In an earlier blog entry, speaking on Do We Need a National Grand Lodge, I offered:
5. Standardizing our message to the world is the one area where I think a national governing authority would be useful. For instance, the Shrine decided some time back that their reputation needed polishing. They undertook a national ad campaign, in magazines, newspapers, on radio and television, on bill boards, on trucks… everywhere, showing the iconic image of a Shriner carrying a girl on his shoulders with her crutches in his other hand. Thirty years later, the image of the Shrine is of a bunch of men in little cars, wearing silly hats and supporting hospitals for children. They could do this because THEY have a national governing authority, and can mold and direct their message. Blue Lodges could do that now, through the Committee of Grand Masters which meets every year now to discuss issues of interest to all the Grand Lodges. In a sense, we already have a national authority… only its not an authority and certainly not a governing one. Regardless, this national committee hasn’t even tried to undertake such a project for many good reasons, too many to go into in this article. However, that being the case, and they having never taken advantage of the opportunity, it again does not seem to necessitate a National Governing Authority.After reading that post, Mark asked:
Could you please go into this in another article?That is what I will undertake today. First of all, I must state that I am NOT a member of, nor have I participated in any way with the Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America. The following are my opinions only and do not represent any Grand Lodge or Grand Officer's opinion. That written, lets begin:
Alluding to too many reasons to go into, the following are some of the reasons that I think account for a lack of movement on this concept.
- Not every jurisdiction allows advertising. There is a strange tradition in freemasonry that does not allow us to ASK a good man to join. This has translated in some many jurisdictions to an aversion to advertising in any form. Some jurisdictions allow, some allow to a degree, and some deny it altogether.
- Local Message. Another issue relating to advertising nationally would be the message. The Shrine, my exemplar in this article, crafted a very simple message. Their message was designed, in the beginning, to promote the image of the Shrine from a bunch of old skirt chasing clowns to a national charity dedicated to the health and well being of children. Crafting a national message that would appeal to all grand lodges would be a difficult task.
- Interest. One of the greatest obstacles to overcome is inertia. "Thats not the way we did it... every before" is going to be hard to overcome, and not just in Grand Lodge Officers.
- Operation. In my mind, the final objection that would be the most difficult to overcome is the manner of operation, and this alone could be the nail that seals the deal from every being considered. The other issues can be addressed.
- And last, but certainly not the least is that each grand lodge is sovereign, and therefore this coordinated advertising campaign would need to be organized across 50 (or more) independent grand lodges. Very difficult.
The "Local Message" objection can be overcome in the same manner as the Shrine did. The message is crafted so it doesn't address any local issue, it is more like a Public Service Announcement: Freemasonry, serving society since 1563 or some such equally generic message. It will be difficult to design, but this is simply a matter for brainstorming. Another solution would be to create a number of messages and then rotate their usage.
The "Well, we've never done it that way before" objection is one we hear all the time, and not just in craft masonry. As a professional teacher and business manager, I hear this darn near five or six times a DAY. This is one objection that we can deal with through basic change management techniques. Difficult, but because we are all brothers, its doable. The question will be: Can we get the Grand Officers to SEE the benefit of the change.
Grand Officers tend, by and large, to be very conservative men. Their job is not massive change, but to conserve the craft for future generations intact. More, Grand Officers represent the craft they are called to lead. If the brothers they lead do not support advertising, then neither will the Grand Master.
The killer will be operation. The functional details will be the most difficult. WHO will design the ads, who will place the ads, how will the benefit from the ads be tracked, who will pay how much? This last is a difficult one all by itself. Will the benefit be allocated by the size of the membership of each grand lodge, or simply allocated based on the number of grand lodges participating? How much will be allocated to this project, and where will the ads run all need to be addressed.
An issue that recently came up in California regarding an advertising campaign was results. I speak here only from what the ad manager told me, so its just one man's opinion. I was told that we included a toll free number for people with questions to call. This required someone to answer the calls, then allocate the interest calls to the various lodges to follow up on.
Let me share two examples with you of the problem of allocating "leads" to lodges. When I first joined freemasonry, I moved after being initiated. When I settled in a new city, the first call I made after my telephone was unpacked, was to the lodge in that city. I got an answering machine and left a message... and did so five times over the next two weeks. I never got an answer, so I called a lodge a little further away, the master there drove to my house and put a petition in my hands.
My brother recently expressed interest in joining a lodge... fortunately, there was a masonic lodge two blocks from his house. I gave him the number, and he called the lodge... and called the lodge... and called the lodge. I called the lodge. They never called him or me, and he joined the Lion's Club and became active as a Boy Scout leader. He may join a lodge someday, but they did not bother to call him back.
I offer these two apocryphal tales as exemplars of what the Grand Lodge's know exist in the real world. Lodges don't always follow up on leads, no less on the calls from men who state they want to join. How would we deal with hundreds of good men applying to join, once they knew how to join? If we are going to spend money on crafting a message and getting the message out, we need to be able to follow up with the result.
More even than this, there is no point in starting on such an enterprise if we are not willing to commit to the long term. An "advertising" campaign such as this must be planned in terms of tens of years, and must be run across a number of markets, magazines, newspapers, bill boards, radio, television, internet and other mediums. The message must be simple, clear, and their must be a clear action to take.
The Shrine hired an advertising agency and committed a budget to carry it forward. They can do so, since they have an "Imperial" governing body, that can commit funds from all sources every year. Freemasonry, blue lodge, does not have the same type of central organization. The Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America does not have that type of purvue or brief for its operation.
First of all, the Conference is a totally volunteer group, and at that, is an advisory group only. It has no authority to undertake such a program, though it is a good venue for proposing such a program and how it might work. However, every grand master that agrees would have to bring it back to HIS grand lodge to get the brethren's support.
This brings into play the last issue, grand lodge sovereignty. There would be no central organizing authority, so the project would be pulled 50 (or more) directions from the inception, and even an advertising agency cannot serve two (no less fifty or more) masters.
Personally, I would like to see it worked out, because the benefit to the craft would be immeasurable, but the damage to the craft, if we had fifty (or more) messages could be just as bad, or worse, than no message at all.
May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons. May brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.