The 2020 Challenge was a climb that members took on with pride as well some who unknowingly inspired others and helped to build the hobby into the future. As we look forward to 2021 we are happy to spotlight the top recruiters of 2020 and share their story of recruiting members to the APS.
APS Development Assistant Erin Seamans had the opportunity to speak with 2020 Top Recruiter, Graham Beck about his time inspiring individuals to join the APS membership.
Graham Beck has been the host and producer of the Exploring Stamps YouTube channel since 2016. The online video channel is dedicated to the promotion of philately through short entertaining videos. Since the channel’s launch, Graham has attracted almost two million views and gained a global following of 19.5K subscribers. Graham is based in New Jersey with his wife Laura who eagerly takes part behind the scenes with her nifty camera work.
Read the full interview below.
Erin: You are a new contender in the top recruiters this year and I am curious how you became such a successful recruiter in 2020?
Graham: I don't think I have the answers you're looking for. It is exciting to hear that people are signing up and have very kindly used my name, but I have never actually asked people to go ahead and sign up at the APS. I have suggested on video that there are societies and places you can look into such as the APS, and I continually provide a list of resources that include the APS through one on one requests via email. But I have never insisted that someone should sign up for membership.
Erin: So what I'm hearing you say is that this position as a top recruiter is almost a surprise to you. I would say that your recruiting style is one that you are unknowingly going about and it is successful through the art of conversation and suggestion to people that follow you by sharing about the APS and what it has to offer from your own experiences.
Graham: Yes, and I would think that the reason people might be listing me as a referral is probably because I show how useful the APS is. Several of my videos indirectly demonstrate the value of an APS membership. It's like using a tool in front of someone without selling it, and people take notice and want to look into it. For instance, I made a video about the Brazilian Bull’s Eyes and mentioned that I went to the APRL for assistance, and that they then guided me to look at a 1943 AP journal that I can view online as an APS member to read an incredibly helpful article. This is just one example of where I have demonstrated the value of being an APS member during a video, but let the viewers determine if this is something that they would enjoy as well.
Erin: This is an interesting way to go about recruiting because it feels more natural and social by sharing your experiences, interests and connecting with people in a creative way. Keeping in mind your platform with Exploring Stamps, how do you move someone past basic interest in stamp collecting towards interest in membership other than demonstrating resources?
Graham: Genuinely I believe that you see a tool in action and you have the urge to look into it. I have a slight advantage with an audience that watches my videos and ranges from the extreme beginner to experienced philatelists. Those extreme beginners are being exposed to seeing the communities and social components of the hobby for the very first time and are becoming aware of the several different paths they could take to shape their philatelic experience, versus many stamp dealers, auction houses, or clubs that are likely exposed to more seasoned philatelists. So the audience I am getting is the newcomers who are either looking for resources, societies and organizations, or were not at all aware that they actually existed and that they can join as a beginner. Anyone who wants to appeal to new collectors and encourage them to become members must demonstrate the value that membership and the society can bring, and emphasize the community component which is a wonderful aspect of the hobby. I would also consider introducing newcomers to other passionate philatelists and allow them to see their specialized interests within the hobby, this can encourage them to pursue their own specialized interests and use the many resources that the APS offers. I find that many of my viewers have taken a more serious interest in the hobby after seeing a passionate philatelist talking about their area of specialty.
Erin: You've touched on a lot of things such as having the strength of having an audience but also sharing resources with individuals that have their foot in the door to the hobby and meeting people where they are at in learning about philately. I enjoy the fact that your series with Exploring Stamps brings to light the social, fun and different aspects to the hobby that is very inviting to a larger audience that might not know about philately. So when did you start collecting stamps? And who introduced you to stamp collecting?
Graham: I started collecting in South Africa as a young child in the early 90s, and it was a friend of mine who I still keep in touch with that introduced me to his grandfather's collection. The two of us began collecting together and would take trips to the little stamp store that was in my town. We would easily spend 30 minutes staring at all the stamp packs, albums and accessories before eventually walking out with an equivalent of a two dollar pack. So I started way back then and we enjoyed the hobby together as we swapped duplicates and built up our collections.. I put stamp collecting on hold for some time while I moved to the U.S. and went through college, butin 2016 I rediscovered my albums and started to look at stamps again. It was in 2016 that I then also went to the New York Stamp Show and then decided to start my YouTube channel that would help me to learn more about the hobby and potentially meet other collectors.
Erin: Thank you for sharing and I am always intrigued that so many collectors stories are similar in the way that getting involved at a young age and coming back to it later in life happens a lot. So you shared that you came back into the hobby later and I’m wondering when did it sink in that you wanted to be a part of an organization or society that would be helpful to develop your interest in the hobby to another level?
Graham: My membership started in 2018, and I think before then I didn't see myself as being of a high enough level to be associated with a society, I was still a beginner. I was looking for philatelic literature that I could get monthly that would educate and help me understand what others were doing in the hobby, so the American Philatelist was initially the biggest attraction for me to join the APS. As I mentioned, I did go to the New York Stamp Show in 2016 but found it intimidating, so unfortunately I didn't spend enough time to learn more about the APS that day. I later learned about the APS through stamps.org and what the society had to offer, this convinced me that the APS would be a great fit for me and something that I would really enjoy being a member of.
Erin: Honestly I appreciate your transparency about your hesitancy when it came to attending your first Stamp Show because it shows that when you are recruiting that you must keep in mind to meet people where they are at in understanding the hobby and realizing that it can be an intimidating experience if it is unknown to them. It is important for you to share your experience and others can learn from this and be reminded to be patient with individuals when they are exploring the hobby and learning how to become a member of the APS.
Graham: Perhaps you can say that it has assisted me. I've made the journey from a beginner that was intimidated at a stamp show to someone who is comfortable with discussing the hobby with any level of philatelists.. Because I’ve done that journey in a short period of time, I know what it takes for someone to make that journey. With that in mind, you don't want to push heavy expert knowledge on them at the very start, you don't want to push them into something that they are not ready for. It's a journey and you need to first get them excited about the hobby, excited about learning, the research process and so on. As newcomers make the journey, point out the many tools and resources that are available to them, one of those resources is the established community of the APS. Additionally there is the APS Youtube channel, that has recently launched almost 100 videos in a year, these are free resources that demonstrate the excitement of the hobby through educational videos . As more content is made available that demonstrates other philatelists learning and sharing their love for the hobby, and also shows members interacting with each other, the hobby is only going to become more and more accessible to newcomers, and APS membership is going to be an enticing element of their philatelic journey.
Erin: I would agree that these Stamp Chats from APS makes the learning experience and introduction to the hobby more personal and inviting. I appreciate you also highlighting that over the last year Stamp Chats have been such a great place to connect during 2020 that we hosted the first Chatties in which we were able to celebrate some amazing philatelists who shared about such creative ways to connect and learn within the hobby. So based off of your interactions with others and some tips to recruitment that we have on stamps.org I am curious have you used these tips and are they successful in your experience?
Graham: It’s all about sharing your passion for the hobby and how the APS contributes to that passion. I would agree with a lot of the tips on stamps.org, like taking someone to a physical stamp show, sharing podcasts, youtube channels, something you love about the hobby and more. Everyone may have a unique approach that works, for instance I can actually tell you that I’ve taken 28,000 people to a Stamp Show through my video Visiting A Stamp Show, that is how many people have viewed that video where I take them to the Columbus Stamp Show and show them what to expect and what they could do when they get a chance to visit one in person. Hopefully they won’t be as intimidated as I was when I first attended one thanks to the video.
Erin: You are taking the time to really get to know someone, learn about what they are interested in and meeting them where they are in the process of understanding the hobby. I think even going back to your experience of being intimidated by the Stamp Show and now today you can say that you took 28,000 people by the hand and supporting them to feel less intimidated to attend a Stamp Show is a huge impact in a positive way for the community to grow and bring more collectors to the forefront. I love that your recruiting story is full of being social and sharing resources. Now that you are aware that you have unknowingly have recruited so many people do you think you will intentionally recruit people this year?
Graham: I don’t think that I will intentionally recruit, I’ll continue to do more of what I have been doing over the last several years. I'm going to continue to leverage the APS tools that are available to me and always point it out while discussing an item or a particular piece of research, I will do this with any society or organization that supports philately. I will continue to share my experiences of being in such a wonderful philatelic community and the many benefits that I enjoy while being a member. Potential members will naturally come to the society to learn more and determine if the APS is something that they would enjoy membership with as well.
Erin: Thank you again for sharing your story and continuing to support the philatelic community while also inspiring others to learn more about the hobby.