How to Promote Your Lodge – by Toby Hanson, GM

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How To Promote Your Lodge
by Toby Hanson, Grand Master
Grand Lodge of Washington

Odd Fellowship is a special and wonderful organization.  It’s not merely a club that we all belong to; it’s an organization dedicated to helping each other and our communities in times of need.  That special commitment we make to one another makes our work and our Order very meaningful.  Because of that, we want to share our message with as many members of our community as possible that Odd Fellowship is the place for them to find meaning and purpose.  But how, exactly, do we share that message?

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The easiest way to share the story of Odd Fellowship is person-to-person.  When the grocery checker asks if you have any plans tonight, you can answer her by saying that you’re going to your lodge meeting.  That’s a great opener for talking Odd Fellowship because it always leads to a question about the lodge.  Wearing an identifying piece of clothing like a hat or shirt is another great way to prompt questions about Odd Fellowship.  Make sure that you’re able to give a concise, accurate answer when the question comes up, something like, “Odd Fellowship is a world-wide fraternal order dedicated to helping out our members and our communities and we have a lodge right here in town.  We’re always doing great activities and having fun and we’d love to have a new member.  Here’s an application for you with my phone number.  Feel free to call with any questions.”  You should have an application with you as well.

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The news media is another great way to share the message of Odd Fellowship.  You have to be able to communicate with them in the format they deal with regularly, though.  Knowing how to write a press release is crucial to getting your message out to the media.  Newspapers especially are always looking for free content they can print with little or no preparation.  The more you can adhere to the format they’re used to, the higher the likelihood they will include your information.  To share information about your lodge to a newspaper, website, radio station, or other media outlet, you need to write the information in the form of a press release.  I won’t cover the details of that here since press release format can be found on the Internet at https://ireach.prnewswire.com/tips.aspx.

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The smaller the town your lodge is in, the more likely you are to get press coverage for your activities.  Any time you hold a public function like a dinner, social activity, installation of officers, or ceremony, you should send out press releases.  The key is to send out press releases regularly.  One press release by itself probably won’t get you noticed, but once the staff at the local paper or radio station gets used to seeing your lodge’s name repeatedly they will start to think you’re doing something important and eventually want to publish what you send them or maybe even write a story about you.  As budgets for writing staffs have been reduced recently, newspapers are more interested in ready-made stories delivered to them in the form of press releases.

Even if you don’t have an event to publicize, it’s still worthwhile to send press releases to local media with stories about your lodge.  Is your building historic?  Have important people from your town or area been members of your lodge?  Has your lodge been a significant part of the history of your town?  Write a story about it and send it to your local media outlets.  Write the history of your lodge; what you did during significant events; how you’ve interacted with your community.  Was the first school in your town held in your lodge hall?  Write that.  Was the first courtroom in town in your lodge hall?  Write that.  The first church?  The first community concert?  Did your lodge do something special for World War I?  World War II?  The Great Depression?  Write that!  Tell the story of your lodge.  I’ve seen some great stories about lodges and Odd Fellowship in small-town newspapers.  On a slow news day when the editor is searching for content, your story may very well be the one they print!

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Social media can be a great way to share the message of Odd Fellowship but it comes with some important guidelines.  The first is to keep all messages about Odd Fellowship positive.  The last thing we want is any kind of discord or disunity going public.  People are far more likely to remember negative stories about an organization than positive stories.  The next is to not reveal anything publicly that happens behind closed lodge doors.  Our secrecy is there to protect us.  Any business transacted in a closed lodge should stay there and away from social media.  When we participate in social media we each have to use discretion and decide what kind of story we want to tell about Odd Fellowship.  That decision should be to always present a positive, welcoming image of the Order.  Remember: each of us who participates in social media becomes an ambassador of Odd Fellowship.  We should all present it in the most positive light possible.

 

I have had a great deal of success with Instagram, a mobile phone app that shares pictures.  We have a lot of very photogenic items in Odd Fellowship and they always present an opportunity for discussing the Order.  Just this year I’ve signed four applications for membership from people I met on Instagram who have asked me about Odd Fellowship.  Anyone curious about what I post can follow me on Instagram.  My account is @polkaking.  Generally, I post pictures of Odd Fellows halls, regalia, paraphernalia, and events.  I like to share what we do as Odd Fellows and Rebekahs so that more people know that we’re here for them to join.

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With all of these methods, the most important aspect is repetition.  I once heard someone say, “We ran a piece in the paper in 1974.  I didn’t work; we didn’t get any members.”  Sharing the story of Odd Fellowship once doesn’t really do much.  What does work is sharing it over and over again.  A message has to be repeated multiple times before people will start to take notice of it.  Also, the more times a message gets repeated, the more people tend to think it’s important.  Writing one story or telling someone about Odd Fellowship once is nice but it’s not really effective until they’ve heard the message several times.  Don’t be discouraged because there are no responses to your first attempt at publicity.  If there’s a lesson I’ve learned as a professional musician, it’s that success comes with repetition.  Getting people to take notice of a message requires regular repetition.  Don’t be afraid to keep sharing your story.  Eventually, it will find the right eyes and ears and you’ll be rewarded with new members.

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