When Weddings Unveiled magazine balked at running photographer Anne Almasy‘s ad because it featured a photo of a same-sex couple on their wedding day, Almasy responded with a few reliable PR strategies: Tugging at heartstrings, working in the name of love and tossing in a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quote for good measure are pretty good strategies for gaining the support of like-minded people.
Almasy chose the adjacent picture for her ad because “…to me, it says love. It says home. It says joy.”
But it seems when the editors at Weddings Unveiled looked at the picture, they saw less love and joy, and more of a potential PR problem. One of the magazine’s editors sent Almasy the following comment:
“Is there possibly another photograph you’d like to use in your ad? We just don’t feel comfortable publishing an ad featuring a same-sex couple. These aren’t our personal beliefs, of course, but, you know…”
Taken aback, Almasy said of her work, “I don’t shoot gay weddings or straight weddings, Christian weddings or Jewish weddings, good weddings or bad weddings. I photograph PEOPLE on their wedding day.” But she didn’t stop there; she penned an open letter to WU, expressing her disappointment and defending her work. It read, in part:
Are there people who might have been offended or put off by this ad? I’m sure there are. But this ad wasn’t for them. This ad was for people who love black and white photography; this ad was for people who love a portrait taken in a warehouse stacked with bags of coffee beans; this ad was for people who love big puffy dresses; this ad was for people who love love.
My heart breaks because you could not see that this couple’s wedding portrait is every bit as beautiful and valuable as any other couple’s.
Someone has to see these two beautiful, brilliant women in love and know that there is nothing more right in the world than this couple.Dear, dear Weddings Unveiled, my heart breaks because you could not find it within yourself to be that someone.
Before we finished our last phone call, your editor told me, “I’m not saying we won’t ever publish a same-sex wedding. It just isn’t the right time.”
In Dr. King’s words:
The time is always right to do what’s right.
Love, social justice, Dr. King, and some good old fashioned “I’m disappointed in you” shaming — that’s one hell of an ad pitch. As you might imagine, it had the desired effect–the magazine reversed its decision, stated that it would be proud to run the ad, and begged for forgiveness. Terry Ireland and Brooke Thomas, the publishers of Weddings Unveiled, posted the following response to the magazine’s blog. Unlike many “we’re sorry” statements given in the PR world, this one comes across as wholly genuine and heartfelt – Human beings responding to human beings, rather than a faceless, nameless corporation responding to some amalgamated mass:
We hope that you will allow us the opportunity to address an important issue that has angered and disappointed many people. We are incredibly sad that same sex marriage is still an issue in our society. When we were faced with the decision of whether or not to publish Anne Almasy’s advertisement, we acted in a manner that does not reflect our personal beliefs. We truly believe that all love is beautiful and that all people have the right to marry. You might ask that if we feel that way, then why did we make this decision? Honestly, we knew that everyone would not share our belief that all people have the right to marry. The issue is very sensitive and it is also very divided. We knew that it was possible that people would be offended if we published the ad and we knew that it was possible that people would be offended if we did not. We are so sorry that we acted out of fear and uncertainty. We had never been faced with such a decision and we should have acted with our hearts.
We are two women who operate a small business that we care deeply about. We love all weddings. We love all people and would never want to anger, offend or disappoint anyone. We are deeply moved by the outpouring of love and support for Anne. We are so sorry that we have disappointed you and we ask for your forgiveness. If Anne would still like to run her ad in Weddings Unveiled, then we would be proud to publish it.
Almasy also saw the merit, humility, and genuineness of the magazine’s mea culpa, and brought the successful back-and-forth to a satisfying close by responding:
I cannot tell you how completely stunned, humbled, and honored I am that you took the time to truly read my letter, and chose to side with your hearts. I couldn’t have imagined a better outcome. I hope you have recognized the vast community of support you will have for championing what is right and true. I will gladly stand with you in this fight for equality, and would be thrilled to move forward with this ad in Weddings Unveiled.
So everybody wins–it’s a PR dream come true. We think the lesson in all this, no matter your politics, is to remember that whether you work for a multinational corporation or a mom and pop start-up, keeping the human aspect of your job in mind (by understanding that both your company and your audience are made up of individual human beings) can go a long way.