On January 1, 2012, Witeck-Combs Communications, Inc. officially was renamed Witeck Communications, Inc. with the departure of Wesley Combs who accepted a senior management role with Accenture, and subsequently with the Boston Consulting Group. Bob Witeck remains the sole principal of the more than two-decade old independent, consulting practice based in Washington, D.C.
Witeck Communications, Inc. is a Washington, D.C.-based communications firm that provides strategic public relations and marketing communications services for corporate and non-profit clients. Witeck Communications specializes in the Gay and Lesbian Consumer Market; health, disability and social issues; and reaching the Washington, D.C. market. The company frequently represents Fortune 500 companies that serve the multi-billion-dollar gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender market.
For years Bob Witeck and Wesley Combs volunteered and worked for LGBT civil rights causes and AIDS benefits. They observed that these organizations often lacked the professional expertise, skills and business savvy to grow and prosper. They saw a disconnect between the gay community and the professional world and decided to co-found Witeck-Combs Communications, Inc. as a bridge to connect these two worlds. They believed that GLBT market visibility also was key to meaningful political and social change.
National Coming Out Day
In 1993, Bob Witeck and Wesley Combs founded Witeck-Combs Communications and immediately began work on two projects that would shape their business. The first was to shape and promote National Coming Out Day as an educational project of the Human Rights Campaign. Witeck-Combs Communications helped openly gay (and lesbian) actors Amanda Bearse and Dan Butler to communicate honestly to celebrate and promote National Coming Out Day by serving as the first celebrity spokespersons for the Human Rights Campaign Fund (since renamed the Human Rights Campaign (www.hrc.org). In all of the posters, publicity and public appearances, Dan and Amanda helped popularize the expression, "I'm not a straight person, but I play one on TV."
The second client project that shaped Witeck-Combs Communications' reputation was their strategy in 1994 to withstand backlash and a possible LGBT consumer boycott of American Airlines and to help foster an airline employee education program that was sensitive to people living with HIV/AIDS and LGBT people. In June 1993, many LGBT Americans traveled to the March on Washington. The controversy erupted when a member of an American Airlines' flight crew recommended that the pillows and blankets used by group of GLBT passengers be thrown away because of fears they were contaminated with HIV, the virus which causes AIDS.
This incident was compounded by a separate episode in 1993, when a passenger living with AIDS was removed insensitively from an American Airlines flight because the flight crew deemed the passenger much too ill to travel. Witeck-Combs Communications was hired to stem the tide of frustration and critical news coverage from the Gay Community. Witeck-Combs began by advising on employee training programs to ensure that each employee would be appropriately sensitive to LGBT customers and those living with HIV and AIDS, and to distinguish health issues from sexual orientation. In addition, Witeck-Combs Communications went farther to counsel American Airlines on its communications strategy combined with its policies and practices to ensure they are respectful of people living HIV/AIDS as well as American's LGBT passengers and employees. American Airlines was among the first airlines to include sexual orientation and transgender identity nondiscrimination protections into its workplace policies. American Airlines was the first airline to implement equal partnership benefits for same-sex partners as are provided to married spouses. Witeck-Combs Communications continues to work with American Airlines to reach out to the gay market and to enhance American's longstanding reputation for inclusion, fairness and acceptance on all levels.
Witeck-Combs Communications has teamed with both Harris Interactive and Marketresearch.com to understand the minds, preferences, demographics and purchasing power of the LGBT individuals through authentic and original market research. Such research has shown that:
- 78% of LGBT Consumers are extremely likely or very likely to consider brands that are known to provide equal workplace benefits for all their employees, including LGBT workers.
- 91% of LGBT workers choose to work for a company that offers domestic partner benefits.
- The 2006 buying power of the Gays and Lesbians was $660 billion and the Gay and Lesbian buying power is expected to exceed $835 billion by 2011.
In 2003, American Demographics Magazine picked Witeck and Combs as two of twenty-five people in America over the past 25 years who have done the most to shape the trends, knowledge and demographics of all Americans for their work on LGBT marketing and media relations.
After thirteen years of growing LGBT market expertise, the two principals were approached in 2006 by Kaplan Publishing to share their unique lessons and experience, and to co-author the first business book on LGBT marketing entitled, "Business Inside Out: Capturing Millions of Brand Loyal Gay Consumers." Their friend and mentor, Allan Gilmour, former Chief Financial Officer for Ford Motor Company and an openly gay former business executive, wrote the books' foreword.