With Humble Thanks!
I start my message this issue with a bit of a disclaimer. Since the inception of the Florida Elks Magazine, our very talented editor, Rachael King, has been given free rein to select each edition’s cover story topics and subjects. I feel compelled to share this with you, especially since this edition’s cover story subject is me. I am both honored and humbled that she chose me when I am sure there were many more worthy topics. And it is in this spirit I wish to share the honor with you, the many Elks, both past and present, the men and women who have given me the stage upon which to practice and develop leadership skills, and who have inspired me over many years to give back and serve an organization I am passionate about, especially as we do so much good! Thank you for the opportunities and support, and here’s to continued success as together we improve our world!
Our Pictures Tell a Thousand Stories!
There is an emerging trend in today’s new era of social media and marketing that is changing the way things are marketed and sold. Take clothing for instance. A trip to the local mall is an impactful reminder of how much things are changing. Gone are the latest styles marketed in lavish displays with all the lights and glamour. Instead, we now see racks and racks of discounted clothing marked down to prices a person can finally afford, and good luck finding an associate to assist you with your purchase. As are most things, clothing is today being marketed online. The sales associates of today are found online and are called social media influencers, mostly everyday-type people, usually youngish, and especially knowledgeable of how it all works. They are influencers. They build a following of people (the influenced) who like the clothing they see being modeled by the online influencer, the influenced buy the clothing, and then the influencer gets a commission from the sale for their role in influencing! It’s a lot of new-fangled trends and terminology for something we as Elks have been doing for years!
Take membership for example. The Elk is the influencer; their followers are their friends, family and co-workers. They influence when they talk about the latest activity they participated in at the lodge. They share their passion for the charitable work we do through our major projects and community work, and then the influenced are driven to join and become one with us, and the cycle goes on. We didn’t know it, but we are influencers, and our influence can impact a lot of people!
One of the more existential aspects of influence is the one we can have on an existing member. Many of us joined the Elks for purely social reasons. It wasn’t until another member or members “influenced” us that we became a committee chair or an officer. We can’t script the influential activity; it just happens. Someone shows an interest in us and our abilities, they validate our desire to do more, and then it happens — we have been influenced! Not everyone is going to just jump in and get involved. Many members are just waiting for someone to ask them, someone to show an interest in them, someone to give them confidence that they can do it. We say that everyone is a member of the membership committee. So too should every one of us become an influencer and mentor.
Now let’s explore the role of the influencer from another direction, that of content creator. Remember, social influencers are marketing through their individual ability to create content and market to their followers. It’s what they wear, the places they go, the things they do! They call them brand ambassadors. Our brand is Elks, and our goal is to share Elks with potential new members. When thought of in these terms, it’s how we present to others! It’s that first impression that can make or break the sale. Not only are we talking about first impression of the product we are selling but also the first impression we give of ourselves as the influencers/ambassadors.
Today people everywhere are attracted to stories told by pictures. Take Facebook and Instagram for instance. We are drawn to people whose lives we find interesting and who we seek to emulate. They are influencers and most don’t know even it! Think about the story told by every image they post and how we are influenced by them. As we create content that tells our stories, we must pay attention to the story and especially how it is perceived by others. Take our lodges and the things that happen in them, and then think of those happenings as if they were images/pictures we would post on social media, something as simple as a member greeting another member when they walk in the door, for example. Visualize that moment as a snapshot. What story does that picture tell? Is it a warm and friendly greeting among friends? Or is the person virtually ignored? How that image is captured is our content creation. OK, we are not going to post a picture of a greeting on Facebook, but that’s not the exercise here. The exercise is to think of everything we say and do as an influencer moment. If we are truly an influencer, we want to make sure that all our actions tell the story we want told and not lead the person being influenced to have an undesirable reaction to our content. The same goes for an unfortunate incident in the lodge. Remember, we are always creating content! Maybe it’s a disagreement between two members, perhaps just a misunderstanding; it doesn’t matter. What we know is it happens and will continue to happen; after all, we are a family! Now think of even an event such as this for the content it creates. We must also visualize moments like these as a snapshot. What story does this picture tell? More importantly, how do we manage how this content is shared with others, which we know it will be? We must realize that every person who witnessed the incident will tell their story to their followers and just like the old telephone game we played as kids, we know the story told at the end of the chain will be far different from that told at the beginning. How we react to and manage this type of unintentional content creation is what becomes most important.
It seems to me that too frequently these days we are allowing these unfortunate incidents to fester, and instead of mediating them to a speedy resolution, we prolong them and their subsequent negative content creation to the extent that they divide a membership and cause the family to take sides. When we think about these incidents as pictures, as much as we wish we could retake the picture or delete it, we can’t. All we can do is mediate and resolve, and the quicker the better. We must work to minimize the negative content creation and maximize the more desirable positive content creation! As I have suggested many times, if your lodge has members who only want to dwell on the negative, invite them to associate with some of the other fine fraternal and charitable organizations in our communities. The Elks lodge should not become a home for their negativity.
We are all influencers, and as influencers we all seek to be credible. Our goal should be to create shareable content that is authentic and real, content that will create a genuine sense of excitement about our brand and products. We must strive to connect deeply with our followers and in doing so allow their buy-in to be at their pace and of their desire and will. When we force the sale, often the product is returned. When the purchase occurs organically and our influence has caused that sale, our credibility with the customer is established, and our new member looks to us as a role model for their journey through the Elks. It happened to me and my Elks journey, and I only hope I am positively influencing others through my actions and stories.
Whether we influence or follow, we all have a role to play in telling our story and influencing others to join with us. How have you influenced others with your stories? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and share!
Carl Seibert, COO/State Secretary
Florida State Elks Association