"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Friday, June 25, 2010

UGLE's New PR Firm: "There are no secrets in Freemasonry"

Far-called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget -- lest we forget!

Brother Rudyard Kipling
"Recessional," 1897
I think American Masonry can stop apologizing to our English brethren for billboard campaigns and one day classes now.

Earlier this week, the United Grand Lodge of England's Grand Secretary, Nigel Brown, told a reporter from the Times, "It would be intolerable for any Mason to say, ‘I’m sorry I can’t tell you that’.”

Now, the UGLE has hired a public relations firm to improve its public image in the United Kingdom. And the message they are spreading to the English community? "There are no secrets in Freemasonry ."

From today's PR Week by Gemma O'Reilly:

Since its inception in the 18th century, the practice of Freemasonry has been well known for allegedly using secret handshakes and other obscure rituals.

But the United Grand Lodge of England is keen to shed more light on its shadowy practices as the organisation approaches its 300th birthday in 2017.

The Lodge, which governs Freemasonry in England, Wales and the Channel Islands, has appointed Bondy Consulting as a retained consultancy to build greater awareness of Freemasonry and ensure the practice’s long-term future.

Grand secretary of the United Grand Lodge Nigel Brown said: ‘Freemasonry is now run as a modern business and it is important our communication reflects this. Freemasonry plays a unique role in society today and it is vital we encourage people to talk openly about it and dispel the many unfounded myths associated with it.’

Freemasonry has 250,000 members, including 30,000 overseas. It is one of the world’s largest non-religious, non-political, fraternal and charitable organisations.

Bondy founder Jessica Bondy said: ‘We have been appointed to combat common misconceptions including those of secrecy. There are no secrets in Freemasonry and we need to encourage people to talk openly about it. Information is totally accessible for anyone that wants it and anyone can come into Freemasons’ Hall.’

Bondy, a former MD at Ketchum, also said: ‘There is no secret handshake – this is one of the myths.’ As part of the PR drive, the agency will also promote Freemasons’ Hall, which has featured in a number of Hollywood blockbuster movies.

Bondy was selected after a competitive agency pitch.

Ironically, both Bondy and the United Grand Lodge were tight-lipped about the Freemasons’ previous PR support.

My head is about to explode. Where does one start with this...

So, Masonry is a modern business now. No secrets of any kind. Handshakes? Bah. Nought but a myth. All that piffle about secrecy. Silly, really. Nothing of any interest to see here. Move along.

Is Freemasonry in England really this ashamed of its own proud heritage? Is this seriously coming out of the Grand Secretary's office? Or does Ms. Bondy need a few more meetings to understand the nature of her client? I have a book she needs to read. When you hire flacks, the least they can do is get your story right. If your client has a complex story to tell, you don't go out and tell falsehoods, simply because it's too complicated to bother with the facts.

A quick glance at the Bondy Consulting website reveals all four of its partners are women. Did the UGLE go out of its way to hire an all-girl band for this job, obviously with zero knowledge of the fraternity, for politically correct reasons? And if Bondy Consulting's folks are supposed to be professionals at the PR business, how did they make the gaffe that "Freemasonry has 250,000 members?" In any case, the Bondy folks need a trip to the wood shed. If they were selected after a competitive pitch, the mind boggles as to what the others presented.

More to the point, if this is not just a bad case of hoof-in-mouth, and if UGLE's new direction is to completely castrate its own history and image in the hopes of rebranding itself as just another charity, with nothing to offer society but the occasional oversized check for the local ambulance service, they will be lucky to make it to their 300th anniversary.

The English press will never come around to treating Freemasonry as anything but the Ministry of Silly Handshakes and Rolled-Up Trouser Legs. Never. it's a different culture. I admire UGLE for trying to shape the message going out to the street. But they haven't considered what the message needs to be. They seem to have decided, "What we need here is some public relations! Call somebody! Get somebody!" But they are being reactive. "Press says we are secret. Secret bad. Tell them no secrets here. That will fix." Meanwhile, the very men who they need to come and join will be completely repulsed by that message. Brown's book, The Lost Symbol, will bring men to their door. But if they are told, "Really, just a big happy charity here, with some silly rituals and these wacky apron thingies. No big deal," how many will bother to petition?

Why not take the opposite tactic?

"We are legendary. We are mythic. We are extraordinary. Freemasons have changed the world. We have secrets only you can discover. We are looking for a few special men who can live up to the legend. Men of honor. It's not for everybody. It might be for you."


  1. I think they need to redo the bidding process. Or should we start making offers? :-)

    Ben S.

  2. You know, I wonder how the every day Masons in England feel about this. I would be screaming and hollering about this to Grand Lodge if they tried something like this. I'm only just about to enter my FC, but I'm one who has totally bought into the nobility of the Craft, the value of my work, and trying to live up to a Mason's ideals.

    How insulting is this move to all the MM's who spent years treating Masonry with respect and reverence, who've held it as something special to them in their lives? And now it's entrusted to a PR firm? One that, apparently, is pretty clueless? I don't know about the English lodges, but some of the old MM's in my lodge (Canyon 730) would be livid if Texas Grand Lodge tried to pull something like this. And I hope our English brethren will stand up for themselves respectively.

  3. I have always considered the UGLE to be sort of the "Mother Church" of Mainstream Freemasonry.

    Now they are saying that Mainstream Freemasonry is just a business organization devoted to charity.

    Where have I heard that before?

  4. No secrets? Ha! They are there, if one has the intellectual and moral fortitude to discover.

    This isn't right. Heck, it isn't even wrong. (IMNSHO)

    Don Tansey

  5. "We are legendary. We are mythic. We are extraordinary. Freemasons have changed the world. We have secrets only you can discover. We are looking for a few special men who can live up to the legend. Men of honor. It's not for everybody. It might be for you."

    This is brilliant! I got a shiver when I read it.

    We should get this printed on cards and when someone asks about Freemasonry - hand it to them!

  6. I totally agree. If something is special you don't need to give it away. I guarantee movies like National Treasure, that generate a veil of secrecy, generate far more interest than pulling back the veil. If everything is out there in the open, then why join?


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