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INTERVIEW WITH MIKE BAKER DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS

 

 

 

FOR UGLE DIRECTOROF COMMUNICATIONSMIKE BAKER, THE CHALLENGE FREEMASONRY FACES IN THE RUN-UP TO THE TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS IS IN IMPROVING PUBLIC IMAGE

What is your background?

My career started in retail. I worked my way upthe management ladder in companies like Habitat and WHSmith before moving into hospitalitywith Forte in regional operations management.

I then took a leap of faith into a very differentfield for the Post Office. Initially a retail network manager there, I moved into sales development, communications and marketing for its financial services and travel products, which were new areas for the Post Office. After that, I left to set up myown business development and marketing consultancy. It was during a secondment witha telecoms company in 2013 that I becameaware that UGLE was looking for a Directorof Communications.

Is the role of Director of Communications a new one?

It is a new position in terms of the scope of the responsibilities. The job title had previously been held by John Hamill, and his role had extensively involved combatting discrimination. This is also within my remit, but its not as significant a part thanks toJohns excellent work and the ongoing strategy from both the Grand Master and the Grand Secretaryto make Freemasonry a more open organisation.

Mike Baker: I believe that the best time to fix the roofis when the sun is out, and it really willbe shining on Freemasonry in 2017.

UGLE has a clear idea of the strategy leadingup to the Tercentenary so, for me, the job is about matching my skill set and my views with that direction. The opportunity that our Tercentenary represents should not be underestimated. I believe that the best time to fix the roof is when the sun is out, and it really will be shining on Freemasonry in 2017. There will be huge charitable spend that year, but there will also be enormous involvement fromour members in communities and in celebrating300 years of heritage. One of the heartening thingsto witness is the amount of activity that is undertaken in the Provinces and Metropolitan area by volunteers. Its not just about the amount of money they raise;its about the difference they make to peoples lives.

How did you become a mason?

I joined Freemasonry by chance I had two brothers who were Freemasons in Somerset and Bristol.

I remember mentioning them to a colleague atwork in 2000 and asked what he knew about thatlot. The colleague asked if I was interested, I got introduced and became a Freemason in London.

Mike Baker: I progressed in the Craft and joined the RoyalArch. Since then, Ive been involved in Metropolitan initiatives most recently Talking Heads, whichhas also taken me out into the Provinces to explain the history and attraction of the Royal Arch.

Do you have an average day?

One of my daily tasks is monitoring our media performance, looking at how our image is defined by other people and challenging discrimination when it happens, whether its from the media, MPs, faith groups or employers. All too often discrimination comes through lack of understanding, which is why its key for us to approach people sensitively and to dissolve any element of fear. I also work with the Provinces to help them engage with the local media and with their own membership, keeping them updated so that they can be advocates and ambassadors. One size does not fit all the communication strategy for a Province depends on the challenges it faces, which may differ greatly from one to the next.

Are you marketing a brand?

As a membership organisation we have a productin Freemasonry. Its no different from the marketing function in any business; its all about developing awareness of that product. I want people to understand Freemasonry in its real sense, to see it as a force for good and consider being a member. Theres alsothe advocacy element, getting our members to say, Hey, you ought to join. Thats no different from the objectives for mainstream marketing in any brand.

Whats difficult aboutmasonic communication?

When it comes to communication, all the activity that we undertake can be broken down into three elements: clarity, capability and consequence. In terms of clarity, we have a very clear picture about what we want Freemasonry to look like in peoples hearts and minds by the Tercentenary. Were also very clear about what the consequences will be:that its about maintaining a stable number ofpeople in the organisation; attracting and retaining new members; and moving forward in dispelling myths. The challenge is the bit in the middle, the capability, how we equip our members and givethem the permission to speak.

Mike Baker: We know in masonic terms what our principles and tenets are, but how do we represent them? Itcan be a challenge to use the right kind of languagein order to dispel myths, to talk clearly about what Freemasonry represents, to explain that its about integrity, kindness, honesty, fairness and tolerance.

Not everyone has these word sets and its made more difficult because Freemasonry is different for every person. We therefore need to be non-prescriptive so people feel comfortable, whether theyre talking about Freemasonry to the local press or at a dinner party.

Does the Tercentenary feel close?

We dont always do things immediately in Freemasonry but when we do, we do them ina considered, appropriate and consistent way. I feel very positive about the Tercentenary because thesun will be shining in 2017 when we fix our roof and move forward. There is a massive dedication and desire to move forward, as well as a sense of dutyto safeguard our future. Yes, there will always bea degree of trepidation about an event like this, butits not just about whats happening at the centreon 31 October 2017. Its also about what happens across the country and throughout the Districtsfrom 26 June 2016, which is the start of our 300th year. This is why we need to start increasing the momentum of our communications and engagement.

How does your job sitwith your Freemasonry?

I deal with a lot of Freemasonry as a member of UGLE and the Supreme Grand Chapter. Im the Scribe E of my mother chapter and Director of Ceremonies for my lodge in West Kent. I wouldntdo it unless I had a passion for it and I wouldnt goto a meeting if I didnt think it would be enjoyable I havent missed a main Craft or Royal Arch meeting since my initiation in 2001. As a representative of UGLE, I feel very privileged to hold my role andto be making a difference in some way to thefuture of the organisation by helping it becomemore open. In the Whats It All About? DVD, Anthony Henderson from Bedfordshire said thatthe value and teachings of Freemasonry have made him the man he is today. That holds true for me.

 

Interview with Mike Baker

 

Publicado por:

Diario Masónico

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