GSBA Vision & Mission

MISSION: To combine business development, leadership and social action to expand economic opportunities for the LGBT Community and those who support equality for all.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Rachael Recommends: Summer Social Media Focus on Facebook

Scouring the digital marketing blogosphere….so you don’t have to.

I subscribe to a lot of blogs and newsfeeds from experts in various aspects of the digital marketing field.  This is my roundup of articles, tips, how-to’s and best practices for social media, apps, marketing, pr and some technology thrown in for good measure. If there is a particular subject or social media platform you want to learn more about, please let me know. Check out my comments before the links.  

Now onto this month’s roundup…I am focusing on Facebook posting, advertising, tips and more with a focus on Facebook for small business. And before you delve into specifics, check out this handy overview for Facebook marketing. I also suggest you follow the Facebook for Business page for tips and updates.

Call to Action
At the top of your business page you may have seen a new-ish button next to your like button that says: Create Call to Action. Vertical Response’s blog has a helpful video on what this is and how to use it.

Facebook advertising can be very effective and affordable for small businesses. The articles below offer some helpful tools and tips for creating Facebook ads and also some info on the new way Facebook is charging for its ads.
Facebook Is Changing How It Charges for Ads 
How to Get 500% ROI from Facebook Ads

Already using Facebook advertising and you want to take your ads to the next level? Check out this article on advance techniques for Facebook advertisers.

Video on Facebook
Video is a versatile, easy and fun way to market your product, promote your brand or show your audience how to do something. And now it is even easier to integrate short videos into many social media platforms. You probably have noticed the growing number of videos that show up in your Facebook newsfeed. You know, the ones that just start playing as you are scrolling through your newsfeed. These are examples of native video, when you actually upload a video to Facebook (as opposed to just linking to a video hosted on a different site/platform). When you publish videos to Facebook, the result is high visibility and a greater likelihood of engagement.

Facebook Newsfeed Changes (yes, again)
Facebook recently launched updated controls for one’s news feed. This basically puts more power into the hands of the user as to who and what they see in their news feed. The articles below help decipher what this means for businesses using Facebook for their marketing.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

I Am Still Here, and I Am Still Queer

by Karyn Schwartz, proprietor of SugarPill, 2013 GSBA New Business of the Year and member of the Small Business Council. You can find Karyn at her shop at 900 E Pine Street in Seattle.

Here and Queer came out of my own frustration over reading the endless obituaries that people seem to delight in writing about Capitol Hill. Every time I hear someone say the neighborhood is gone, my only response to it is “I am still here, and I am still queer.”

This spring I kept thinking, “What if the neighborhood was just much more visibly queer again? Could that make a difference?” Through a series of unexpectedly lucky phone calls, I got connected with two young men – Bakar and Giorgi – who happened to be working on a platform to conduct social media campaigns about freedom of speech, and they had exactly the kind of projection capability that I needed. They come from a part of the world where freedom of speech is rarely respected. Through their company Deehubs, they are developing ways for people to communicate publicly about issues that are sometimes difficult to talk about, and in places where it is perhaps too dangerous to talk about them at all.

What Deehubs provided was a way for anyone to create their own messages and images to say what THEY wanted to express about being queer, about being a part of this community and about what they hope for in the neighborhood. Despite a ridiculously short amount of time to make this all happen, and a mountain of technological issues to work out, we received a marvelous variety of deeply moving contributions which were projected at about a half dozen sites around Capitol Hill throughout the entire weekend of Pride.

I think there is enormous value in using visible markers to create a sense of place. While I have admittedly never been the most ardent fan of the rainbow as the most ubiquitous emblem of queerdom (which is why I asked local artist Joey Veltkamp to create a logo for the project and practically begged him to put some pink triangles in there for me), there is something to be said for seeing an entire neighborhood festooned in recognizable symbols of identity and unity. It makes me feel like I am home, and welcome, and with that comes a tangible feeling of safety.

I cannot describe how wonderful the reactions to the projections were, as well as to a number of other really visible expressions of unapologetic queerness that were happening simultaneously. The timing of all of this was so profoundly emotional: not only had the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality just been handed down on the morning that Pride really kicked off, but there was also the wrenching funeral of Reverend Clementa Pinckney of the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston that very same day. It was nearly impossible to feel celebratory while there was still so much grief in the air, and hard to feel victorious when such a violent and hate-filled act had just happened. I was so glad to see people use the project to express their anger and their grief over the very real consequences of hatred that too often goes unexamined and unchecked. The juxtaposition of these feelings alongside those of joy, love and heartfelt appreciation for the progress that has been made struck a chord that was far deeper than anything I could have planned.
It was not lost on any of us that while we were celebrating marriage equality here in the United States, queer folks were getting fired at by police with water cannons and tear gas during a pride parade in Istanbul, Turkey. Imagine if we could have projected the kinds of messages that were created here onto the walls of buildings in Istanbul to give people the inspiration to keep insisting on their right to be who they are, despite how they are still being treated there.
Before the project even went live, we were out one night testing the projection equipment and making sure that everything was working correctly. I had asked a few people to send in their contributions prior to the actual launch so that we would have something to test the system with, but I had no idea what would actually be projected or what it would look like. As I was walking to meet Bakar and Giorgi at one of the sites, I found myself alone, at midnight, behind a group of four very drunk, raging homophobes. I couldn’t believe it was happening. They were having the most hateful conversation, and recording themselves on their phones, laughing and saying horrible things about “all the f**king homos”, and if I had not been so close to where I knew Bakar and Giorgi were, I would have been terrified.

Just then, the projector went live, and this beautiful quote appeared, 40 feet high, on the side of the building we were facing. It said, “Our queer community feels like loving arms wrapped around you. We are here.”

We all saw it at the same time, and the most remarkable thing happened: they shut up. Those hateful, ignorant men stopped their conversation, they put their phones down, and they all read the message. It worked. I don’t know what they did with the rest of their evening, but what I do know is that what was happening got interrupted. It was the best thing I could have hoped for – that something beautiful got created which stood, at least for a moment, in the way of the continuation of some gesture of hatred. Maybe it is too much to hope for that something like this could actually stand in the way of outright violence – but I will hope for it anyway. The more we see positive messages about things we don’t understand, and the more we are confronted to re-think the biases and the prejudices we walk around with, the more likely we are to seek a different point of view or a deeper understanding of things we have taken for granted as truth.

I think change does happen this way, and I think we are in great need of a great deal of change still in this country as a whole, but also right here in what should be a safe haven of tolerance and acceptance. With so much pressure on our one small part of town to absorb the huge influx of nightlife visitors and recently arrived residents, it is even more important than ever to maintain a positive and unapologetic presence as a community, and the only way to do that is to BE HERE, and not abandon the neighborhood.

If you want a center of gravity as a community, you have to nourish it by supporting the businesses and organizations that cater to your interests, speak up on behalf of your concerns, and that fly those rainbow flags all year long, and not just on the one weekend that Pride brings us all together.  There are so many of us who are still here, and still fierce about trying to hold on to what makes this neighborhood special. But we can’t hold on to it all by ourselves; we need all of you who have loved this neighborhood and who have your own history rooted right here with us to BE HERE, visible, present and glorious in all manner of queerness. I live for the day that every night feels like Pride when I am walking home from work – that it never feels unsafe to be who I am, and that I still belong to this place that made it possible for me to become that person at all.

Providing Exceptional Experiences: Judy Dlugacz

“Madam Secretary, I’m taking 1,300 lesbians to Honduras in six months. Will they be ok?” asked Judy Dlugazc. The National Congress of Honduras had just deposed its own President, throwing the country into a constitutional crisis. Judy’s company, Olivia Travel, had a tour group ready to visit the island of Roatán and she was worried. The country already had a poor record on LGBT rights, and adding political instability to the mix was concerning. Across from her, U.S. Secretary of State paused for only a moment before responding, “It’ll be fine.” So that settled it. Hillary Clinton had her back, so it would all be fine!

Olivia is changing the world. In bringing over 200,000 women around the world since 1990, these cruises organized for women have gone to many places where LGBT rights have not always been respected, including the Caribbean, Africa and even parts of Europe. It is always important for Olivia’s customers to be comfortable when they are out in the world, and Judy says that being there in large numbers helps, but that they also work very closely with the cruise lines and the U.S. government. “The experience of women who travel hasn’t changed that much…It is important for women to come together and be able to feel comfortable when they travel.” Olivia has welcomed trans people, male- or female-identified, to join them since its founding.

In 1973 Judy established Olivia Records, focused exclusively on female artists, and oversaw hundreds of concerts and events around the world. Combining her passions of music and travel, she organized her first chartered cruise in 1990. It was so wildly successful that the organization evolved into Olivia Cruises and has sent over 200,000 women around the world over the last quarter century. This evolution of Judy’s business continues, as her audience has begun to include more and more families with children. She adds, “We’ve taught women how to travel on cruises. But women want to move on from that and do riverboats, or go on safari. They main thing is that we have to listen to our market.” They are even now in the process of creating a resort LGBT retirement community in Palm Springs. Olivia is now the world’s largest company for women in the world!

Things have changed radically over the years. In the beginning, cruise companies were reluctant to let an LGBT-focused organization charter their boats, but now everyone wants a piece of the action. The way in which LGBT people are out of the closet on board the cruise ships has changed, and the understanding of the multicultural crews on board has evolved in turn.

Olivia stays relevant because it keeps moving. “Why is it even a question if LGBT travel is still relevant?” Judy remarked in response to the luncheon’s theme. “Of course it is! Being part of a community is a big plus! When it’s not relevant I’ll know because we’ll stop having great sales every year.” Providing the experiences that Olivia is famous for can come at a higher price point than other cruises, but on what other boat could you have seen Patti LaBelle, Melissa Etheridge and Maya Angelou? “If you are on an Olivia trip as a woman, even if you are out in your whole life, you are still never in the majority in a normal day. That fact that you are in the majority for seven days during an experience is an extraordinary experience, even spiritual. You are able to be yourself without ever even thinking about it,” Judy explains. “The importance of LGBT travel and why it is relevant is that, in a lot of ways it is more fun. You are, as gay people, in the majority, which never happens in most places, especially on vacation. You are comfortable even with the people sharing the elevator. You see entertainment speaking to your own experience.”

Creating a memorable experience while also providing a meaningful and safe community has always been at the center of Olivia’s ethos. Judy was adamant when she said that “It is the responsibility of everyone in the LGBT tourism industry to still provide exceptional experiences. You need to do something even more special, not just bring the community together. Because we create something that is better. If we don’t, we might as well not bother. That is really important.”

Judy Dlugacz is an icon for our community, not just as a business success story, but as a trailblazer for all of us and as someone who has won victories for the LGBT community for more than 40 years. Giving back has always been a foundation of all of her business philosophy. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Olivia worked with other LGBT cruise companies to found the LGBT Haiti Relief Fund and then with USAID to establish a global development fund supporting LGBT organizations throughout the developing world. Starting out on her own as part of a radical lesbian separatist collective, she has now been appointed to President Obama’s LGBT advisory council. Judy is currently working on a book about her four decades immersed in lesbian culture.

Judy Dlugacz, President & CEO of Olivia, was the keynote speaker at GSBA’s June business luncheon at the Seattle Marriott Waterfront.

Friday, June 26, 2015

VICTORY: Equal Dignity in the Eyes of the Law

What a historic day! So many emotions, it's overwhelming. As you have surely heard by now, the Supreme Court announced a 5-4 decision today in the Obergefell v. Hodges case. We have been waiting anxiously after the success of Washington's Referendum 74  in 2012 and then the Supreme Court's Windsor decision in 2013, watching state after state recognize the realities that our families exist and deserve equal recognition and protection.

Years and years of hearing that our relationships and families are less than others, but never giving up hope and never stopping our work to achieve equality suddenly changes as we watch the news and hear the words that our families and marriages will be recognized across the entirety of the United States of America. Justice Kennedy's closing paragraph is profound:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.
The Obergefell v. Hodges case examined two questions: 1) Do same-sex couples share the constitutional right to marry or can states refuse to issue them marriage licenses? 2) Do states have to recognize marriages entered by same-sex couples outside the state? With the majority ruling that the Constitution protects same-sex couples freedom to marry throughout the nation, all state marriage bans are invalidated and all marriages performed must be recognized throughout the country.

As with previous cases, GSBA was the first chamber to be asked to sign on to the business-specific friend-of-the-court briefs. We were proud to be asked to reach out to our membership and to the other chambers around the country to stand up and declare that equality is good business! Many of the businesses that signed on were GSBA members from the Puget Sound region - we have said it before, and we will say it again - we could not be more proud of the incredible advocacy work that you all have done!

Marriage equality is an important goal that many of us have spent years working toward. There are still many struggles for the LGBT community in our country, including youth homelessness, care of our seniors, equal access and respect for our trans community, and employment nondiscrimination and religious exemptions laws. GSBA will continue to work with our partners around the country, particularly other LGBT chambers, until equality is achieved, which has been our focus since our founding in 1981. But, for now, this is a day to celebrate!

Equality is good business. It was in 1981, and it still is in 2015. 
Louise Chernin, GSBA President & CEO