Steven G. Casciola, 32°
1998 Scottish Rite Fellow

“Infotaining,” being both informative and entertaining, is the way for Masonry to be attractive to the media and public.

My participation as a Fellow in the 1998 Scottish Rite Leadership Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, gave me the opportunity to be with 500-plus other Scottish Rite Brethren committed to understanding Masonry’s future potential. It felt good to be in their positive presence.

Immediately during the opening talks, we were told the theme of the conference was The Time Is Now, and many of us were pleasantly caught off guard when challenged to take the theme personally and propose constructive actions. At the Scottish Rite Fellows Luncheon, for instance, Sovereign Grand Commander Kleinknecht entertained questions from all attending, and one Brother asked, “If money were not a consideration, what two things would you do immediately for the Scottish Rite today.” Without missing a beat, the Grand Commander responded, “Hire a national public relations agency and expand the Childhood Language Disorders Clinics.” His comment was greeted with enthusiastic applause.

Hearing his words sent my public relations mind into motion! How could we begin to put this dynamic plan into action? The answer came like a bolt of lightning: organize a national grassroots Public Relations (PR) Corps of Masons, their families, and involved community citizens!

This vital and energetic group would not become publicists sending out press releases to local media but a strategically focused and communicating infrastructure of people who could set the foundation for an eventual national PR campaign and worldwide attention for what I like to call our “beautiful fraternity.” Notice I used the adjective “beautiful.” I do so on purpose for a strategic consideration in public relations.

Beauty is a terrific positioning theme in order to ignite and build a grassroots campaign. Beauty attracts and relates to a broad section of the public and media. It’s interesting to note, however, that while beauty is important in our Masonic teachings, many Masons shy away from using the word when describing our fraternity to others.

My personal belief is that we can overcome this mindset and start using this powerful word. And if we do, we will make headway in getting the public interested in our Masonic family. The idea is to touch people’s emotions and draw them irresistibly towards our fraternity so that they are eager to support our Masonic vision of living more beautiful and ethical lives.

To do this we need to offer a truly appealing message to the media and public -- not just a professional and glitzy image, but a beautiful image showcasing our Masonic Family for what we really are and why we are more needed and relevant to society than ever before. Before hiring a national PR firm and launching an official campaign, our beautiful fraternity should have an inner core of members who are media savvy and ready to bring to their local Valleys the “Personal PR Power” they have developed within themselves.

First, we must have this informal core in place and ready before a national agency or campaign is launched. There’s no sense “turning on the camera lights” unless you’re ready to be seen! Let’s call these Brothers (and possibly their ladies and community leaders) the “Scottish Rite Press Corps.” These volunteers would be charged with the goal to inspire others and relate our message to the local media and public, and they would be chosen with that specific goal in mind. One fact is certain. It’s this word-of-mouth press corps that can make the difference, regardless of subject, in anyone’s campaign.

Second, this Press Corps would need a mission statement, something like “Attracting national media interest in Freemasonry.”

Third, all members of this Press Corps should have a heartfelt desire and real ability to share our know-ledge. Society responds greatest to givers, not takers!

Fourth, we could give our Press Corps focused and simple goals -- like “empowering good people to be better” -- and not just our fellow Masons, but all citizens! Like it or not, the new millennium is about people, not only men.

Fifth and finally, it must be fun! Public relations can be the most exciting and powerful way to enhance our “beautiful fraternity.” If it is not fun to work in this effort, few will come, and even less will stay. As most of us know, you can intellectualize human nature, but if you want to attract people, you must connect with them on their own terms and make it enjoyable for them to participate with you.

In conclusion, many attendees at the 1998 Scottish Rite Leadership Conference were in agreement that a national PR campaign is needed and should be funded, but nothing beats local word of mouth to get the Masonic ball rolling in our own communities. The media are searching for good ethical stories to feature, and this need will only increase in the future.

So whatever we do, we should make our news “infotaining,” both informative and entertaining, in order to be powerfully effective with the media and the public. This is true of all organizations and fields today -- politics, medicine, law, entertainment, sports, etc. So we Masons need not shy away from the idea of looking beautiful to the public and infotaining the press!

Our grassroots Public Relations effort doesn’t have to sell the world on us. It merely has to show us properly for what we are, the “Keepers of the Flame,” -- and a bright Masonic flame at that!

When we accomplish this grassroots PR task, many of our other great ideas for Masonry will work even better. But first, we must “moisten the ground of people’s hearts” and “till the soil” of their minds. Then, when we place the “Masonic seed” into other good people’s thoughts, they will respond positively.

Brethren, this seed is your own Personal PR Power -- and it will grow from neighborhood, to city, to country, to the world in its impact. And when do we start? As the motto of the 1998 Scottish Rite Leadership Conferences declared, The Time IS Now!