Truth: The funeral industry struggles with image and message to consumers. When the industry makes national headlines, the news generally is from outside trending on negatives such as unscrupulous practices by funeral directors or giving consumer’s advice on how to avoid the high costs associated with funerals and warnings of getting ripped off. From within the funeral industry (a quick Google search of Funeral Industry News) Connecting Directors and the NFDA consistently remains at the top of several searches along the same subject search line. However, their messages and content are generally received within the industry by funeral professionals. There are a number of blogs from within the industry, but hands down Caleb Wilde leads the conversation nationally as a funeral director to consumers.
Let’s drill down to the local level where we as funeral professionals operate. Yes, sometimes on a slow news day a positive story may get placed on local television or in the newspaper about a funeral home (a service project, assistance to a family, etc.). The positive news story is generally short lived with the exception of the funeral home secretary cutting out the clipping from the newspaper and saving it for the scrapbook. Without a doubt, if a funeral director or funeral home goes awry (before mentioned unscrupulous practitioners) the news gets plastered as a headline and may last a few days in the news cycle.
Knowing all the above as usual and customary, why doesn’t a vast majority of local funeral homes lead the conversation and generate positive news in their own community? Some funeral homes advertise and a fair sampling offers bland “funeral-esque” messaging; “honor, respect, compassion, we care more, professional staff, we have been here since (pick a date in history), family serving family, locally owned, modern facility, pre-plan today to save money tomorrow, we cost less, they cost more, you get what you pay for”…blah, blah, blah. Tell me, of all these examples, which funeral home doesn’t claim a majority or all of these? What’s the distinction? From a disinterested consumer point of view; none. Therefore consumer minds are made up based on news headlines from outside the funeral industry; good or bad. The truth is, we have the ability to tell our own story yet as a whole refuse to make the effort or spend the money to do so.
I belong to a number of closed Facebook funeral related groups (thank God they are closed and not open to the public due to some of the conversation content) that are quite active and I find it interesting how many funeral directors are in fact frequent Facebook users. Why is do I find this interesting? Because it correlates with how we as consumers get our news and communicate with each other. Don’t take my word for it, read Pew Research-Social Media is Reshaping News which provides information regarding the power of social media as a growing news source. As an observation about our profession; do you ever notice when a funeral home or director gets into trouble and makes negative news headlines, those in within the funeral industry (both individuals and publications) perpetuate, post, share and comment quickly…spreading the misery? Given this repeated behavior from within our ranks and universal knowledge about Social Media, why on earth don’t funeral homes take advantage of Social Media messaging?
Let’s take a guess:
- Unfamiliarity of “how it works.” If this is the case, hire a professional! Do some homework, shop and interview for help. Guess what? That’s exactly what consumers are doing at this very moment in your community seeking a funeral service provider…what does your story say and what message are they finding right now?
- “We can do it ourselves.” Ok, so why aren’t you and if you are, why isn’t your message effective (response to content, consistent engagement, growth of audience, and getting more business)? Maybe just posting obituaries and begging people to pre-plan isn’t working out for you. Yes, your niece “does know computers” but the phrase “if you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait to you hire an amateur” rings true.
- “It costs too much.” Do you really know how much it costs to run an effective Facebook advertising campaign? How much does it cost to hire a professional to manage your story? How much does it cost not to tell your story? I refer to phrase in #2.
The truth is that we in the funeral industry (providers, directors, owners, vendors and the like) have an opportunity to share our positive stories and news. I’m not really smart, but at some point the message becomes clear to me; let’s do this. The truth is; I am going to lead by example, practice what I preach and follow my own mantra “a vision is only a dream without execution.”
ALL of the companies that have the fortune of following my leadership (and subject to occasional second hand cigar smoke) are totally committed to “telling our story” on Social Media which includes Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, LinkedIn and so on. Additionally, I have been working on a partnership initiative that will provide funeral providers the ability to “get in the game” with Social Media and you’ll be seeing announcements with details in the near future. Yep, I’m sitting here grinning with a 60 ring gauge maduro wafting copious volumes of aromatic smoke and excited about leading the conversation. From the desk of The Funeral Commander, Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommander