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Lets Communicate Freemasonry
LET'S COMMUNICATE FREEMASONRY!
Excerpts from remarks by Most Worshipful Robert C. Singer, Grand Master
of Masons in the State of New York 1986-88, and a professional communicator for over 30 years.
Before I begin, I want to say something! The bedrock of effective
Masonic communications is the everyday practical living of a life that
is guided by religious, moral and ethical prinicples. These is no
replacement for this triune approachno public relations program, no
slick media campaign, no four-color print matter can be substituted.
However, there is something more that is needed, especially in this
modern era. A great communicator once told me that the best definition
of public relations is 90 percent performance and 10 percent telling
about it. Or, doing a good job and getting credit for it. It is to that
second part that we in New York and many other Grand Lodges are devoting
time, money and skill in this time period.
We are all familiar with the problems our Fraternity has faced over
the past 30 years-declining membership, poor attendance, loss of
interest, sloppy ritual work, etc. In New York, we have stopped talking
about these problems (I even issued a verbal "edict" to that effect!)
and have been concentrating, for the past two years, on a different
approachexternal or public communication, reaching out to the
This was not our first step in this coordinated effortfar from it.
My immediate predecessors conducted campaigns to improve Lodge pro-
grams and candidate instruction, to develop community service, to
increase widow's recognition, to initiate greater efforts to serve our
veterans, and to revamp internal communications with our present
members. Only then did we "go public". I might add that our recent Grand
Masters have worked closely as a team, realizing that continuity of
effort was vital to the success of such a program.
Our external communications program involved Masons at the Grand
Lodge, district, and Lodge levels, particuallary the last. It is the
local locge in a community that is the focal point. And, of course, it
is the individual Freemason who is on the front line.
We began nearly two years ago. Our four-point goal:
ù To develop increased and improved recognition of Freemasonry where
recognition does not now exist.
ù To expand that awareness where it does exist.
ù To generate interest among potential new members without direct
ù To renew interest on the part of inactive Freemasons.
In introducing this program, I said at the time, "There is a need to
gain greater public awareness of Freemasonry. Let me stress, however,
that this is not a membership program or an attempt to directly solicit
Note that I have twice (now thrice) mentioned "solicitation". Even if
that were our goal, which it is not, you would still have to solicit
them for something, a "something" about which the general public today
knows little or nothing. Our purpose, then, is to tell, explain,
inform about the "something" called Freemasonry, and to spark an
interest in learning more about the world's oldest, largest and most
Our multi-media program was put together by a small team of
professionals, and utilized tried and true communications techniques.
Here are the main elements in this effort:
ù A series of eight advertisements carried in 27 major daily newspapers (including
the New York Times) in New York State. Each carried a simple message,
e.g., "Who are the Masons? "
ù Local Lodges were encouraged to run their
own versions of these ads in weekly newspapers, which offer
inexpensive but well-read space.
ù Two 60-second radio spots were aired
on 33 radio stations blanketing the State and for concentrated periods.
ù A new, colorful Q & A folder was prepared, and some 300,000 copies
were requested by local Lodges and Freemasons. Price: one cent per
ù A Several 30 second public service television parspots were
produced, one featuring Right Worshipful and Reverend Norman Vincent
Peale, a 60-year Freemason.
ù A one-time full-page advertisement was placed in the New York
regional edition of TIME magazine. Its theme was the major
participation in the creation of the U.S. Constitution, whose
Bicentennial was celebrated in September, 1987. The issue was mailed
to 400,000 subscribers' homes.
ù A new, 15 minute sound-slide show, "Brotherhood and ServiceThe Free-
masons", was produced, and copies were sent to the Worshipful Masters
of our 800 Lodges with instructions to show them to local service
clubs, church groups and community organizations. see ed. note pg. 7
ù The DeWitt Clinton Masonic Community Service Award was created for
local Lodges to present at public meetings to nonMasonic groups and
individuals as a recognition of their community service.
ù An attractive red, white and blue bumper sticker has just been issued.
It says very simply "FreemasonryFriendship. Morality and Brotherly
ù Lodges were urged to hold public Masonic Information Nights, and
invite potential members and their wives to these affairs. No "hard
ù We encouraged greater contact with the media (by qualified spokesmen
only) to improve understanding of our Fraternity and to dispel the
false concept that we are a "secret society". However, there were to
be no debates with critics or negative commentary. We simply tell
our positive story.
ù Individual Freemasons are asked to identify themselves as such by
wearing Masonic pinsThey are also enCouraged to carry Q & A folder
and Lodge petitions. In other t words, to be ready for the
time when a prospect shows interest. It does not hurt to talk about
Freemasonry at appropriate times with non Masons!
Inevitably, there is a spill-over into internal Communications. We
completely revised the format and content of our quarterly Empire
State Mason magazine (circ. 135,000), an action which has met with very
favorable comment We also began publication of a four-page monthly
NeWsletter for 2,200 key leaders, including all Worshipful Masters and
By now, you are probably wondering about the cost of all this
activity No secret, it is about $250,000, spread over two years and with
several one-time large expenditures e.g. the sound-slide show, which
will be used over the next several years. Naturally, you do not have to
spend at this level to accomplish some good, but we felt that an all-out
effort was dictated at this time.
Your second question, how effective? That is tough to measure, but we
know that some l000 inquiries were generated by the newspaper ads alone
(they were sent a Q & A folder and there was local Lodge follow-up) and
the reaction among our membership has been very positive That, to me, is
the critical factor. We wanted to turn around our members pessimistic or
negative attitude toward the Craft's prospects today and for the future.
From regional meetings and extensive sampling of opinion across the
Empire State, every indication we have is that there is a renewed vigor,
a stepped-up interest, a greater desire to rebuild.
Well, say the skeptics out there, is your membership increasing? We do
not know yet, and it is probably doubtful that we will see a dramatic
change in the near term. Remember it is very hard to offset the annual
5,000-member losses, in recent years, from deaths. I will be satisfied
if there is even a tiny, tell-tale indication of a turnaround.
One must remember that this type of program does not work miracles or
bring about instant results, and it must be continued, even if on a
reduced scale (as it will be in New York). It is jus one more stone
placed on other stones to comple the building.
We have been pleased to share our material with other Masonic bodies,
particularly a number of Grand Lodges, and several have adapted the
various parts of this program to their particular needs-
Let me conclude by restating my opening thought The most effective
Masonic com munication is the individual Freemason's good daily
behavior, with his family, in his business, in his community. The New
York communications program backs up this behavior by explaining to
the non-Masonic public how the Freemasons' involvement in his Fraternity
can help to develop the moral and ethical basis for this exemplary
We believe that a modern Masonic communications program is needed
today, because of the fast-paced, high-speed environment in which we
find ourselves The values espoused by FreemasonryFriendship, Morality,
Brotherly Lovehave not changed, but is it not time that we utilized
the modern means of communication to help get our important message
across to the public? This Freemason thinks so!
Brotherhood and ServiceThe Freemasons has also been produced in VHS
tape format. It is available for rental (fee $10.00) from The Masonic
Remember, if you don't see the Ashlar "A", it's not authentic.
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