The Daily Scoop: Target removes some Pride items after threats to employees. The fallout is intense.
Plus: More news you can use today.
Target, a longtime supporter of LGBTQ+ rights, announced Wednesday that they will pull some items from their Pride collection after threats from some members of the public.
The statement explains:
Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and well-being while at work. Given these volatile circumstances, we are making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior. Our focus now is on moving forward with our continuing commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community and standing with them as we celebrate Pride Month and throughout the year.
According to reporting from the Associated Press:
- Customers knocked down displays, threatened workers and posted videos to social media.
- False rumors spread that an adult swimsuit designed for trans women was being targeted to children, further fanning the flames.
- The Pride collections were moved to the back of the store in some locations, while other items were entirely removed from shelves.
There are nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills sent in front of state legislatures since the beginning of 2023, many of them targeting transgender people, the AP reported.
Some people are comparing Target’s Pride Month campaign to Bud Light’s failed promotion with transgender social media influencer Dylan Mulvaney. Conservative organization Young America’s Foundation tweeted that “Target deserves the Bud Light treatment,” in response to boycotting the company. Parent company Anheuser-Busch locations faced threats, too.
Target deserves the Bud Light treatment pic.twitter.com/XHFiWiy3YR
— YAF (@yaf) May 24, 2023
The LGBTQ+ response
In a CBS News article, Kelly Ferguson, a leader for the Rainbow Center in California, decried Target’s response.
“When it’s inconvenient for the company, they’re going to withdraw–quietly–in certain areas or certain products. That’s very, very disappointing to see,” Ferguson said.
California Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted that Target CEO Brian Cornell is “selling out the LGBTQ+ community to extremists is a real profile in courage” and it “doesn’t stop here.”
CEO of Target Brian Cornell selling out the LGBTQ+ community to extremists is a real profile in courage.
This isn’t just a couple stores in the South. There is a systematic attack on the gay community happening across the country.
Wake up America.
This doesn’t stop here.… https://t.co/1vRgukaT0g
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) May 24, 2023
“You’re black? You’re Asian. You’re Jewish? You’re a woman. You’re next.”
Why it matters: Target sent a message that’s resonating strongly with both those angry over the collection and those who embrace it. By removing the items in the name of protecting its workers from harassment, the store told its LGBTQ+ stakeholders that their needs, feelings and representation could easily be shuffled to the back, too.
While Target is a big proponent of Pride Month and has been a huge example of what a successful campaign looks like, this year has set them back — and sends a cautionary tale to other organizations. Expect to see emboldened anti-LGTBQ+ protesters after they’ve succeeded in cowing two massive corporations.
Target is still trying to please all its stakeholders: keeping Pride collections, but literally hiding them away or getting rid of items deemed too controversial. In the process, they please no one and harm the decade-plus of support they’ve shown for the queer community. Yes, the safety of store employees is paramount — and the statement is light on details about security measures other than moving and removing merch. But these moves will serve to make LGBTQ+ shoppers feel less safe in Target stores for years to come.
With just days before Pride Month, your brand needs to prepare. Review your Pride Month comms plan and ensure you have a crisis plan in place should you become a target of anti-LGTBQ+ activists. Prepare your employees for that possibility. And know where you really stand. Are you an ally? Or was it all rainbow-washing, ready to be swept away at the first sign of rain?
- While 58% of Americans know about ChatGPT, just 14% have dabbled in it, according to a Pew Research Center survey from March. Those who worked with it found it “at least somewhat useful.” If you haven’t tried it yet, you’re not too late to be on the cutting edge. Check out these case studies on generative AI in PR.
- HBO Max is undergoing a controversial rebrand to simply Max. Peacock, NBC’s streaming service, landed a blow with a cheeky tweet and fun social media interactions that helped position it as a fun, young brand willing to ruffle feathers.
- Tina Turner, a legendary rock ‘n’ roll superstar and bold singer who overcame abuse, died at 83 years old. Her life and legacy will be remembered as “simply the best.” Dozens of celebrities took to social media to remember her work, her life and her friendship.
Sherri Kolade is a writer at Ragan Communications. When she is not with her family, she enjoys watching Alfred Hitchcock-style films, reading and building an authentically curated life that includes more than occasionally finding something deliciously fried. Follow her on LinkedIn. Have a great PR story idea? Email her at email@example.com.
2 Responses to “The Daily Scoop: Target removes some Pride items after threats to employees. The fallout is intense.”
PR Daily News Feed
It’s wrong! A great PR firm or department can create massive media coverage that American homeowners and American businesses have a right to protection against violent activists.
Activists break into our capitol making tourism dangerous, steal merchandise causing increased consumer prices, and like gangsters may look temporarily like heroes to some of our young people.
But look at what a great PR firm or department can do.
+ Rally thousands of community groups—gay and straight, white and of color, male and female, old and young—to demonstrate in the streets for Target and other retailers that believe in American freedom of opinion and speech.
+ Create media interviews in which Target people and freedom of speech are supported by nationally admired leaders of government, sports, entertainment, business, medicine and the arts.
+ Generate inquiring photographer type stories in print and broadcast media, and online, on the importance of public support for freedom of speech, freedom to vote and freedom to look at what voters and some of a retailer’s customers may want.
+ Encourage increased police enforcement of laws that protect Americans and American freedoms.
What can be accomplished by these and other PR actions can be to not only increase protection for Target people and stores but to actually increase Target sales and goodwill.
By how much? Look at the numbers. Target revenue for the 12 months ending April 30 was over $106 billion. Could a great PR team increase this by $2 billion or $3 billion? And going into future years would millions of people be inclined to buy more from Target so that Target people do better and the violent demonstrators do worse?
The sharp decline in Target’s stock price shows the importance of PR showing the public WHO is on each side in this controversy. The choice is not between gays and straights since Target offers identical values to each, the choice is between (a) violent activists and (b) victims of violent activists.
Many people favor their own kind in voting, dating, religious practice if any, the home team in sports and in choice of where to live. If people see the controversy as gays versus straights, millions of people may be tempted to not buy from Target. But if the choice looks to be (a) violent activists versus (b) victims of violent activists, Target sales and share value may likely go up sharply rather than down.
Look at Sherri Kolade’s report of all the grief Target is now facing. Since millions of people decide which side to favor based on an “us versus them” choice, we can see which choice is likely to bring Target more public support: gays vs. straights each with millions of members who can have a major effect on Target sales and earnings, or violent activists vs. the non-violent.