One of the biggest challenges in Freemasonry today is recruitment. How do we reach out to a new generation with a relevant message and explain what we do and the benefits of membership in a meaningful and compelling way.
This is one of the challenges that the Provincial Communications Team has been thinking about. Our solution was threefold
- Fish where the fish are.
- Tailor our communications to the context.
- Tell the story in terms they’ll relate to.
This was the approach we used to put together the first “Discover Freemasonry” open evening, which was at Twickenham on 19th September.
Social media for many groups in society has become the main media. It’s credited with breaking pop stars and trends, and even bringing down governments. We figured it would be vital to see whether we could use it to reach out to a new audience. The question was how?
We decided to attract the attention of our potential members using Facebook, targeting paid ads at men and women between the ages of 21-45 within a set radius of the Twickenham centre. We designed a simple message “Discover Freemasonry in Middlesex” and used an image of a few chaps in a pub (ad 1). This was working well but the team felt it could do better. We looked at the targeting, and focussed not just on age and location but also on a series of job types, which are options available on Facebook.
We also changed the creative line to “The Freemasons are Recruiting” and used a rather more mysterious image taken from a Provincial meeting (ad 2) – which we thought would stand out more in social media. This drove a huge increase in engagement – in terms of registrations to the event and also comments and shares.
The comments were very insightful as a reflection of how Freemasonry is seen in society – ranging from “my grandad was a mason – I’d really like to know more” to “can Romanian women join” and “are you the Illuminati” (and worse!). In total 164 members of the public registered for the event. Simultaneously the event was promoted within the Province, particularly to Secretaries of Twickenham Lodges to ask them to bring along potential members. 21 registered through that route – which was very good – but showed we were right to reach out to new people and create much more interest.
As in all these things there is a significant drop of between those who register to those who actually appear on the night. To maximise the number, each was emailed the event details and then received a phone call in the weeks running up to the day – and a text message on the day with directions! Of the 88 who confirmed they would attend, 42 attended. Interestingly, many of those who gave their apologies expressed a strong interest in coming to another evening, if one was to be arranged.
The evening itself was designed to be engaging and inspiring, to present our message in a relevant and engaging way. Attendees were greeted and registered by a retinue of Provincial Stewards (in their collars). The evening took place in the Lodge room and was introduced by Nigel Codron – the Chairman of the Provincial Communications Committee. He welcomed the attendees, shared his journey into Freemasonry (including an unfortunate delay due to a divorce!), explained how the order is structured in the England and Wales, and introduced the Rulers.
Omaid Hiwaizi, Provincial Communications Officer then took on the baton and led an interactive session asking the audience “What is Freemasonry?” – gaining a few interesting responses. Reassuringly the attendees appeared to be well informed, the wild descriptions only being those shared by Omaid as comments which had been made in Facebook. He then went on to ask if a series of famous historical and current characters were Freemasons – or not? Finally he shared insights into what happens when a member joins and described the journey – alluding to the metaphor of the rough and smooth ashlars, which he pointed out in the Lodge room, much to the interest of the audience.
Then followed seven Master Masons who each briefly described why and how they joined and their initial experiences. Amongst these was Vishakha Jain who is a member of the Honorable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons, who was particularly inspiring. The broad selection of different voices, backgrounds and stories was particularly engaging and inspiring and attracted loud applause.
Prestonian Lecturer 2018 Michael Karn then delivered a spirited canter through the history of Freemasonry, alluding to the ancient Egyptians, the medieval cathedral builders and concluding on the wonderful Tercentenary event at the Royal Albert Hall. It really beautifully complimented the very real and personal stories which had proceeded.
Finally Provincial Membership Officer Nigel Harris-Cooksley describing what those interested needed to do now, and what would happen next.
Nigel Codron then returned to the stage and introduced HFAF Grand Master Christine Chapman, who presented a passionate and inspiring description of Women’s Freemasonry – which again was greeted with loud applause. Nigel finally invited all those present to retire to the bar.
The feedback given verbally and through the anonymous forms was universally positive. However, the best feedback was that 18 of the 42 present filled out enquiry forms on the evening (with a few more expected) – which implies that the content shared very much served it’s purposed in describing Freemasonry in terms that the audience would relate to.
We now plan to have the next event at Harrow on Monday 19th November. Please do watch out for the promotion and advertisements, and particularly if your Lodge meets at that Centre, ask prospect members to register and come along.
Omaid Hiwaizi – Provincial Communications Officer
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