ST. LOUIS—Fleishman-Hillard has launched a new unit, FH Out Front, designed to reach the gay and lesbian community, which the firm describes as “one of the largest untapped audiences in the communications marketplace.”
FH Out Front is the first branded practice from a major agency targeting the gay and lesbian community, although Hill & Knowlton launched an “asset group” targeting gays and lesbians in 2001 and several firms have diversity practice that include specialist in marketing to the homosexual community.
The launch of the new unit follow the introduction last year of FH Hispania, a national team with bilingual/bicultural professionals strategically located in each of the major U.S. Hispanic population centers, including California, Texas, New York, and Florida.
“This practice is another example of Fleishman-Hillard’s commitment to continually offering our clients comprehensive communications services that reach a variety of audiences,” says John Graham, the firm’s chairman and chief executive officer. “FH Out Front represents a structured, strategic approach to communicating with a large group that has unique needs and interests as well as tremendous purchasing power.”
Research estimates the buying power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) community—which makes up as much as 10 percent of the U.S. population—at $450 billion annually. New developments in the marketplace—including the launch of the first gay cable channel, Logo, next year and the continued growth of advertising directly to gays and lesbians—as well as work we are currently engaged in for several major consumer brands encouraged Fleishman-Hillard to launch the new practice, Graham says.
FH Out Front currently includes more than a dozen communications experts in seven major U.S. markets: Washington, D.C., San Diego, Chicago, New York, St. Louis, Kansas City, and San Francisco. It includes employees in multiple practice groups, including marketing communications, healthcare, corporate reputation, public affairs, and litigation support.
“FH Out Front is a simple, instantly recognizable name that describes who we are, how we operate, and why we know the community,” said Ben Finzel, co-chair of the Out Front practice. “We are members of the community, which allows us to offer our clients expertise, reach, depth, and insight into the unique needs and interests of gays and lesbians.”
Finzel, a senior vice president in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office, chairs the practice along with Phillip Sontag, a vice president in the San Diego office. FH executives, including Finzel and Sontag, have worked on gay and lesbian communications programs on behalf of several major consumer brands; promoted a gay-friendly travel destination; coordinated media relations to major gay and lesbian print and broadcast outlets; and implemented health communications programs in support of HIV/AIDS education, testing, and prevention.
In addition to ongoing account work, the FH Out Front practice is currently leading a multi-agency group providing pro bono communications support to the metropolitan Washington, D.C., and New York City chapters of PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) on a PSA campaign to be launched next year.