Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication, Technology, and Society

Committee Chair/Advisor

Erin Ash

Committee Member

Brandon Boatwright

Committee Member

Virginia Harrison


LGBTQ+ visibility has increased in American society; moral acceptability of these identities increased significantly over the last 20 years alone and several US Presidents deemed June to be Pride Month in recognition and celebration of these individuals. To major companies and organizations, LGBTQ+ identities – which constitute more than 11 million US adults – are a growing and richly diverse market segment with considerable buying power and cultural influence. As companies attempt to engage with this segment, they increasingly attempt to engage with Pride Month and events related to Pride – including but not limited to having same-sex representation in advertising, hosting booths at Pride festivals, and selling Pride-laden merchandise.

Companies have a historical interest in fostering relationships with audiences in order to affect profits and meaningfully engage with broader society. This theory of relationship management shifts the focus of company public relations (PR) from solely communicating with publics to the quality of relationships with publics, using communication as a tool to influence this quality. This theory has developed in tandem with the idea that company goals, communication, and engagement should transcend mere profit-and-loss; they should engage with diverse social identities and with different social issues to help improve aspects such as socio-economics and environmental policies and actions – this is otherwise known as corporate social responsibility (CSR). While more companies are engaging CSR and are attempting to engage with LGBTQ+ audiences through Pride Month, existing queer PR research needs to examine how engaging with Pride can affect LGBTQ+ perceptions of and engagements with organizations who participate.

Through focus group interviews, this research explores how LGBTQ+ people perceive their relationships with companies in general, how they perceive and respond to Pride branding and other Pride PR, how these perceptions and responses influence their real or perceived relationships to the companies, and how other pieces of identity beyond sexuality may help clarify these perceptions and relationships. In order to provide rich descriptions and robust explorations of PR geared towards LGBTQ+ people, the aforementioned diversified PR, relationship management, and CSR contextualize and clarify the findings. This project reinforces and extends the importance of companies managing relationships with their publics (external and internal), of CSR, and clarifies specific meaningful ways for companies to engage with social niches, competing perceptions, and unique cultures.



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