Most funeral homes don’t have a PR department, or even a dedicated person to handle their communications. Therefore, it is not always as easy for funeral directors to build relationships with the local media because a funeral home owner must wear so many different hats.
That doesn’t make connecting with writers and reporters any less important. In fact, in some cases, effective media relations can help funeral homes generate publicity and be a complement to advertising campaigns, so your relationship with your local newspapers and radio stations deserve some attention.
Here are ten excellent suggestions for funeral homes that want to build strong media relationships, but don’t have the dedicated personnel to spend a great deal of time on it.
- Polish Your Pitch
Don’t assume that you always need to write a press release in order to reach writers and reporters. Every funeral home should have what’s called an elevator speech ready to go. It is called an elevator speech because it is short enough to tell someone about your firm and what makes you unique during a ride in an elevator. Take the time to put your pitch in writing so that you can send it to reporters should the need arise. It is also always a good idea to have at least three different length pitches developed: short, medium, and long. That way, you will have a pitch ready to fit any occasion.
- Find the News Angle
Unless the journalist you are targeting writes specifically about small businesses such as funeral homes, there must be a news angle in your story for it to appeal to them. Find an interesting point to help make the connection to your firm and a news story. That connection can be your location, but also explore if your story can tie into current events, trending topics, or something else that makes it newsworthy, like a charity you are supporting or being environmentally friendly.
- Know Which Journalist to Contact
Your story may not appeal to all reporters. If a journalist is working on a story, or regularly writes about small businesses or a topic that is relevant to your funeral home, that is the journalist you should try to reach out to. Doing so will save you time; no need to pitch your idea to someone who has little to no chance of being interested. Keep your list of reporter contacts handy for future reference.
- Send Personalized, Targeted Letters
Customize your communications and be sure that you are sending them to the right journalists. Your communications should appear to be individually sent, even if they are not. Be sure that you are sending relevant messages to the correct journalist that covers the types of topics you are suggesting, that way you will also have fewer letters to send. If your correspondence looks like it was automated or a copy and paste letter, your efforts will not get the same attention that you will get by making it personal.
- Connect on Social Media
By connecting on social media, I mean being social and engaging with journalists regularly, not just when you need something from them. On occasion, comment, like, and share their articles or blog posts. Just don’t comment or engage only when you want their attention. That way, when you do make contact, they will remember you from previous interactions. But don’t overdo it. For example, don’t ask a reporter you have never met to become a LinkedIn connection. Request that you get “Linked” only after you’ve connected personally.
- Be Honest
Honesty is the best policy. I shouldn’t have to say it, but it is essential to understand this when dealing with the media. It is necessary because being exposed for not being truthful by the media can be quite a public affair. This could create a publicity nightmare for you that you can’t afford.
7. Learn How to Be Quotable
Make the reporter’s job easier by giving quotable comments. The less editing and work that a journalist has to do, the more likely your news or release will get published. Keep your comments short and to the point, and offer point of view, not a complete story.
- Be Timely
Old news is no news. Being timely can have a dual meaning with journalists: It can mean making sure that the news is relevant or put a current events perspective on your news, and it also means respecting a reporter’s deadlines. Don’t take for granted that just because a reporter is not with a newspaper or radio station that there isn’t a deadline. When reporters work on deadlines, they might need to check back with you to clear up confusion or to ask another question. Give them access to you and set guidelines. If you don’t mind them calling you late, let them know if it is OK. This is likely to help your story get run or for you to be quoted in a story when a reporter is working late on a deadline and your competitor may not be accessible.
- Offer Exclusives
Whenever possible, providing an exclusive to one special media contact will help drive your story or news. This may sound like something that a professional corporation might do, but offering an exclusive can be your funeral home’s ticket to receiving all the press you need from just one source.
- Help Them Out
One of my favorite tips is to be a resource for your local media. These days, newspapers and magazines are short on staff and working harder than ever. So, if on your way to the funeral home, you see a huge fire, call the newsroom at the local radio station or if you learn of a great human interest story about one of your neighbors, contact the local newspaper. Even if they already know about the fire or decide not to do the feature story, they will appreciate the fact that you reached out to them.
Five “Don’ts” When It Comes to Dealing with the Media
Funeral home owners and their employees tend to be very passionate about their business. The key lesson here is don’t take it personally. Media professionals, writers, and reporters live in a world of deadlines and cut offs.
- Don’t complain in public if a story didn’t get the coverage you hoped for or if you are misquoted. If there is an error, contact the reporter, point out the mistake and politely as for a correction.
- Don’t add media contacts to your company newsletter (unless they ask to be added).
- Don’t be too aggressive with your follow up. Be respectful of the journalist’s time.
- Don’t expect that a reporter has to run your story. That attitude will do you no good now and in future conversations.
- Don’t get angry with a reporter or journalist. There’s a very old saying: “Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.” Be respectful and let cooler heads prevail.
Conclusion and Takeaways
Although many of these tips for dealing with the media and journalists might sound like common sense, they are many times forgotten, overlooked, or even new to you if you don’t live in the world of PR and media. As funeral directors, you have some advantages over corporate PR professionals in that you have the ability to provide a genuine story and real life perspective. Not every journalist or writer wants a slick, professional press release. As you venture into the field of building media connections, your funeral home status will not only help you get your news published, but can make it even more pleasurable when you establish real connections with real people.