Today’s social climate isn’t very friendly to funeral homes and funeral directors. There are hundreds of negative comments about funeral homes on social media, review websites, and even National Public Radio.
To combat negativity, a funeral home needs to put its best foot forward with a sound public relations strategy.
What is “Public Relations”?
The Public Relations Society of America defines public relations as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” Yet, Robert Wynne may have caught the spirit of PR with far fewer words: “PR is the Persuasion Business.”
So, the overall intention of a public relations strategy is to persuade people; to cause them to change their opinions about something. Don’t think you can do the same thing with advertising. “A good PR story”, said Richard Branson, “is infinitely more effective than a front page ad.”
This has to do with a funeral home’s relationship with local press agencies and journalists. It’s a two-part job: cultivate good connections and then use them to ‘get out the word’ when good things happen.
The first step: develop a media kit for distribution to journalists. Then it’s all about making news and promoting it using your media network. It’s not hard to make good news; just look at this recent Boston Globe online article: “Funeral homes turning to therapy dogs to comfort mourners” featuring two local funeral homes, Dwyer Funeral Home and Gately Funeral Home.
This involves establishing the quality of your funeral home’s presence in the community and cultivating positive perceptions in residents businesses owners. Exemplary service goes a long way in building positive awareness, but using the relationships you have local journalists and news agencies to promote and educate can also have a beneficial impact. Here are two examples:
- “Five minutes with Matt Levinson, vice president of Sol Levinson & Bros. Inc. funeral home“
- “Phaneuf Funeral Homes & Crematorium wins BBB Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics”
Can a blog work to develop good community relationships? It can, if it’s done well –which takes time and talent. One funeral home blog which gets lots of engagement from readers is from O’Connor Mortuary, in Southern California.
What you do when an unexpected situation comes up can really affect the relationship you have with the public. Unfortunately, ‘bad things’ can happen to any funeral home or funeral director; a search online for “funeral home lawsuits” proves it. Any article you find will be a clear reminder of the need for a comprehensive crisis management public relations plan.
How a firm deals with allegations will always have a big impact on a community’s perceptions.
3 Starter Questions
Whether you’re trying to build relationships or ‘put out fires’, every PR campaign must have a clear goal. Answering these questions will help:
- Who is your audience?
- What message(s) do you want to deliver?
- What are you hoping to achieve?
With the answers to these questions, you’ll be able to develop a clear, one sentence campaign goal, which will drive your messaging and outreach strategy. Knowing the ‘what and why’ will make the process of public relations much easier.
Public relations is about steadily building up activities and stories intended to build a positive image of your business in the eyes of your community (and counter any negativity). Having a public relations strategy in place can keep these efforts organized and create (or maintain) the image you want for your business.