Does great brand planning make the difference for your Masonic Blue Lodge?

Does great brand planning make the difference for your Masonic Blue Lodge?

As new Masonic Year begins and new lodge officers begin ramping up their plans, events, and activities for their year. It is safe to say that a need to agree on the focus behind Masonic Localized brand is important. Any branding and investment by the lodge into branding can have a positive impact on their communities and/or niche markets of the blue lodge.

A lot of times I hear new officers make statements such as ‘ We hope to make…’; ‘I intend to make….’; and finally ‘My expectations are…’. In my experience, as a lodge officer and as a Master of a Blue Lodge, the difference between hope and expectation starts with a highly organized and prepared branding plan.

So what does this ‘branding plan’ look like, how is one developed, and why does it matter? Lastly, why should we bother listening to the Freemasonry Report when looking at this?  First off, the content creators of the Freemasonry Report come from the marketing and advertising industry. We simply want to give the Freemasons – internationally – a leg up on the competition in the fraternal organizations market place.

Basics on Brand Planning a Masonic Lodge’s Calendar Year.

Okay, so now you now our intentions are only ‘good’ and we are looking for nothing back from your local blue lodge.

Let’s start by defining brand planning: Brand planning is the process of allocating resources to a strategy designed to achieve a business objective that drives a brand closer to delivering on a valuable future vision.

There are plenty of definitions on Google, Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuck Go, and so on, but I kind of like this basic definition of brand planning. Why?  Because it makes clear there is a decision to be made between the money and time a brand receives and the contribution that it will make. The statement also ties your lodge’s core goal and/or objective to a bigger and longer-term ambition to see your lodge succeed in some specific measurable way.

Okay, so we have got this definition squared away, now let’s consider what your communications committee of the blue lodge needs to focus on in a brand plan. The committee needs to document and communicate the following:

  1. What your blue lodge wants the brand to achieve in future, for its members, general community where potential members can learn about your lodge (i.e. the vision)
  2. What needs to be achieved in the short-term (i.e. the objectives to get things started) to move towards that vision
  3. How the short term objectives aim to achieve the vision of the blue lodge (i.e. your lodge’s brand strategy)
  4. What needs to be done to make certain that this happens (i.e. the tactics to be implemented to achieve your lodge’s desired goals) and at what cost.

Why have branding goals for your Blue Lodge?

The goal of the brand plan and the brand planning process is to align the cross-functional working team of lodge officers and committeemen. As well as including your other stakeholders, such as your brothers which comprise the overall lodge’s membership. It is important to include everyone engaged with your lodge so that you can get insights from everyone on the direction for the lodge. This will help figure out the overall ‘culture’ of your particular lodge and understand the rationale or the ‘why’ the lodge does things in a certain way. This can include but not be limited to the fundraising priorities, community initiatives, and of course ways to which the lodge pursues good men in the community.

Once you can understand that, then a  strategy can be formed on ‘how’ to implement effective goals, ideas, styles, themes, slogans, creative and/or artistic vision to the branding plan.  After completing the strategy sessions within your lodge, you can move into the tactical side of the branding campaign or more easily explained the ‘what are you going to do’. This alignment is crucial to make powerful branding strategy actionable and to make execution happen across all stakeholders of the lodge.

How important is getting the Leadership & The Craft into Alignment?

This is so important, don’t assume anything in the branding planning.  You need your brothers on-board with the branding plans for it to really work. Why? Because by engaging more brothers into the plan, you are decreasing the workload for a single individual, thus increasing the overall productivity and overall performance of the branding campaign throughout your lodge.

Aligning your brothers into working teams is achieved by sharing the plan with them. A working team of brothers need to be supplied a goal, deadline, and potential result or results from the efforts. In reality, there are a number of factors that get in the way for the brothers to be completely aligned with the plan.

First, take a look at when and how you are on-boarding them. Need to set clear written steps and actions in the beginning to avoid any misunderstandings or miscommunication on what they need to be focused at which point in the process of the branding plan. It is great to have a visionary brainstorming brother but once that portion is completed – they need to understand the evolution and the action steps required in each stage of the plan. They need to buy-in to the plan’s evolution in the beginning.

Further, it is very important to establish a sense of confidence in the plan to avoid any misunderstanding and/or a limited belief in decisions made – which can be toxic to the branding plan’s overall success. It is really terrible to have a brother that never really bought into the plan and now is speaking against the actions other brothers are taking. This type of brother can’t be ‘fired’ because we are a volunteer driven organization but their confidence issues must be addressed directly and in a positive manner. Many times, a brother such as this one needs more communication on a more regular basis plus it is also relevant to determine their capabilities and limitations to ensure they can be given a task which is ‘very achievable’.

By ensuring clarity and a higher than average communication level, your lodge’s confidence in the brand plan will be high across the
cross-functioning teams of brothers. This will help in the ability to execute the planning effectively and deliver real tangible value to the lodge over a longer period of time.

Discussing the Brand Plan with the Masonic Lodge Brothers.

Did you ever consider that the brothers in your lodge may not know or clearly state their organizations strategic priorities? Now you lodge’s management team (i.e. the officers) that is held responsible for leading strategy may struggle to accurately list their local organization’s strategic priorities. This is truly should be a big concern.

The key is to involve the Craft in the process to develop the brand plan in a meaningful way. I recommend that you encourage honesty and healthy debates to ensure that key decisions are clearly explained. Further, I recommend you print and post your lodge’s priorities in the lodge building for the brothers to see and read.  This communication will result in helping to keep the lodge’s priorities open in a very simple, very clear and very consistent way. Thus it will ensure that the Craft can see, know, and understand the bigger picture to which the branding plan is looking to tackle.

Don’t consider it a victory to talk just once and post a poster up.  You need to repeat the priorities over and over and then repeat the lodge’s strategic priorities some more.

Final Thoughts on this topic for now… A brand plan is presented once a year, ‘brand planning’ is continuous!

Specific timings will vary based on lodge officer installations and committee appointments, but planning tends to accompany the financial year that the lodge follows – often January 1st to December 31st. But Grand Lodges generally transition during the mid part of the year to assist the lodges with their transitions in some cases, thus their financial year may or may not vary based on their individual reporting schedule.

With that being said, this means the cycle of brand planning will build through the earlier part of the year with activity reaching a peak at the later part of the year. This can be adjusted for progressive lines and multi-year functioning committees. While the development, writing and presentation of brand strategy and tactics will be concentrated over a two to three month period, the process of developing brand strategy should be a continuous effort of the Masonic Lodge’s Craft.

Once these have been completed and the plan moves to execution, an emphasis should focus on measuring the outputs of tactical campaign execution via regular review of Key Performance Indicators. By doing this, you are allowing for tactical adjustments to be made to close strategy-execution gaps which transpire. Ask your working teams to gather relevant data for actions taken and generate meaningful insights to accurately diagnose the situation of the brand, your local market, and what possible new opportunities and/or challenges need to be addresses.

It is okay to add additional objectives, removing objectives in some cases and considering other factors during the campaign. It is important to always focus on the best way to achieve the brand plan’s objectives.  If you need to get in the deep and look at things in a granular  way, then do so.

Finally, clarity and confidence in the Masonic Lodge’s brand plan is really the goal to aligning the plan consistently and completely across your Blue Lodge’s working teams to drive effective execution and hopefully deliver the results you want.

A typical brand planning cycle

  1.  Seek First To Understand Your Masonic Lodge’s Situation
    • Where are we winning/losing?
    • What are the Stakeholder’s behavior trends?
    • What are local community external trends?
    • Determine what key priorities need to be addressed
  2. Define and Establish Your Masonic Lodge’s Strategy
    • Create a brand vision
    • Define Your Annual Objectives
    • Target Good Men and other and value propositions
    • Create a Printed List of Strategic Priorities
  3. Develop powerful and agreed upon tactics
    • Have the Lodge vote on tactical campaigns that compliment its strategy
    • Align budget requirements
    • Assign responsibilities
  4. Align & execute
    • Shared understanding of ‘why’, ‘how’, ‘what’
    • Ensure there is an aligned individual objectives
    • Review and Discuss the Key Performance Indicators in Lodge Meetings
    • Offer recognition items for the volunteers in the Lodge

Brand planning in the Blue Lodge, you and your teams will need to recognize the accelerating nature of their markets. You may need to resist the temptation to throw more and more tactical activities to address a wider range of growing challenges to grow your lodge in the way you have envisioned. Set reasonable goals to achieve and remember to raise expectation of clarity and confidence to the Craft.

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