Adam Shapiro, who leads Adam Shapiro Public Relations in D.C., attended a White House Pride Month Celebration in the East Room on June 15. As an equality advocate and professional communicator, he shared his perspective about how the Biden administration put together the event:
1. Build an early vision
First Lady Jill Biden said that she and Second Gentlemen Doug Emhoff decided in October 2020 that if their spouses were elected, they would want to hold a Pride celebration at the White House. In other words, they had a vision even before they had the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. With any kind of complex event, early strategic thinking and buy-in are needed.
2. Gather the allies
COVID is hitting its two-and-a-half anniversary and, more than ever, people are hungry for in-person events that allow for face-to-face conversations. The Biden team instinctively knew how to tap into this interest by inviting national LGBTQ leaders, LGBTQ advocates it has known through the years from Delaware and other locations, and additional friends and supporters.
3. Create opportunities for surprises
Any invitation to the White House is an honor for even the most hardened PR professional, but the Biden team added to the excitement by not explaining all its plans at once. It was only on the day of the event that the administration publicly stated that the president would sign an executive order that would take a number of actions designed to ensure equality for LGBTQ Americans. The attendees then realized they were going to more than just a reception — they were going to witness history.
4. Tap into tested messages
Before President Biden signed the executive order, he gave brief remarks. He explained that the executive order was needed because “We’re in a battle for the very soul of this nation.” This message about the soul of the nation is one Biden successfully used in his primary campaign and then the general election. He effectively used his remarks to connect his actions with his long-time message and linked LGBTQ rights to American values.
5. Real person
The other star of the event was Javier Gomez, an 18-year-old Floridian who helped to organize the statewide student walkouts over the “Don’t Say Gay” bill that bans teachers from discussing LGBTQI+ people and families. The White House understood a real person would be able to bring these issues to life, even if that meant all the elected officials in the room didn’t get a chance at the mic.
Shapiro says these five points all led to an important occasion that received favorable media attention and, for Shapiro, his chance to witness history.