Being Determined to Stay the Course

Business decisions are generally not made lightly in the death care industry.  The same is true of public relations events put on by funeral homes and cemeteries.  Usually, these types of businesses are very thorough in their thought process so as not to annoy and/or lose a potential customer.  So once you have made a business decision to move one direction or plan a public relations event and then somebody complains to you or the media about such, What do you do?

That case happened last week at a Service Corporation International owned cemetery near Chicago.  The cemetery, Memory Gardens Cemetery of Arlington Heights, planned a community outdoor movie screening of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” on Saturday evening.  Memory Gardens Cemetery released a statement saying that movie night is one of the many ways the company supports the Arlington Heights community throughout the year — in essence letting the community know that the cemetery is a good neighbor and community member.  Proceeds from the event were to go to the Arlington Heights Historical Museum.

However, at least one member of the community went to the media with protests that “It’s in poor taste and it’s disrespectful.  I just want it stopped.  I’m all for fundraisers, but not in a cemetery.”  Turns out that the lady does have a legitimate complaint as she has a 21-year old son buried in the cemetery and believes that this type of event is not conducive or respectful to the families who mourn their loved ones there.  You can see an article about the disagreement here.

To our knowledge, the event went on as scheduled and the cemetery also issued this statement, “Our intent in hosting these types of events for those with loved ones interred in our cemetery and members of the Arlington Heights community is to serve as a gathering place and to foster a sense of community among Arlington Heights residents.”

Funeral Director Daily take:  Much like I said in an article about crematories earlier in the week, when making decisions if the community can prosper and the business can also prosper with a financial gain so much the better — that is a win-win situation.  Some business decisions, however, may in the long run end up hurting the business and the business just has to live with those consequences.  It may very well be in this case that some families choose not to use Memory Gardens Cemetery because they don’t want to have their hallowed ground be turned into a movie gathering spot.

On the other hand, the cemetery may very well make new potential customers with the people who are drawn to the cemetery who would not have been drawn there before – they might also be seen by others as a business that is happy to foster community cohesiveness.  It’s a very delicate dance and something that you should think about when doing things for the public.

Prior to the advent of direct mail for pre-need marketing in the 1980’s the death care business was pretty laid back and an at-need business for most.  I can remember sending out some of our first mailers for direct pre-need funeral marketing telling consumers to come and talk to us about their future funeral plans.  I was not prepared for some of the comments I received and actually had people tell me that they would never use our funeral home because we were so bold as to have them discuss their mortality ahead of time.

We probably lost a few funerals because of our marketing, but in the end I stuck with the plan.  My guess is that, even today, we are benefitting from some of those that did pre-arrange in the 1980’s.

The point of this article being, if you have a plan, have researched it and believe it to be solid. . . . be determined and stay the course.  More often than not, your instincts will be correct.

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