HSBC Pride and the power of authentic storytelling

5th October 2021

Read more about HSBC’s Pride campaign and how the global organisation was able to remain authentic in a new age of media activism.

HSBC have been great allies of the LGBTQ+ community for years now, but in a new age of diverse and inclusive media activism, how could we help HSBC remain authentic and engaging as opposed to performative and tokenistic?

Today, we discuss our strategy and approach when working with multinational banking and finance giants, HSBC, on their 2020 Pride campaign.

Keeping diverse and inclusive media authentic

Our method was simple – to be as authentic as possible, by bringing real stories and emotions to the forefront of the brand’s most accessible touchpoint during a national lockdown – their social media channels.

The business goal for this brief was to engage and educate HSBC audiences on the concept of ‘passing’ and its effects on individuals as a means of publicising HSBC’s approach to diversity and inclusion. For those not aware, passing is a notion that describes passing off as someone on the exterior that doesn’t truly match with a person’s true internal identity, for example many gay individuals feel they need to ‘pass’ as straight to fit in or be safe, so they’ll perform in a way that is traditionally ‘masculine’.

We wanted it to be clear that HSBC stands with the LGBTQ+ community through all these experiences. Better yet, it advocates for the community and wants to help share these stories. The brand has always been incredibly open and transparent in their stance on diversity and inclusion, but at a time where the entire world was more uncertain than ever, we needed to take it one step deeper to really speak to the community and make the campaign contextually relevant to current times.

Contextual relevance is key to every campaign’s success

The impact of COVID-19 had forced the whole nation into a 2020 summer of lockdown between March and June. The impact of the virus was hugely widespread, however individuals from marginalised or disadvantaged groups such as the LGBTQ+ communities – who already experience poorer outcomes in healthcare – may have disproportionally been more affected by the current situation.

It was also important for us to consider the impact around intersectionality within the different LGBTQ+ communities. For example, being LGBTQ+ as well as belonging to other minority identities such as Disabled, Black and Asian just to name a few. These individuals had a greater likelihood of being affected by coronavirus in the UK because they were generally in need of greater support.

Due to the already existing instability of the support systems that LGBTQ+ individuals faced, they were more likely to be a) socially isolated and b) homeless. 24% of homeless people aged 16-24 are LGBTQ+, and 18% of LGBTQ+ people have been homeless at some point in their lives.

According to Age UK: “Research shows that (older) LGBTQ+ people are especially vulnerable to loneliness as they are more likely to be single, live alone, and have lower levels of contact with relatives.”

Further to this, LGBTQ+ communities sadly lack traditional and mainstream support networks. They are more likely to have what is called a chosen family – a selected group of close friends and members of the community that replace immediate family relations, often due to family rejection.

What’s worse, is that many young people will have found themselves having to self-isolate in a household with LGBTQ-phobic parents and family members. There is research to show that LGBTQ+ individuals are disproportionately more likely to have poor mental health and a 2018 study found that 52% of LGBTQ+ people had experienced depression in the year preceding the survey.

Sharing a narrative and making it accessible

When you’re surrounded by people who don’t understand you – in this case people who don’t accept your sexuality or people who you haven’t ‘come out’ to yet – the most common thing to do is to turn to online spaces. This was bound to be the case even more so during the national lockdown where physical interaction and social spaces in the real world were closed until further notice.

All these factors made up the foundations led us to create a powerful series of passing films, sparking a conversation through the sharing of personal narratives and showing solidarity in online spaces for LGBTQ+ people in the context of lockdown.

We took advantage of our extensive diversity media network and selected a range of queer influencers as well as real HSBC employees to tell their own personal story of passing. To inspire, engage and represent unheard voices within the community who were struggling at the time. This was HSBC’s way of letting them know, they weren’t alone and there was a virtual community they would always be a part of.

This enabled their followers and audiences, who had similarly experienced passing in their lives, to share their stories online too, creating a beautiful, sincere and authentic exchange of conversation. For HSBC, this awareness proved that there was solidarity online for those who needed it and cemented their allyship with the LGBTQ+ community even further.

Overall, the campaign exceeded our expectations from a stats and delivery perspective as well as engagement and positive dialogue across socials. There was much anecdotal feedback which suggested the campaign resonated with the LGBTQ+ community and beyond.

HSBC diverse and inclusive pride campaign details

We worked with influencers Jake Graf and Luke Jefferson Day; a transman and pan-sexual man respectively. We wanted each piece to be as authentic and intimate as possible, so although we provided editorial direction and oversaw the logistical process, both Jake and Luke chose which story they wanted to share and delivered their content in the medium they were most comfortable with.


Jake Graf


Jake Graf is an English Actor, Filmmaker and Transgender Rights Activist. He is a leading figure in the LGBTQ+ community and is widely known for his active support. Jake is a go-to person when looking for a positive LGBTQ+ role model and has been shining a light on Queer and Trans experiences to a wider, more mainstream audience. He has recently worked with River Island and VO5 and was extremely interested in telling his story  about passing as a woman, then as a CIS man.


Luke Jefferson Day


Luke is GQ Style’s Editor and a known face both in the LGBTQ+ community and the fashion industry. Luke has shared personal stories on his Instagram feed on his experience as a gay man before and has more recently opened up about his pansexuality. After having to pass in the Gay community for years, Luke felt it was time to share his personal story and inspire others with his motto: ‘harness your uniqueness’. This remains one of his most liked and engaged with post to date.

An additional two videos were created by HSBC Global. They were shared and promoted across social media accounts within our wide network of LGBTQ+ influencers.

HSBC on the story of their colleague, Nathaniel:

“Our lives are full of places where we feel we can’t, or shouldn’t, express our authentic selves. Barber shops can be an example of where gay, bi and trans men feel they need to pass as straight. In a year where many of us can’t be as ‘out’ as we’d like to be, it’s as important as ever that our diverse identities are still seen, heard and celebrated.”

Watch Nathaniel’s story here:

HSBC on the story of their colleague, Florence:

“A lot of people in the LGBT+ community feel they need to ‘pass’ as straight. But at a time when we can’t come together as normal, we need visibility more than ever. So whether you’re coming out to colleagues, or sashaying in your living room, we support your journey and wish you a happy Pride being exactly who you are.”

Watch Florence’s story here:

Stand up. Stand out.
Stand united.