TUESDAY 26 OCT 2021 11:34 AM


Rene Staebe, global PRIDE ambassador & corporate communications manager at JTI, and Zoe McGee, strategy lead at Ignis, share the best ways to keep employees inspired and engaged in virtual PRIDE communications.

When we began working on a communications strategy for the new PRIDE employee resource group (ERG) in January 2020, we did so with a clear mission: to bring the LGBT+ community at JTI HQ together. Of course, at this point, together meant “in person”. Hindsight, am I right?

Once we’d accepted that this was the reality, and we could either get on board or do nothing, suddenly things clicked. Because when we stopped relying purely on physical experiences, that’s when we were able to get really creative.

Digital tools enabled us to bring people together who would never otherwise have met. We began to look at behaviours outside of typical working environments for inspiration, because there no longer was a “typical” working environment. We created a collaborative Spotify playlist for employees to add their favourite tracks to. We hosted virtual workshops on everything from radical self-love to queer identity, with thought-leaders from the US to India to Canada.

We recently celebrated our second virtual Pride Month. From yoga classes to wine tastings, from DJ sets to allyship pledges, from digital downloads to a Women of PRIDE initiative, we have kept the content fresh and the experiences surprising. Off the back of this, the PRIDE ERG has now gone global, and local chapters have begun to launch. If we hadn’t embraced the upheaval and pivoted to a digital-first approach, we don’t believe this would have happened.

Just as important are the connections we’ve made as a team. With JTI in Geneva and Ignis in London, embracing digital platforms to manage this process has been instrumental. Transparency, a shared sense of purpose and passion, and a good sense of humour (as well as a few cocktails) have kept the Zoom-fatigue at bay!

Of course, we’re not denying how important it is to make face-to-face connections. We can’t wait for our first team catch-up and night out! But as we tentatively look ahead, it will be with a hybrid hat on. We will look at innovation in digital and tech, as well as how local and cultural dynamics and generational trends will impact on the next phase of our development. By approaching everything we do with this perspective, we will be best able to serve the global LGBT+ community, and help our people come together and connect with pride.