Q: Lately I've seen several news reports about how today's economy is leading to an increase in people selecting cremation as a low-cost alternative to traditional funeral and burial services. These reports seem to equate cremation with "no frills." How can I explain to my local press and my community that cremation does not necessarily mean no service, no tribute and no memorial?
A. This question points to a great opportunity we have now to educate people about their options regarding cremation. We know that cremation should not be viewed as "no frills" or "cheap" or in any way "less than" more traditional options. Families who choose cremation can create services and memorials that have incredible meaning.
The press is looking for news related to the economy, and in our industry, it is a fact that cremation typically does cost less than a traditional funeral or burial. So, if the press wants a story on the value of cremation, why not give them one?
Funeral directors, cremationists and cemeterians may decide to take this opportunity to send their local media a press release on their cremation offerings and explain the true value of cremation tributes.
Here are five steps for doing that:
1. Develop your lead. First, you need a "hook." Sending your local newspaper a fact sheet on cremation options won't cut it. Editors will look at your press release and ask, "Where's the news?" Have you added a new selection of artistic urns at your funeral home? Are you breaking ground on a new cremation garden at your memorial park? If you don't have anything new to announce, you might use statistics as your hook. Has the number of families selecting cremation at your funeral home increased in the past five years? How much?
2. If you feel it would add a sense of legitimacy to include a national perspective in your news release, I invite you to include the following paragraph:
Julie A. Burn, director of cremation services for the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association, says today's families have more choices than ever before. "It's important for families to take the time to grieve their loss and to find a way to remember the life that was lived, regardless owhether they are choosing cremation or traditional funeral and burial," Burn said. "Today's cremation services offer many ways to honor the deceased, and so I would encourage families to be sure to ask the funeral home and the cemetery what their options are for creating tributes and memorials that are personalized and have meaning to them."
3. Include the options your firm offers. Include a paragraph explaining your company's video tributes, keepsake urns, memorial benches or niche gardens, as well as services you offer via contract, such as dove releases and reef burials. Your tone here should be purely educational. You are exposing the audience to the many options available, not trying to induce sales at your cemetery, funeral home or crematory.
4. Format your press release correctly. Be sure to include your contact information at the top and a "boilerplate" paragraph on your firm at the end, and if you have photos or can make those available, be sure to mention that as well. Check out the sample press release available for download at the bottom of this page (see "sample_press_release.com"). In addition to your own contact information, you may feel free to include my contact information if you wish (see the sample release).
5. Target your distribution. Research your local media and decide which outlet(s) would be most appropriate. Be sure to target the appropriate staff member. The style/features editor may be best suited for this type of story. Check out the newspaper, radio station or TV station Web site to find out how they prefer to receive releases. Many media outlets today request that they be sent via email. If you are sending via email, you will want to include all of the same information as in the sample release, but you most likely will just type the info into the body of the email or into the Web site's online form. In that case, you do not need to worry so much about formatting (such as double spacing, etc.)
If you have any questions on this, please ask in the comments section, and if you decide to try this out and get some coverage, be sure to come back and let us know about it!