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BEE Spotlight: Emily Santos on How Marketers Can Be Better Allies to the LGBTQ Community

BEE Spotlight: Emily Santos on How Marketers Can Be Better Allies to the LGBTQ Community

Happy Pride Month! This month’s blog spotlight our very own Content Specialist, Emily Santos. Before working with BEE, they operated their very own Brand Studio focusing on human-centered brand strategy and ensuring businesses were acting in alignment with their values. Emily brings this energy to the team by ensuring that our very own messaging, brand, and tone/voice is in alignment with who we are and our beliefs.

Here is a little more on their story:

Can you walk us through your journey as a marketer and what led to you BEE? Including different areas of marketing you’ve worked in, different locations, etc.

My journey to where I am today began in a very unconventional way.

It was 2020, and one day, I was a Restaurant Supervisor, and the next, I was an unemployed stay-at-home dog parent. Left with the uncertainty of the hospitality industry and my career, I turned to art as an outlet. 

A hobby that then turned into a side hustle, which then turned into a full-blown business – Santos & Co Studios. A business that started as me doing custom portraits until the BLM protests started and LGBTQIA+ rights began being threatened; then, I felt like there were more important things than spending my time drawing faces. 

“Santos & Co Studios quickly became an outlet for me to speak loudly and boldly about the injustices happening, something that I never really thought I was capable of doing.”

I like to think that having my own business provided a safe space for me to speak on these things. There was no one that I had to be worried about offending with my values, and if they were offended, then they were obviously not my audience. 

It was freeing.

I took a step back to rethink the future of Santos & Co. It was important to be that regardless of what I did, I was serving activists and creating art. 

In an effort to put my Hospitality degree to good use, I looked back at my course material and realized that while building my own brand, I WAS putting my degree to use. Hospitality has a lot of overlapping elements with Branding and Marketing.

I took the next two years to learn about Brand Strategy. Learning from industry experts like Melinda Livsey and Jalyn Gordon of The Afrocentric Communiversity. From there, I built my own brand strategy process that, I like to think, was a beautiful blend of activism, human-centered strategy, and values.

Long story short, I loved what I did, but being a business owner is hard and unpredictable. On my search for some stability, I was looking for an organization to work for that shared similar values to mine. That spoke loud and proud about what’s important to them. BEE was just that. 

As a marketer, what makes you unique within the space? How do you infuse your different identities into your work? 

I think a lot of marketers shy away from their identities, their beliefs, and their opinions. Marketing was never an industry I saw myself part of because of this. I don’t believe in sayings such as “politics have no place in business.” I believe if you have employees or even customers with different identities, your business automatically becomes political. It is so important to consider how the political, social, and economic climate affects the way you serve people, the way they feel taken care of, and the way they thrive.

My identities as a non-binary, neurodivergent, Queer, Dominican person influence so much of who I am, what I do, how I speak, how I move through the world, and how I do my work, and I refuse to hide that. I love that BEE lets me express that.

As someone representative of many different cultures and identities, what are your best marketing tips for someone to keep in mind when creating a marketing campaign to ensure it is as inclusive as possible?

Your values should be an integral part of the way you make decisions in your business. It is not enough to plaster on your website “we love inclusivity” and not consider being inclusive when creating campaigns. Ask yourself:

And open the conversation beyond your own team to make sure there are no biases. Most importantly, open the conversation to people who don’t share your same identities. 

In what ways do you think the marketing space can better support and elevate diverse voices?

This can be as simple as bringing diverse voices onto your team. If everyone in your team shares similar identities to yours, ask yourself, “Why?” And it might not even be on purpose. It’s not malicious; it happens. There may perhaps be some unconscious biases to deconstruct that we’re unaware of. Regardless, the best way to START elevating and supporting diverse voices is to bring them on to your team. 

What is the one thing companies can do right now in 2023 to be better allies?

Start internally. 

Does your company have policies and systems that allow LGTBQIA+ folx to feel safe and thrive? More specifically, how is your organization helping Trans folx feel safe, supported, and acknowledged? AND are LGBTQIA+ folx involved in the process of creating such policies and systems? If not, maybe it’s time to ask for their support in how you can better serve them. 

Externally, I recommend saving changing your logo to a rainbow and asking yourself what you’re doing to take a stand against Anti-LGBTQ bills and legislation. Are you aware of the laws currently being passed in your state? What are you doing to protect your LGBTQ community? 

If you’re wanting to be a better ally, my recommendation is not to act just yet. Before taking action,  sit, reflect, assess, and educate yourself!

Learn from diverse voices and hear what they have to say about being better allies. Most importantly, understand that perfect allyship does not exist. Acknowledging that you have biases that need to be deconstructed is the first step, and take small steps every day to work towards a better future for all. 

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Emily Santos
Emily Santos

Emily Santos is a Content Specialist with experience as a Brand Strategist and Designer.