Profits Through Publicity

Date Published: 
September, 1940
Original Author: 
Seattle, WA
Original Publication: 
1940-1941 Cemetery Handbook & Buyers' Guide

Probably each of the four men who are to discuss this subject have many ideas in common concerning the value of publicity. However, we all know that there are many ways of getting publicity and we may not agree as to the best type of publicity or how to secure it. Nevertheless, the fundamental fact remains that publicity of the right kind pays dividends. It is the proud boast of the Company which I represent that if you were to stop 100 people on the main streets of Seattle and ask them the name of the principal cemetery in our town, 80 of them would say “Washelli” and the other 20 would be divided between the other proper¬ties of Seattle and those who did not know. This gratifying result has not been obtained by hit or miss methods, nor has it been a mushroom growth of just a few years. Systematic publicity is the answer. Washelli is over 50 years old, it having been established the same year that Wash¬ington became a state. Every time there is a celebration by the State of some anniversary connected with the date of statehood we tie Washelli right into the proposition. For instance, last year was the 50th anniver¬sary and the Washington State Progress Commission had 50th anniversary programs all over the State. So we had one also and all through the year we kept informing the people that 30 years of Washington and Washelli were being celebrated simultaneously. We had a well-known poet write a poem on 50 golden years of marriage and we have presented hundreds of copies to couples who were celebrating their 50th anniversary anywhere in the West.

We have three properties in the same vicinity, each one operating under its own name although the properties are owned by one company and operated as a unit. This makes it more difficult to secure publicity which pays. It is necessary to impress on the public mind the name and location of your property. We had three at the same location so we picked the name which was most distinctive and have majored it in our advertis¬ing of all kinds. The word "Washelli" is distinctive. Therefore, on our radio programs we feature the Washelli Quartet. Washelli lawn seed is sold by one of the principal seed merchants of Seattle. Easter Sunrise services are sponsored "at Washelli" by the Seattle Council of Churches. In Washelli is held the principal service of Veterans on Memorial Day.

All of these things produce much publicity for Washelli to the neglect of Evergreen and the Pacific Lutheran Cemeteries. But we do not mind this in the slightest. If we can get people out to see Washelli we can take them to Evergreen and the Lutheran Cemeteries. However, we do not ignore the other two properties but endeavor to keep them before the public. In the Lutheran Cemetery we have a special Memorial Day service for all Lutherans who are buried there. No.1-We have a moving picture film showing practically all the Lutheran churches in Seattle and in the film many pictures of the Lutheran Cemetery. This film is in demand with the Lutheran people and it has been presented in the main church auditoriums taking the place of the regular Sunday eve¬ning service. Also it has been shown at many ladies' aid societies, etc. We have another version of the film which shows the Veteran’s section of Washelli and activities in it on Memorial Day. This film is shown to veteran organizations. We are also preparing a film of Evergreen which will be used in connection with other Protestant churches.

Previously I mentioned briefly the Easter Sunrise service held in Washelli. If the theme of immortality means anything at all, the proper place to hold the Easter Sunrise service is in the cemetery. This year we had our 11th Easter Sunrise service, bringing thousands of worshippers to the Cemetery at dawn. While a large percentage of those in attendance have friends or relatives in one of our cemeteries a considerable number are attracted there for the first time each year. A deep sense of religion characterizes all of these meetings. We have never permitted in that service anything which distracts from the religious significance of it. If you do not have an Easter Sunrise service in your town, start one next year. You will be surprised at the way the newspapers give it front page publicity which you could not possibly buy with your dollars. On the morning following Easter, our daily papers usually carry on the front pages pictures of the two Easter Sunrise services held in our city which are sponsored by the Council of Churches. They also carry a description of the services and a synopsis of the sermons. As a result of this Easter Sunrise service and of the Memorial Day service we have, the name of "Washelli" has appeared on the front page of our daily newspapers hundreds of times. You must agree with me that publicity of this kind pays.

There is another form of publicity which is of equal importance to that of newspaper or radio. I refer to the publicizing of the people who are prominent in your organization. No.2-In my judgment social publicity is not of any value. But there are other forms of publicity for the heads of your business which are productive of good results from a best stand¬point. I refer to an active participation in the civic affairs of your com¬munity. I am not so much interested in partisan politics as I am in activities such as Boy Scouts, Campfire Girls, P.T.A., your symphony orchestra and your art museum and the many other organizations which have as their object either character building or the betterment of your community. Most high grade funeral directors take an active interest in all these community matters and look upon it as one of their best means of publicity for business connections.

Our radio program, now in, its 7th year has developed to the point where those taking part in it are in demand for entertainment at churches, lodges and many other places where they bring the message of Washelli and Evergreen along with their entertainment. This kind of publicity cannot be spasmodic but must be continuous and of a character which will reflect favorably on your institution. This program is an example of a specific job accomplished by constant repetition, to wit, overcoming feeling that our prices were higher because of superior beauty.

No. 3-The best kind of publicity is "one friend tells another" so publicity can be materially aided by making friends through better service to all. No. 4-Recognize the principle of repetition in publicity. "It's the constant drip of water that wears away the hardest stone. It's the constant gnaw of Towser that wears away the toughest bone."

This is how repetition helps in publicity. In obit stories in daily, weekly and all other publications, not the paid obituary but the news stories in the editorial column. Supply the information about each deceased, accurate and well written, always including place of burial. Papers are glad to have it and in appreciation for sending it, invariably include place of interment.

Send to all papers wherever any kind of tie-in is possible. For in¬stance, if a man lives in one district but works in another, send to district paper where he works, as well as where he lives. Send also to district papers where relatives live; to the papers of the lodges with which he is affiliated; to papers in district where he formerly lived. Be sure that the particular tie-in is apparent near the very beginning of the news story, or else it might hit editorial waste basket. Sometimes a little note to the editor explaining it will help.

No. 5-All these tie-ins can be uncovered through the use of "His¬torical Record" which also are a valuable aid for prospects for "before need" sales (other branches of family, pall bearers, etc.). One of the problems in publicity for profit is keeping bad publicity out. This can be done by maintaining friendly relations with editors. They'll give you a fair break.

Finally, your publicity should be directed towards the class of people who are more or less the backbone of our nation, the solid, substantial middleclass. I am not interested in advertising Evergreen and Washelli to the very rich or the extremely poor. No. 6-I want the best of that great mass of so-called middle-class of people. They are the ones who create the memorial of love and affection, they are the supporters of the churches and they are the ones who help us create beautiful cemeteries because of their abiding faith in immortality.

No. 1: Incidentally, at that service we read the names of all Lutherans ho have been buried in that cemetery during the past year. That list runs anywhere from 125 to 175 Lutherans in the year and it doesn't take too long and it pays to read the list, at your Memorial Day service:

No. 2: Now neither of the other speakers have mentioned this phase of it, yet I think it is a very important thing.

No. 3: Speaking of that particular job, because we feel our radio program has done that unusually well, many people thought because we had developed our properties far beyond that of any other cemeteries in our locality that our prices must necessarily be much higher. We overcame that by constant repetition on the radio by saying prices were as reasonable as in any other cemetery.

No. 4: If we can get the people whom we serve to go to their friends and say, "My, but we had a nice service at Evergreen or Washelli. Wasn’t everything beautiful and handled in the best manner, possible!” That is the best kind of publicity you can get.

No. 5: For instance, if a man in one district works m another district, I would send it both to the local papers in the two districts. I would send it to the district papers where relatives live, to the papers of the lodges with which he might be affiliated, to papers where he formerly lived. In other words, get the publicity concerning the death and burial of that man in just as many mediums as possible.

No. 6: Now just briefly about one problem of publicity. That is the problem of keeping bad publicity out. There is only one way to do that. That is to keep on friendly terms with your newspaper editors and pub¬lishers. Meet them and know them, get acquainted with them. Then if some bad publicity comes up, they are going to consult with you before it is printed and if untrue or unfair it will not be run.

For a dozen years I have entertained newspaper reporters and editors with a week-end party up at the place I own on Whitby Island, in the State of Washington. We go up there and have a grand and glorious time. They will give you a fair break, if you keep on friendly relations with your newspaper men.

Now finally your publicity must be directed toward the class of people who are the backbone of our nation that great middle class of people, just like you and me, who are predominant in numbers in using our cemetery properties and who are the real people to whom we must look for our business. I don't care much about selling the wealthiest of our people. I don't care much about selling the poorest of our people. In neither case are the relations apt to be the most satisfactory. But I want to sell that great mass of the so-called middle class of people.

CHAIRMAN HATTEN: I might ask Mr. Harley if the funeral directors most of whom furnish this publicity service along an obituary nature if they resent your stepping into that field.

MR. HARLEY: Apparently not. In fact, I talk to them very frankly and tell them I think when they are sending a story to the newspapers they should include the place of Interment, saying that is just of as much interest to the public, who read the stories, as the place where the funeral, is going to be held, and it is. We have had many, many telephone calls from people concerning the burial of some particularly well-known man or woman, where the interment place was not mentioned in the news article and they have called us up to find out where the burial was going to take place.

CHAIRMAN HATTEN: Do you have many services in your chapel?

MR. HARLEY: None at all.

MR. SANGER: I would like to ask Clint, how far you have been able to kill that idea of "too expensive" – “with all this beauty the price is over our head". How do you kill that in addition to using the radio?

MR. HARLEY: In our advertising - radio, newspapers, booklets, word of mouth - we emphasize the fact that prices in modern cemeteries are no higher than the ill-kept property which does not have modern conveniences, modern aspects. It is a question of constant repetition all the time.

MR. J. T. SHEA (Houston, Texas): Mr. Chairman, does the under¬taker prefer to have the funeral conducted in his parlor and don't they resent families going to the chapels? Don't they miss bringing the families into their place of business?

MR. HARLEY: We do not have any services in our chapel. The serv¬ices are all held either in a funeral home or at the grave.

CHAIRMAN HATTEN: We will take that question up in the general discussion, John. Anything else?

MR: L. O. MINEAR (Washington): I would like to ask Mr. Harley if in his advertising, where he is trying to build up the thought that his property isn’t too high, he uses the price of the property. Do you quote prices?

MR. HARLEY: No, we do not.


MR. WORK (Clinton, Iowa): I use the name of my employees in the "display advertising frequently. They have many friends and it is very helpful to use their names. We say, "Ask for Mr. So-and-so when you come to the park."

MR. HARLEY: I think it would be helpful.


MR. GEORGE YOUNG (Dallas): You have a Veterans' Plot don't you?

MR. HARLEY: Yes, sir.

MR. YOUNG: How large is that plot and what do you call it?

MR. HARLEY: We call it "Veterans Memorial Cemetery" and it is large enough to take about 4,000 burials.

MR. YOUNG: In it do you permit the other members of their families or just the veterans?

MR. HARLEY: Just the veterans alone.

MR. YOUNG: Do you have an adjoining section?

MR. HARLEY: We have an adjoining section in which we put the veterans’ families on a considerably larger plan.

CHAIRMAN HATTEN: How do you like the plan?

MR. HARLEY: It works.

MR. CHESTER SPARKS (Philadelphia): Did you have to give the veterans a lot free?

MR. HARLEY: We didn't give them any free sites except a place big enough for them to put a chapel, a circle 24 feet across.

MR. SPARKS: We will call you a miracle man.

MR. HARLEY: We didn't give to a man and they pay for every burial and I have 700 burials in this plat started three years ago.

MR. YELLAND (Norwalk, Conn.): Is the plot more expensive than in the outlying section? May I say one more thing in explaining the question, which might seem to be impertinent? In our case the outlying sections are mostly country cemeteries that are beautiful but are also very much cheaper. We would have a difficult time in saying as you say.

MR. HARLEY: I am referring to comparable property inside the city. I am not referring to the country cemeteries. In fact, we have very few of them. We are just youngsters. We are not 400 or 500 years old, like you fellows. I don't know where you live. The first baby that ever lived in Seattle just died a mature man the other day, this year, so you can see how young a town we are.

MR. J. T. FREES (Atlantic City): Clint, concerning your Memorial Circle - we have an All-Wars Circle in our park and when we first started out in 1928, I wrote a letter to all the American Legion camps in our section and told them that we were rendering a service to any soldier that had served his country in time of war if he died without a place, had no relatives, no friends, no money, we would bury him in this circle with¬out any cost whatever. We have about 15 burials we have made or prob¬ably 18 in that circle that have cost us $30.00 every time we made a burial because we brick-line the grave and stone-cover it. We have found that has made the people in Atlantic City think we are rendering a service that nobody ever thought of, and it has brought us back a hundredfold.

MR. HARLEY: That is good publicity. When I said we never gave the Veterans anything - I am a veteran myself, and I think one of the damnable things of the American nation at the present time is the fact that the Veterans are always demanding something extra for themselves over and above the rest of the people. I am a veteran and I can get up and say that. I think it, is rotten. I think a veteran should not be entitled to more than any other man or woman who has raised a family in this country. We charge the veterans just the same. I say to them, just as I say to every minister and every organization, "if you have somebody in your circle of friends that has died and has no place to go, you can come to Evergreen or Washelli and we won't charge you a cent." I don't care whether he is a veteran or not. We do that right along.

From the publication:
“1940-1941 Cemetery Handbook & Buyers’ Guide”
ACOA 11th Annual Convention & Exposition
Hotel Statler, Buffalo, New York
September 8-11, 1940