How you can effectively communicate with every Brother in ONE click
As a digital marketer, it is painful to explain to brands the importance of an updated, relevant website. It hurts even more, when the discussion on how social media platforms provide more reach and opportunities to connect with people interested in your brand. My internal voice screams, “IT’S ALMOST 2020!” Facebook is almost old enough to drive. The Internet and cell phones have been around since the mid-1990s! Why are we acting like a website or a digital plan is something new? Most Americans living today have always have used some form of personal technology. Yet, one of the biggest challenges facing the oldest fraternity of men in the world occurs when you try to Google “Freemason lodge near me.” The results often lead to a “private group” on Facebook, a website that was launched in 1999 and left to float into the deep recesses of the interwebs, or worse yet, nothing.
“Communication creates clarity,” is a line I regularly use in my staff meetings. One of my big pet peeves is hearing “nobody told me” from colleagues and team members. The routine for my team meetings is to breakdown “three big things and end with a big clap.” I understand in business; we are expected to deliver results yesterday while hitting moving targets. This is why I find lack of communication ironic in Masonic lodges – especially with the members. Think about the opening and closing of the Lodge… if only the Master and Warders were in step outside of meetings as much as they are IN giving direction to the Brothers during stated communications.
I reached out to WM Curt Robinson III of Denver Lodge #5 A.F. & A.M. of the Grand Lodge of Colorado. Denver #5 is an example of a Lodge that is using technology to communicate with members and guests effectively. “Masons are not on the ball when it comes to doing this,” WM Robinson stated when we outlined the “Google search” problem. Instead of focusing on what Lodges are doing incorrectly, I wanted to showcase Denver #5’s progress as a repeatable success opportunity for others to follow.
You can skip to the bottom of this article for a complete list of recommendations and low-budget/no-cost options to create your Lodge playbook. For now, we’re going to break down the three big components to Denver’s digital strategy.
When Facebook passed 1 billion members, and Twitter hit over 225 million users, many of us believed that the days of email marketing were over. The average person now has two email accounts; personally, I have five. Two are for work, one is my primary account, and the other two are for school/personal projects that need their own Gmail account and Google Drive space. Email is still the primary method that many businesses, organizations, and individuals choose to communicate. Every time you log into a streaming service or app on your phone – that account is linked to an email address. Email isn’t going anywhere even if you have over 7,000 unread messages in your inbox.
Each email from Denver #5 has focus. Instead of a summons to the next event or call for a dinner reservation, Denver #5 regularly sends messages from the Master of the Lodge. “A lot of Worshipful Masters write their own trestleboard, and they should,” said WM Robinson. As an email subscriber, I have received messages on the recent passing of Brothers, details on the next meeting, and ‘The Master’s Message.’ These messages are quick emails that the WM sends out to recap previous meeting highlights, thank presenters or participants, and give the reader a preview of upcoming items of interest on the trestle board. Imagine that? An monthly email from the Master of the Lodge! “Quite a few Brothers read them and as WM, I set the craft to work and give them proper instruction. It does help to have a personal message to send every month that invites Brothers to come to Lodge, ready to participate.”
In his recent December message, WM Robinson highlighted the Lodge’s 160th-anniversary celebration that included a visit from the Grand Master of Colorado. He also pointed out another successful visit from Germania No. 46 F. & A. M. of New Orleans, one of a handful of Red Lodges, who performed an EA degree earlier this year. As they state on their website, Germania’s original German-language ritual is a hybrid of Scottish Rite Craft Masonry and early New York State Masonry. Much of the ritual follows (often verbatim) the text exposed by William Morgan in his Illustrations of Masonry. Germania’s current ritual is an amalgam of Jacques Foulhouze’s 1861 Scottish Rite Craft Lodge ritual and Louisiana’s York Rite work. “It was wonderful! We had close to 400 people come from the degree. We did the 1st degree so that all Brothers could witness it,” WM Robinson exclaimed. He also pointed out that the inclusion of that event in his emails assisted in creating buzz and excitement for the visit.
Our conversation turned to the starting point for most searches: the Lodge website. Denver #5 has a very modern layout that is compatible with desktop and mobile devices. It’s up to date – containing more than just officer pictures, events calendar, and history page. They have an archive that dates back to 2016 with photos and posts of events and happenings. Not every Lodge has a Brother who can serve as Webmaster, but there are tools and resources a Master can use to connect with someone who can help produce a quality site. Denver #5 found the Brother with a talent in their Lodge, who now helps other groups in the jurisdiction. The toughest part about launching a website is the pre-planning, content development, and design layout. The easiest part is adding new information, keeping the content fresh, and the page up to date. This is where the Lodge leadership shares the responsibility of passing along the knowledge of keeping their page relevant.
It’s shocking that in 2019, there is a discussion on the need for a Lodge to have a digital presence. While everyone from your dentist to your kid’s school is EXPECTED to have a functioning website, Freemasonry takes a pass. This is unfortunate because so many Lodges without a website are missing the opportunity for men who are searching for Light online. A Facebook page is a great start, but if you make it closed or private – people will find you but won’t be able to connect. Now you are asking the seeker to take an additional step and find an alternate way to communicate with you. That’s a BIG ask! Especially when it’s easier to click on a working link.
A website does more than allow you to share your message and start a conversation; it is the first impression. Let me put it this way, if you were looking for a dentist for your kid, would you really want to visit the office with a site that looks like it was launched in 1996 and left alone… or a dentist with an interactive page? The same is true with your Lodge page.
WM Robinson recognized the added value of having a web presence early during his time in the East. “I had a clandestine Mason contact me. In Colorado, he can visit for dinner, but that’s it. This led to a discussion with our Grand Lodge for direction on what to do next.” Imagine that! Due and timely notice, instead of a surprise dropped in your lap, or in this case, walking into your Lodge. “Our website does bring visitors for dinner. We have 5-8 visitors for every meeting night. This is one way for us to get to know people when they find us.” This does bring up an important rule to follow online as in real life: follow up.
A key part of your Lodge digital plan must include an engagement point man. Here’s why: no one wants to fill out a form, or share their personal information (like their name, phone number, and email) with an unknown group — NEVER to be contacted. “That is a major problem,” WM Robinson noted. I have created the “Three Touch Rule” in my digital marketing plans to cover engagement. Every prospect is immediately followed by an automated reply, “Thanks for your interest; we’ll be in touch soon!” This message lets your prospect know that you are going to work. The second step is a personal email follow up. It can be a few sentences or paragraphs but should include the person’s first name, an original acknowledgment of their inquiry, and a request to contact by phone or in person. Finally, a phone call to the prospect. This call can be right after the email – after all, most of us have more than one email account and may not check them frequently. The follow-up call can follow the same script as the second email, in a friendly tone, and personal touch in a quick voice mail.
While we have focused on the digital side of Denver’s strategy, there is a real human element. Nothing can top our personal contacts. Endorsements are still the strongest form of communication. WM Robinson realized this while he was on the road to the East. “Not every Brother does this, but once I became a Master Mason, I joined some concordant branches. I’m very involved with the Scottish Rite and in the Templars. I have met so many wonderful Brothers because of this. I use those meetings to spread the news of my Lodge. I also LOVE my phone! I may send a text message to all 150 Brothers in my contacts to let them know what’s going on at Denver #5. I did this for my table lodge with great success. I had 70 men respond to my personal message,” said WM Robinson. Does building these connections take time? “Absolutely! But if you are organized and good at the “copy and paste” method, it can be done!”
Ready to start building your digital presence? Here are a few resources that can get you started.
Mailchimp. Hands down, Mailchimp is the only email marketing platform I recommend – personally and professionally. Why? It’s easy to use; you can create sharp-looking emails without having to know HTML coding. It works, and depending on how many subscribers you have – it’s free.
WordPress. Like Mailchimp, it’s the only website builder that I tell my friends to use. While you will need to purchase your site domain name (website address) and hosting service, WordPress sites are easy to use. The days of having to type lines of HTML code are gone! You can drag and drop your way to building a new site. Within hours, your site is live and ready for people to find!
Google Drive. About ten years ago, Google opened up its storage space and software to everyone for free. You can create a Lodge Gmail account, use Google Drive to create or store documents, spreadsheets, presentations, photos, and video — for free. They give you 15GB, use it! I like using Google Forms to create sign up sheets that can be sent directly to my email account, to start the “Three Touches” quickly.
Me. Yes, you can reach out to me to set up a time to talk about your Lodge needs or to have a deeper conversation on the points in this article. I’m always happy to help a Brother out!
Brother Michael Arce is a member of Mt. Zion #311, Troy, New York. When not in Lodge, Bro. Arce is the Marketing Manager for Capital Cardiology Associates in Albany, New York. He enjoys meeting new Brothers and hearing how the Craft has enriched their lives. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org