed at increasing company revenue and controlling costs in a nonmanipulative manner. These are strong benefits, and they are good ones if you’re interested in being profitable. Think 3M, Coca-Cola, NFL, etc.

Advantages also are derived personally when a GLBT individual begins the process of internal branding. They include being happier with one’s life, relationships, overall health, and status in the world. When something feels right, and makes you happy, you want to come back for more. That’s a primary benefit of internal branding as a source of GLBT pride.

In business, three fundamental elements appear to contribute to the success of an employee branding strategy and implementation: pride/confidence, stories/culture, and consistency. Each of them is a significant component in the successful development of internal branding. Let’s examine them from the perspective of a GLBT person.

Pride/confidence correlates directly to the set of values that we tend to associate with being GLBT. However, it’s important to recognize that each person will bring his or her own set of values to the table, and interpret/apply them accordingly. Some have called this initiative a “quest for meaning.”

As they engage in this endeavor, many find they develop a sense of pride in being GLBT, along with an inner confidence that allows them to operate more healthily in the world. Self-acceptance is a powerful thing. So, while we learn to take pride in our GLBT status, we also gain confidence that we are worthwhile, and can achieve anything we set out to do.

Over time, our pride and confidence continue to grow, motivating us to succeed even further in our personal/communal quest for meaning. Pride in ourselves and in our community is, therefore, a beneficial result of this “quest for meaning.”

Stories/culture is about the creation and continual nurturing of individual and community identity. One of the most effective ways of communicating a business brand and fostering a sense of internal branding is through the use of stories. In an organization, the telling and retelling of the “company story” is a powerful way to instill a sense of belonging and dedication to the business’s brand. Doing so helps build solidarity and a sense of organizational culture.

For GLBT persons, the telling of our stories and history provides tangible evidence and context for meaningful, life-affirming behaviors in ways that easily can be illustrated and remembered. For example, the AIDS Quilt has been a powerful symbol of events that significantly impact the GLBT community. Recognizing June as Pride Month is also a way of helping to develop a sense of extended family and strong community. Gathering together at Pride festivals, marching in Pride parades, and attending various Pride-related events are other ways in which GLBT culture grows and thrives.

Consistency has to do with engaging in healthy, affirming behaviors on a steady basis. A sense of pride in being GLBT doesn’t appear just automatically one day. It is, instead, the cumulative product of thoughts and actions over time that lead to an enhanced awareness of our own worth, validity, and place in the world. This, in turn, creates a sense of wholeness and congruence within the individual. Our inner identity becomes more aligned and in tune with our external experience, allowing us to know ourselves more fully, and relate to the larger GLBT community in healthy ways.

Consistency in every area of life is something to be desired, but it is perhaps even more important when a person is GLBT. Developing dependable habits, thoughts, and behaviors helps us create a strong sense of pride in who we are and in belonging to the larger GLBT community.

Internal branding is a way of understanding, inculcating, and expressing a positive connection to an idea, a concept, an organization, a state of mind, a group, or a community. When we come to believe in what we’re doing, or in who we are, we internally accept and identify with a specific brand. For a GLBT person, this type of acceptance and identification allows one to become a more integrated individual, as well as a member of a specific community composed of many GLBT people.

Human beings are social creatures—and, as Maslow tells us, the human need to belong is a major source of motivation. Individuals join groups with which they share commonalities. People like to feel that they can relate to someone who is similar to them. They also want to be around those whom they believe can understand them.

We’re discovering that internal branding can be a legitimate source of motivation for personal identification and group attachment. It’s a way for individuals to grow in self-understanding and in their connections to others in society. It’s also a way for GLBT people to gain greater self-acceptance and a stronger sense of individual strength, as well become a “member of the tribe,” and more fully actualized on any number of levels.

Consider a few questions that may add some meaning to your own notion of GLBT pride.

• Does being GLBT have a positive connotation and/or influence in my life?

• If not, why is that?

• Do I have connections with others who share my experience of being GLBT?

• Do I feel a sense of belonging to the larger GLBT community?

• Do I feel a personal sense of pride in being GLBT?

• If I have pride in being GLBT, from where does that feeling originate?

• What are two or three things that I might do to develop further or enhance my personal sense of GLBT pride?

Taking pride in being GLBT is not the equivalent of arrogance. Instead, it’s about a realistic acceptance of our core human identity, and being glad about our uniqueness. We are special, remarkable people (not better than others, to be sure, but different), and we have much in which we legitimately can take pride. This year, try counting the ways in which your singular differences help you become a stronger, better person. Discover what internal branding can mean for you.

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