Recently, we have published articles extolling the virtues of public relations and communications to the public. It’s an important element to support growth of our membership. If your Lodge operates in secret, closed from the public’s view, it’s unlikely your Lodge will grow and be robust. Odd Fellowship at all levels now recognizes the importance of sharing our story of F-L-T with the public at large.
One of the best ways to share the story of our Lodges with the general public is to publish (in print media and social media) photos of our activities. The old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words is as true today as ever. However, the purpose of this article is raise a word of caution about the use of photographs. A good photograph is powerful. However, a bad photograph is counterproductive. Better to have no photograph, than to publish a really bad one that might send the wrong message.
In this regard, I have conducted a little “experiment”. Over the past month, I have randomly reviewed close to 100 photographs published by various Odd Fellows Lodges from throughout North America. These are photos published almost exclusively by Lodge members, and virtually all were found on social media, although some were published in print media. Let me start by commending the Lodges and Lodge members who reached out to tell the story of their Lodge to the public at large. But, there is a big caveat. Other than driving or walking past the Lodge Hall, or personally doing research on IOOF, or attending an Odd Fellows Lodge event, or having a rare conversation with a Lodge member, these photos are the window to the public about Odd Fellowship. What does this window reveal?
I found that some 90% of the photos showed people. The remaining 10% only showed buildings or objects. The photos showing people, almost always included Lodge members.
Almost half of the photos showing Lodge members simply showed Lodge members standing or sitting in a group, smiling to the camera. There were very few “action” photos – that is, members engaged in an activity like loading food on a truck, of providing meals to the public, or painting a building, or picking up trash from the side of a roadway. But what struck me – again and again – was that over 75% of the photos showed members who were senior citizens. There were no younger adults in the photo. What message is conveyed to the public by a photograph of seven gray-haired people sitting around a table?
Now, I have absolutely nothing against gray-haired people. I am one of those, myself. But for a fraternal order that wishes to attract the next generations into its membership, a photo of seven sedentary septuagenarians may not accomplish that mission. We must be mindful of the photos we post. These photographs are the window through which the world views Odd Fellowship and your Lodge.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California