Vested and Anthemis Launch Kick-Asana “Finyasa” Class

New Yorkers aren’t exactly known for “work-life balance,” or – ahem – flexibility. We pack our social calendars as full as our weekday calendars, always keep a pulse on what’s happening in the markets and the news, and seldom take the time necessary to relax and recoup. Meanwhile, we navigate copious amounts of stress daily: a client just pushed up a big meeting one whole week, your ClassPass credits are going to expire if you don’t work out rightthisminute, the bagel shop is out of whole wheat everything, the MTA trains are off schedule (or just don’t show at all), this run-on sentence doesn’t have any conjunctions.

Relax. No, really.

 

Introducing Finyasa

This month, we’re launching Finyasa, a FREE yoga class for fintech and financial industry professionals, in collaboration with Leslie Campisi of Anthemis Group. Leslie, a professional yogi and certified boss-lady, will teach a bi-weekly Finyasa class at the Vested NYC office in Midtown East.

 

Finyasa?

Yes, like a mash-up of finance and vinyasa. Hour-long classes begin at 7:45 sharp and include a gentle morning yoga session, followed by a guided meditation. All fitness levels, ages and abilities are welcome. No prior experience is required. Currently, our classes are scheduled for every second Thursday starting September 27. You can see our latest schedule and reserve your spot here.

 

I still don’t get it.

The goal of Finyasa is to demonstrate how multi-dimensional the financial industry really is. As financial communicators, we’ve perfected the art of marketing financial wellness; budgeting apps, credit checks, savings accounts, 401ks. But finance is so much more than that. Finance is about health, wellness, stability and peace of mind. Just like yoga.

Finyasa is about more than ohm-ing with with fellow fintech and financial folks.  It’s an opportunity to relax, begin our day on the right foot (feet?), and return to our roles in finance ready to effect meaningful change for the billions of consumers impacted by finance and the markets.

Sign up today, spots are limited!

 

Finyasa

22 W. 38th Street, 9th Floor

New York, NY 10018

www.finyasa.com

Scroll-Free September: Everything in moderation for marketers and mental health

As communications and marketing pros, we’re constantly flipping between our laptops and our phones—checking our personal social feeds, clients’ feeds, monitoring comments, tweaking ads; the list goes on (and on, and on, and on). 

In 2017, global social media use rose from 126 minutes a day to 135 minutes a day. That nine-minute difference may not seem like much, but consider the average use in 2012 was just 90 minutes; over five years, social media use increased 50 percent.

But that trend may be subject to change, thanks to a new campaign from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH). The UK organization is calling for “Scroll-Free September,” a month-long initiative to curb, or completely abstain from, the use of Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, Instagram, and others.  

The push is being called an “opportunity to take back control of our relationship with social media,” which has been, in some cases, unhealthy.

Research from the RSPH indicated that almost half of the 2,057 people surveyed said taking a break from social media would make them more productive, while 40 percent of respondents ages 18-34 said it would improve their body confidence and self-esteem.

The idea seems to be catching on. In the same poll, 65 percent of respondents said they would consider participating in Scroll-Free September. This is, of course, easier said than done, and in this case, the research is specific to the UK. But the concept got us thinking: what would a significant decrease in social media users mean for companies’ marketing strategies?

Platforms like Facebook and Instagram are often key tools in communicating with new and existing consumers; not only for brand awareness but for sales—and thus, revenue—too.  In a study from Cone Inc., 93 percent of consumers expect brands to have a presence on social media and 71 percent of them are willing to make purchases from the brands they follow. Plus, social media advertising revenue is forecasted at $51.3 billion for 2018—a total of $17.24 per user, and expected to grow 10.5 percent, annually.  

This makes sense for consumer brands. How often do you scroll through Instagram and get served an ad for something that you’re now convinced you need? Oftentimes, this laser-focused targeting leads to an impulse buy.

“Historically, e-commerce has been fueled by search — if you needed a new coat, that’s what you’d hunt down on the web,” writes the Philadelphia Magazine. “But now, consumers increasingly shop online because they stumbled upon something on social media.”

A study from Curalate found that 76 percent of U.S. consumers said they’ve made a purchase after seeing an item on the brand’s social media, and about 55 percent of those consumers made the purchase online.

Given the trends in social media marketing and ad spend, Scroll-Free September doesn’t seem like it will put much of a dent in companies’ sales projections or profits. Instead, it may actually be a good thing. Breaks from advertising could, instead, be vital for the longevity of social media marketing. Quitting social for good has been gaining traction among a small faction of young people. This social “fasting” may stem the social exodus. As consumers take short breaks from, well, consuming, they may be more receptive to advertising upon returning to social media in October. Should be interesting!

Vested’s Summer Adventure: Cooking up some competition

You know what they say: if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.

The same is true for PR and communications. It can be a grueling career, not unlike that of a chef. It’s demanding with long hours, requires planning and lots of behind-the-scenes prep. Service is typically delivered with a smile and the final product must be balanced, smooth, and memorable. Both careers require a great amount of creativity, flexibility and a sense of friendly competition; and both offer a huge sense of accomplishment when all is said and done.

So it was only fitting that Vested head to the kitchen, Top Chef-style, for our recent summer outing.

Vested Summer Cooking Adventure

Matchy-Matchy

We kicked the day off with a delicious in-office breakfast before heading over to the My Cooking Party venue, but the friendly competition had already begun. Prior to the event, the office was split into two groups: Team 1 and Team 2. My team, Team 1, thought we’d bring our A-game by color-coordinating green bandanas for the day’s festivities. Remember what I said about planning and prep? Nothing screams Team spirit! more than planned outfits. But great minds think alike, creepily alike. Team 2 had basically the same idea, and showed up in yellow bandanas. So coordinated! I swear we didn’t plan it! Guess we’re all cut from the same paisley cloth.

Let the Cooking Games Begin

Decked out in our coordinated accessories, we poured into the My Cooking Party space for a game of trivia. Team 1 ultimately won the quiz, which meant we could choose the recipe we would cook, and two different recipes Team 2 would cook. On the menu? Team 1 chose chicken le cordon bleu and apple fritters (yum!) and assigned Team 2 chorizo taquitos and egg rolls. The strategy — both taquitos and egg rolls required the stuffing to be cooked and the whole thing to then be fried. Time was a key element in winning!

Our recipes in-hand, we took off for the grocery store for a fury of ingredients shopping and started piling the necessities into our cart. If you happened to be in midtown a few weeks ago, and saw a bunch of lunatics in bandanas running around, I apologize on behalf of my colleagues.

Vested Summer Cooking Adventure

Competition Heats Up

Back in the kitchen, Team 1 divided and conquered to take on our two dishes. At Vested, we’re used to a fast pace and working in teams, so this element was a piece of cake (er, piece of fritter?). But we were being judged on more than just taste—judging criteria also included team spirit, first to finish, teamwork and food presentation—so there was plenty of support, mixed in with quite a few “WOOOs!” to keep the energy up. Team 2, meanwhile, threw in a few chants!

Bon Appetit (and drink)

Finally—the food. After worthy presentations for the judges, it was down to the wire, and taste was the final determinant. The judges agreed the chicken (Team 1) and egg rolls (Team 2) were the standout dishes, and made their decision based on the other two dishes. Fritters trumped taquitos (duh!) and, my team, Team 1, took home the title of Top Chef. Better luck next year, Team 2 🙂

We wrapped up the day with a table at The Standard for afternoon beers and a toast to an outstanding team — Team Vested, that is.

Our summer outing is a small but important part to what makes Vested such a unique and enjoyable place to work. The dynamics of teamwork, support, and the natural energy that come from working with such a talented and vibrant group of people transcend from the office, to the kitchen, to the bar, and beyond. Time spent away from our desks to let loose, have some fun, and of course, spar a little friendly competition, are exactly what make Vesties feel more like work teammates than co-workers.

Cheers to next year’s competition!

Vested Summer Cooking Adventure

AI-Powered Journalism Will Catalyze Change for Media Relations

Note: This post is a condensed version of a guest column in O’Dwyer’s. Read the full column here.

The same AI disruption story

News-writing software that can report current events in real time, with little or no human intervention, has obvious appeal to media companies and newsrooms, and it’s time for the public relations field to take seriously the eventual impact artificial intelligence systems will have on the practice of media relations.

This effect is most obvious in financial reporting, and as the founders of a fast-growing financial communications agency, my co-founders and I have studied these developments with interest ever since we opened Vested in 2015.

This situation is far more nuanced than worrying that the robots are coming for all of the PR jobs, or that artificial intelligence applications will eventually replace the need that clients have for consultants. These dire predictions are not grounded in reality.

 

Media relations as a bore service

For practitioners, the real threat is failing to recognize these changes and evolve, because, moving forward, “[n]ews is likely to get shorter, quicker, and more graphical,” wrote Bloomberg News Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait.

This is what should strike fear in the hearts and minds of public relations firms that sell media relations as a core service. Journalists are simply more likely to value objective facts that AI-powered platforms can flag over subjective claims from publicists who spend most of their time trying to wedge clients into the news. For example, Reuters’ AI platform, Lynx, can “augment human journalism by identifying trends, anomalies, key facts and suggesting new stories reporters should write.” It is one of several examples of AI applications replacing the conduct that many media relations practitioners claim make them indispensable.

So, since financial stories are increasingly being reported by machines, and since financial journalists are turning away from media relations practitioners in favor of bots, what roles will continue to exist for traditional public relations service providers and in-house teams?

 

Strategy first, always

There isn’t a single answer, but rather, several possibilities.

The most obvious is that raw media relations will lessen in importance, and being integrated will become an imperative. Firms are already subordinating media relations for a different reason — the declining volume of reporters to pitch and the massive increase in public relations practitioners has created incredible competition for journalists’ attention — and the rise of AI-driven reporting will accelerate this.

 

Automating the agency

Adjacent to this is the mandate for modern practitioners to use software applications to increase their own efficiency, or that of their firms or teams. Firms that use tiered billing rates, where administration and client management is billed at a lower rate when compared to strategic work, have already signaled an appetite to rely less on downmarket activity. The next step is automating it away.

The bottom line is that earned media will remain important, but as a smaller piece of a sound communications strategy, not the whole of it.

Another possibility is for PR teams to adopt the same data-first approach that newsrooms are. PR has never been truly about data, because firms are service providers, not technology developers. But PR has historically approached media relations with a reporter’s mindset, and for the practitioners who aim to speak the same language as journalists do, using modern technology in a similar way should help.

Will Snapchat ‘Lede’ the Way in News Content Partnerships?

Snapchat wants a piece of the community journalism pie. While the social media platform isn’t saying goodbye to dog filters and voice changers just yet, it is positioning itself in a more serious light after announcing a new partnership with four news discovery channels.

NewsWhip, Storyful, SAM Desk and TagBoard—four organizations that aggregate and vet information via social media for news outlets—will mine all of the publically shared videos and photos on Snapchat for breaking news and relevant insights. News organizations with subscriptions to these companies will have access to all public Snap content, the way they currently do on Facebook and Twitter, to support their reporting.

Snapchat is also hopeful the service will aid smaller news organizations that may not have the resources or staff to send to every breaking news situation. Tagboard’s Chief Revenue Officer Nathan Peterson told Axios the data will be provided to about 200 local news subsidiaries of Tenga, Sinclair, NBC, ABC, Fox, Telemundo and Univision.

Plus, it’s free. Snapchat won’t charge the organizations to access the data, therefore news outlets with existing subscriptions will see this as an added bonus. The effort comes at a time when news organizations are in constant (and dior) competition with social media outlets for audience attention: just one of the many reasons we’ve seen an ever-declining pool of reporters. The Daily News is a heartbreaking case and point.

Conceptually, social media platforms partnering with news organizations to provide information faster and more accurately is outstanding; but is Snapchat the best-suited venue?

Vested research social media Snapchat

We did a little bit of (brief) digging to take a pulse on how colleagues (made up primarily of Snapchat’s target demo of Millennials and Gen Zers) are using social media to consume news. The results? Facebook and Twitter still lead the pack.

When asked if they use social media in general to consume news, a resounding 90 percent of respondents said “yes.”

But when asked if they use Snapchat, specifically, to consume news, the number fell to 20 percent, and go-to news discovery channels included The Daily Mail, Cosmopolitan and People Magazine, with a few one-offs who said CNN and The Washington Post.

Though 20 percent of users said that they use Snapchat to consume news, only 2 said it was their most prominent social news source, indicating that it’s a supplemental resource. What were folks’ preferred social news sources? Forty percent said Twitter was their most prominent; 37 percent said Facebook was their most prominent; about 10 percent said LinkedIn was their most prominent; about 10 percent said Instagram was their most prominent.

Vested research social media Snapchat

Facebook may continue to give Snapchat a run for its money when it comes to news. The Zuckerberg-owned social media giant launched Watch, a hub for original, Facebook-specific videos spanning news and explanatory videos, food videos and miniseries.

For example, CNN’s Anderson Cooper will host “Anderson Cooper Full Circle” on the digital channel; Watch will also be home to Fox’s “Fox News Update” with Shepard Smith, and ABC’s “On Location.” Additionally, Univision will host a daily news brief with Jorge Ramos, spotlighting immigrants and relevant issues around the country. Even smaller news outlets, like ATTN, Mic, and Alabama’s AL.com will take up residence on Watch.

Instagram’s also stepping up its news game with the recent launch of IGTV, which could mean an even smaller market share for Snapchat. In an effort to reach younger audiences—likely the same demo Snapchat’s trying to reach—IGTV already has buy-in from BBC, Vice, The Economist, Vogue, Esquire and ITV News.

But still, Snapchat’s offering is slightly different than other social news partnerships we’re seeing crop up. While plenty of Millennials and Gen Zers aren’t using Snapchat for news currently, it’s possible the social outlet could fill a void specifically for journalists, rather than consumers. Only time will tell, but we’ll need more than 10 seconds to fully analyze how these partnerships play out and their influence in journalism going forward.

FIFA World Cup 2018: Social Cohesion or Smoke and Mirrors?

Football, or soccer to you heathens across the pond, is a game that has evolved to become much more than a sport. It is a lingua franca across continents that are divided by languages, cultures and religions. Boasting an excess of four billion fans across the planet, football is undeniably the world’s most popular sport and for many nations, the FIFA World Cup is the ultimate culmination of training, talent and effort. The quadrennial, month-long international football festival hails a powerful array of social, cultural, and economic impact for the host country. Heavily covered by swarms of media, it is a powerful geopolitical tool, investment attractor, and soft-power instrument. Regardless of the outcome, the World Cup provides host nations with a powerful platform to showcase country and culture.

This year, the World Cup is being held in Russia, where we’re seeing the friendly and hospitable face of a nation that has been criticised regarding a range of political disputes in past years. Russia is in the hot-seat to show its professionalism as host and President Vladimir Putin is set on presenting a polished portrayal of his homeland to the eyes of the world. As any nation would, Russia is heavily invested in providing fans with a generous and friendly experience. The experience visitors take away from Russia is lasting and can impact consumer and investor confidence for years to come, and establishing a strong nation brand is crucial.

Notoriously expensive, it is widely disputed by economists and analysts whether hosting the World Cup boosts GDP in the long term, or whether the short-term expenses outweigh the benefits. Russia’s official budget for the international football tournament is roughly $11.8 billion at the current exchange rate, which is more than twice the preliminary budget set out by Russia when it won the hosting rights in 2010. This may seem high, but it’s significantly less than the estimated $15 billion spent by Brazil on the 2014 World Cup.

Shocking for some and delightful (schadenfreude) for others, to date, we have seen a lot of favored teams losing out early and being disqualified. As a German, my expectations were high as our incumbent champion team landed in Russia to compete. I found myself seeking out obscure German bars and pubs in London, such as Bierschenke just across the street from Deutsche Bank, to watch the games surrounded by inebriated compatriots and British waiters in Lederhosen. But, my beer-fueled excitement quickly turned to concern as my team struggled in opening games, and critically lost to South Korea. As an expat living in London, fortunately, I’ve been able to turn my support to my adoptive country and support England, in its seemingly unstoppable Cup crusade. Beyond the goals, costs and politics, the World Cup always presents a wonderful opportunity for nations to get to know another. I’m certain I wasn’t the only one googling Uruguay, and that there will be more people on holiday in Croatia next year. Together, people celebrate victories and commiserate losses, across geographies and cultures. For me, it provides an opportunity to feel closer to my home country regardless of where I am. But for now, I’m supporting England.

Vested’s Som-mer Soireé Was Anything But Dry

Finance is… complex. It’s multifaceted, dense but bright, opulent but refined, structured but expressive. Wine too is complex, so it seemed only fitting that we celebrated the start of summer with more than 100 of the most talented communications and business professionals in the financial industry, learning, drinking, and networking about wine.

Guiding our Som-mer Soireé attendees on an exclusive wine tour of France, was Master Sommelier Pascaline Lepeltier. The co-author of “The Dirty Guide to Wine: Following Flavor from Ground to Glass,” Pascaline teaches us that it’s the foundation, the dirt, that dictates a wine’s qualities. So she guided guests and their taste buds through distinct soil regions: from the whites of the Loire to the rustic reds of the Rhone and the Grand Crus of Bordeaux. Completing the French theme? Regionally-inspired hor d’oeuvres like olives and cheese, and the venue itself.

The event was held at 745 5th Avenue, which showcases the work of famous French architects Jean Nouvel and Thierry Despont. The duo is working on their newest building, the MoMA tower, slated to finish in early 2019.

In all, I think this was our best event yet — but don’t take my word for it. Some of our guests summarize their experiences:

“Vested truly knows how to bring together experts from many different industries to share unique perspectives.  Their events are always thoughtful, elegant, and fun!”
– Jessica Douieb, Managing Director at Goldman Sachs
“Vested always does an outstanding job creating networking opportunities to connect financial communications professionals. They are passionate about building relationships within the industry and expanding our community.” – Craig Donner, Executive Director, Head of Corporate Communications & Public Affairs at DTCC
“I love Vested events because I never know who I’m going to run into (old colleagues, new clients…) but I know I’m going to have fun!” – Kiersten Barnet, Deputy Chief of Staff and Manager of the Gender Equality Index at Bloomberg
“I was thrilled to go to Vested’s summer reception. It was great to see so many peers in our industry.” – Jason Schechter, Chief Communications Officer at Bloomberg
“The energy and fun of a Vested event matches the way the team engages and works with its clients.” – David Walker, Managing Director, Head of Wealth Management Communications at Morgan Stanley

We’re delighted to have had the opportunity to bring so many great minds together in one room bonding over our passion for finance and wine! See how we brought France to New York in these photos from the event, and be in touch if you’d like to be included in future industry events:

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When Stabilisation is a Good Sign: A Health Check for Financial Services in the UK

The latest update on sentiment among UK financial services firms from PwC and the CBI, shows that sentiment has stabilised after two quarters of severe falls. This survey has fallen every quarter except one since 2016, so perhaps rather than being the mediocre response it initially seems, stabilisation is a sign of future optimism?

There are strong indicators of growth with the majority of financial services sectors questioned looking to expand headcount, develop new products, expand marketing budgets and invest in IT. At Vested, this reflects what we’re seeing amongst our clients and networks and we’re excited by the level of passion from the industry we’re so passionate about too. And given the highly competitive nature of the industry, investment in these areas is crucial for firms looking to get ahead of the curve and lead the way developing their businesses in ways that help them to engage and retain customers.

Major challenges within the sector that continue to consume energy, time and budgets are Brexit and the bedding in of regulation including GDPR and PSD2. With those surveyed citing these as the most important barrier to growth, their impact can’t be avoided or downplayed. As we still eagerly await a Brexit deal, the prolonged uncertainty of what it really means for business is only heightening uncertainty of decision- making and the ability to truly plan for the future.

Despite the uncertain environment, we’re also musing what this survey would say, if it was expanded to include some of the younger areas of the industry such as Fintech, Insurtech and Crypto where firms are realising significant growth. Taking an even broader view of the sector would, we feel, shift the figures from stabilisation into positivity. Financial services is a growing sector that has started to expand around the edges, and embraces technology and the change it brings. The enthusiasm, alternate approach and product innovation that new businesses entering the market offer, are all helping to deliver growth within the wider financial services ecosystem.

The results of today’s survey point to continued times of challenge for financial services firms, but a central strength and optimism for the future. It’s an industry we’re proud to be a part of and supporting through the many changes it faces.

Rebuilding Brands: Three Major Players Embrace Mistakes to Gain Back Consumer Trust

They’re almost inescapable—the subway, in between news cycles on CNN, and even hidden in plain sight on your newsfeed. For a casual one billion of us across the world, Facebook has seeped its way deep into our daily existence; but this time, the social media giant is putting itself in the limelight in a different capacity: advertisements.

Shortly after its scandal with Cambridge Analytica, Mark Zuckerberg took to Capitol Hill to rebuild consumer trust and discuss the importance of data privacy for Facebook’s users. The PR crisis didn’t exactly blow over immediately, but it would’ve been easy enough for the company to lay low for a while until one of its competitors misstepped. Instead, Zuckerberg and his team did quite the opposite.

Through a series of digital, TV, and transit ads, the “Here Together” campaign takes us back to the days when Facebook was, truly, just about our friends before “something happened.” The ad doesn’t mince words: it goes on to call out that “something” as spam, clickbait and data misuse.

“That’s about to change,” the ad promises.

While only time will tell if that promise holds true, it’s worth noting that Facebook isn’t alone in its efforts to own its mistake. Following an onslaught of sexism and sexual harassment allegations, a series of investigations, and rampant leadership turnover, Uber is embracing its blunders and seeking to grow consumer trust through a similar campaign.

The “Moving Forward” ad features the company’s new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi promising a better experience for customers and an improved company culture.

“One of our core values as a company is to always do the right thing,” he said. And while Khosrowshahi isn’t exactly as explicit as Zuckerberg in what the wrong thing was, anyone who’s watched the news over the past year can surmise to what he’s referring.

And last but not least is Wells Fargo. The financial services company went through a “20-month nightmare” of scandal after scandal, including the creation of fake accounts, unfair mortgage rates and manipulating customers into purchasing unneeded car insurance. Taking a page out of the PR crisis book of Uber and Facebook, Wells Fargo launched the “Re-Established” campaign.

The series of ads appears on TV, as well as print and digital, and reference Wells Fargo’s position as an industry leader during the California gold rush. And, like Facebook, the company goes so far as to explicitly recognize what went wrong, showing a newspaper headline reading “What’s Happening at Wells Fargo?” and noting the end of product sales goals for branch bankers.

Facebook, Uber and Wells Fargo seem committed to regaining consumer trust —but is the public buying any of it? The ads for each embattled brand have only been in market for about a month, so it’s too early to tell whether the transparency campaigns are effective. Vested plans to follow each company on its journey to redemption and take a pulse on customer opinion and loyalty down the road.

Stay tuned!

Do LGBTQ and Pride-Themed Ads Promote Inclusion or Sales?

Ah, June. Sunshine, summer, and all things LGTBQ #pride. After all, Manhattan—where we’re HQ’d—is home to the 1969 Stonewall Riots (the origin of Pride Month) and a notoriously inclusive hub for people from nearly every sexual orientation, ethnicity, or gender. So it only makes sense brands follow suit, doesn’t it?

From Oreo’s rainbow-stuffed cookie ad, to Dorito’s “There’s Nothing Bolder Than Being Yourself” tagline and multi-colored chips, and Chobani’s “Love This Life” commercial, some of America’s most reputable and profitable brands are finally speaking to the LGBTQ community. And we’re thrilled about that. Vested is a place that prides itself on its staff’s diversity across a multitude of factors, and believe it’s about damn time that corporations acknowledge and include all types of people in their marketing.

However, we can’t help but raise our (rainbow) flag when it comes to what feels like capitalizing on a previously marginalized group of individuals. The LGBTQ community has been forced to live in the shadows until recently, and is still marginalized especially in places that aren’t New York.

Shortly after former President Obama’s trans-friendly policies—like part of the Affordable Care Act that banned healthcare discrimination based on sexual orientation, and ramped up protections for transgender individuals—took place, and the Supreme Court ruled gay marriage legal, the country’s attitude towards the once-shunned group shifted. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2016, 63 percent of Americans said LGBT adults should be accepted by society, compared to just 51 percent in 2006.

Not-so-coincidentally, brands like the aforementioned Oreo, Doritos, McDonald’s and Coke jumped on the gay bandwagon. In turn, companies have raised a few eyebrows about whether the move was truly about inclusion or convenience, considering LGBTQ customers reportedly represent an estimated buying power of $917 billion—6.8 percent of total US buying power.

“…I think the underlying message is that these brands are now feeling like it’s safe and less risky to do this,” Jenn T. Grace, an LGBTQ business strategist, told Vice News last year. “The message it sends is ‘You weren’t important to us before when it was risky but now, only when it’s safe, we’re willing to put our neck out there and support this community.’ It could be that it’s the right thing to do all day long, but if it’s not making them money, they wouldn’t do it. Businesses are in business to make a profit,” she said.

So how does one judge a brand’s authenticity when it comes to inclusive marketing? The Human Rights Campaign Foundation Corporate Equality Index (CEI) is a great place to start. CEI began in 2002 and rates American businesses based on their treatment of LGBTQ employees, consumers and investors. For example, consumers can see if a brand provides health insurance and benefits to trans people, or provides adequate training to highlight LGBTQ awareness and inclusion internally. It pulls back the metaphorical curtain and allows the public the ability to see if the ideology of diversity and inclusion is truly an integral part of the business, and not part of a marketing scheme to make a quick buck in June.

With that being said, there are plenty of companies that give us hope that their decisions to include the LGBTQ in their advertising comes from a place of progress rather than profit.

After North Carolina passed House-Bill 2, a law that rescinded all local LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policies throughout the state, companies ran for the (northern) hills. Deutsche Bank halted its expansion plan that would’ve added 250 jobs to the area. Similarly, PayPal nixed its plan to open a new global payment center in Charlotte, which was expected to bring 400 new jobs to the city. Lionsgate also canceled an eight-day production shoot in response to the bill.

“We have a share of cynicism for LGBT-marketing, but what I’m impressed by is the number of brands who put their mouth where their marketing is,” Bob Witeck, President of Witeck Communications, the company that conducts analyses of LGBTQ buying power, told Vice.

This 2018 Pride Month, we encourage fellow New Yorkers and the rest of our readers to celebrate: buy the bag of rainbow chips; play that adorable iPhone commercial for your friends; “borrow” one of those awesome mock-MTA Pride Month posters. But, like any good party, do it responsibly and hold brands accountable.