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Tips To Recovery After An Online Reputation Disaster

Posted on January 23, 2019 at 11:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Would you believe that several months ago, I receive an urgent voicemail with the message: “I think I need to hire you? Google the name of my funeral home and you’ll see why.” It seems the firm was looking for help in repairing damage to their good name after a troubling incident was posted online.

If you're a funeral home owner or help manage one, you may someday find your firm in the middle of a reputation crisis as well. The list of possible reasons is endless; it could be one (or more) of the following situations:

• You or a member of your staff said something inappropriate in an interview or a public setting.

• There was a misunderstanding with a family about your charges for the funeral you conducted.

• A family you served is having trouble accepting a loved one’s death and is lashing out online.

• An angered former employee has taken to social media for revenge.

Reputation management and repair are getting greater attention in our current climate due to situations like the #MeToo movement and the visibility of social media. These factors have elevated the need for funeral homes to operate in authentic, culturally acceptable ways that embody that reflect the mission of the funeral profession. But let’s face it - sometimes they don’t.

Crisis is inevitable when public perception of a funeral home’s actions conflict with what the firm wants it wants its image to be. It can be challenging to wake from a perception nightmare. A firm’s name and reputation are in jeopardy unless the issue can be resolved or the damage can be repaired in a timely fashion.

In the words of Warren Buffett, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”

It's true that in these situations quick action is necessary. But they also need long-term solutions to correct their reputations, for good. Here’s a game plan to help get you back on the right track.

1. Evaluate the damage.

Conduct a thoughtful and thorough perception sweep of the after-effects from the “hit” to your reputation. This includes assessing digital impact such as social media, online relationships and Google search results of print mentions. The evaluation gives you a baseline. How serious is the situation? Sometimes the way we believe the situation to be is not reflected in the business impact of the damage.

2. Take emotions out of the equation.

It can be difficult to separate feelings from facts, even though funeral directors are trained in dealing with highly emotional individuals. A reputation crisis is a deeply personal ordeal that plays out on a very public stage. Each online comment, lost call or funny look in public reinforces this vulnerability.

3. Thoroughly plan your communications strategy.

You'll need to decide whether it's smart to proactively issue a statement, craft a message and choose the right person to make the statement. That's the easy part. Understanding the pre-work and after-effects of communicating -- traditional and online -- requires finesse. Not every reputation-repair strategy requires a public comment. In some cases, pulling away from the public view for a short time may be a better approach.

4. Choose your social media battles carefully.

Social media is like traditional news media in one important way: It requires careful planning and strategy. Don’t forget, the online community can be very uncontrollable and volatile. When people are upset, hurt or angry, they lash out. Give them a keyboard, and they can tell the world. In many cases, upset people need to vent. Engage in a battle with them and you'll get a very visible war that's permanently etched in the public realm. Instead, use social media as a feedback tool, a perception meter and a way to share the good, honest reality of what’s being done to make things right. Worked correctly, social media can be a goldmine. Wielded incorrectly, it can make reputation repair very challenging.

5. Know when to seek professional assistance.

If you're out of your comfort zone is dealing with a crisis, admit it. Seek help or training to craft messages, answer media requests or how to represent your firm. In short: If ever you find yourself wondering if you should consult a PR or reputation management expert, hire one.

6. Don’t expect things to return to normal overnight

Unfortunately, it takes longer to rebuild your reputation than it does in initially to create it. These things take time so prepare to persevere and take a long term view of mending your good name. Celebrate the small victories and realize that it may take a while to return to the good graces of your community.

7. Proactively check your online reputation

It’s a challenge to maintain a positive online presence, that's why it makes sense to consider using an online reputation software platform. Platforms like Rannko ( makes maintaining an online presence and interacting with your families simple and easy! You can listen to what your families are saying about your firm all across the web on popular review platforms, and respond all from one location. Online reputation management software allows you to automatically or manually respond to negative and positive reviews in real-time.


Candidly speaking, most funeral homes aren't at their best in a reputation crisis. They feel powerless as others thrash their names and question their values. The shame of the situation can be devastating. While Google and Facebook might be forever, you can retain your firm’s dignity and assert control over your reputation and how you choose to show up in the world of social media if you create a thorough strategy, show the necessary restraint and persevere over the long term.

Don't Confuse Public Relations With Media Relations

Posted on September 30, 2017 at 10:40 AM Comments comments (0)

It’s easy to confuse the two concepts. When most of us think of public relations, we think of the PR professionals who are skilled at getting coverage for our company in newspaper and magazines, on the radio or on TV. Traditionally, that was the most cost effective way to put a company and its message in front of the public. And, that is why understanding the difference between media relations and public relations becomes even more important.

Even before the Internet era, there was a difference between public relations and media relations. Media relations specifically involves building strong relationships with reporters, and editors who can cover your company either in the funeral trade press or the local community. A PR practitioner who is trusted and respected by those media folks can pick up the phone and always get a hearing–and often get a story for their client.

Public relations always involved the bigger picture. Public relations is all about how your firm is perceived by the community at large. This would include the press but also embraces your families, your prospects, members of the business community, and your fellow human beings. In this regard, it has always been essential that employees treat families well. It has always been essential that we understand families and provide services that are meaningful to them. Those are all fundamental underpinnings of good public relations.

Traditionally, a strong media relations campaign was the most effective approach to generate positive publicity, which, in turn, would lead to a positive perception of our company. Other than our one-on-one dealings with families, there was no other effective tool in a marketing arsenal.

When your marketing dollars are limited, you can still create an effective, content rich website that can serve as a component of public relations efforts. Because most families today will go to a website to learn about a company, you now can create the same positive perception in their minds that a media relations campaign might have created in days’ past.

Does this mean that traditional media is unimportant? No. In fact, if you have a strong web presence that includes a website, you have already begun your media relations campaign. That’s because traditional media reporters and editors are scouring the Internet for information, resources, research, and news. Thus, if you can position yourself on the web as a thought leader by your content marketing strategy, you are much more likely to be sought out by the press. In addition, when you reach out to the media to pitch a story, I can guarantee that before considering doing a story, they will be visiting your website.

Is Your Tagline Merely An Afterthought

Posted on September 27, 2017 at 9:40 PM Comments comments (0)

A tagline is one of the most important pieces of your company’s or brand’s identity – so why it is often created last?

Think About It

A tagline isn’t just the icing on the cake – it’s your five second sales pitch.

An effective tagline should be impactful, memorable and timeless, but most times, this is easier said than done. When creating or evaluating taglines that hit the mark and make the right impression, here are three things to consider:

1. Do Your Research

Research lays the foundation for who you’re trying to reach, why you’re trying to reach them and how to reach them most effectively. It’s important to know your families inside and out before getting creative. Also, researching your competitors will provide a solid reference point for keeping your tagline distinct and original with the hearts and minds of your families.

2. Be Descriptive

Your tagline needs to communicate the heart of your organization and what separates you from your competitors. It should answer the question, “what are you all about?” and “why should I choose you?” The understanding that your tagline creates should provide a convincing first step in moving our families to act.

3. Speak Their Language

Think like your families – if you aren’t speaking their language, your tagline will fail to make a lasting connection. “Serving Families Since 1917” may be a point of pride for you and your funeral home, but all this potentially tells your families is that your funeral home is managed by a bunch of old codgers.

Crafting a tagline for your business is one of the most useful exercises a funeral home owner can perform. It forces you to think about the value you provide to your families and how to express it clearly. In the end, whether you choose to take all of these suggestions into account or just use one or two of them, these tips should have you on your way to creating a more compelling and effective tagline for your company or brand.

The Key To Staying Linked

Posted on September 25, 2017 at 9:35 PM Comments comments (0)

By now, you’ve probably already established a LinkedIn profile for you and perhaps your funeral operation. No doubt you have “linked” with people in your network and then, likely, have just left your company page lying dormant on the site.

Using LinkedIn to promote your funeral business can be very valuable. When used properly, LinkedIn can help you connect with families and customers, generate real business, meet others in funeral service, and create a forum for collaboration with like-minded funeral professionals.

Here are five suggestions to help you maximize LinkedIn as part of your marketing efforts:

1. Create a business presence and establish a company page. Company pages are where funeral companies can tell their brand story, communicate their mission as well as highlight products and services. The first few lines of your company description are the most important, so use powerful and keyword-rich language to maximize LinkedIn and Google search results. In addition, include eye-catching images where appropriate.

2. Attract followers. Leverage your employees’ networks by encouraging your staff to add a link to the company's LinkedIn page in their email signatures. Add a "follow" button to your website to let LinkedIn users follow your company with a simple click. Invite families, suppliers and colleagues to follow your company. Join a few of LinkedIn's more than one million groups, participate in discussions and establish a presence. Better yet, start your own group to help others and build a thriving community.

3. Get folks talking. The best relationships come from great conversations. Post regular updates with highly targeted content designed to accomplish two goals. First, it should teach others about the profession. Second, it establishes you as a thought leader in your community. Encourage dialogue, monitor comments and respond promptly.

4. Go viral. When you post compelling content to your LinkedIn company page, followers can amplify your message by sharing it with their connections. Post your updates as discussions in relevant groups. When posts gain momentum, LinkedIn may step in and feature your post in a Pulse Channel or as an influencer.

5. Evaluate and adjust. The success of any marketing effort depends on your ability to analyze its impact on your target marketing. The number of clicks, likes, shares, comments and follows are real-time indicators of audience engagement. Also, it's possible to track leads that came directly from your LinkedIn network. See what others are doing, experiment, track your progress and tweak your content accordingly.

Like with any marketing initiative, a LinkedIn strategy requires preparation and constant upkeep. If you deliver high-quality content that addresses the interests of your families anc customers, you'll grow your network and develop relationships that can benefit you in the long run.

PR Is More Than Press Releases

Posted on September 24, 2017 at 9:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Funeral homes have more choices than ever before with new marketing strategies and communication tactics competing for a share of the budget. Ask 10 funeral directors where the marketing budget should be spent, and you are likely to get 10 different answers. No matter your budget, every marketing campaign begins in the brand awareness stage, and public relations (PR) remains one of the most cost-efficient means of generating awareness and telling a brand story.

What’s the cost of NOT doing PR? When the time comes in the funeral planning cycle and a family need the services of a funeral professional, what is the cost of NOT being the firm that the family calls?

Conversations are happening in your communities, among influencers and between families, with or without your participation. Your firm needs to be part of these conversations so that when families seeks out a funeral provider on line, their search results are filled with credible stories and mentions about your firm; they see news articles quoting your firm or a contributed article from your organization that provides a perspective on funerals, grief or another related topic. The result – your firm is positioned as a thought leader and expert in the field of funeral service and some who can be trusted to care for a loved one who has passed. Therefore, it’s key that your firm gains a larger “share of voice” in the local paper and on the local radio station, on social media, and in conversations happening among a populace that have shortening attention spans due to ever-increasing information inputs.

The nuts and bolts of public relations for a funeral service company aren’t all that different than public relations strategies for consumer goods. The main difference is PR campaigns in funeral service are much more content-driven compared to the product pitching that dominates consumer PR.

Most funeral homes’ marketing teams (either external or internal) spend time and resources developing content in the form of website blogs, Facebook posts, or other social media efforts. Unfortunately, most of this content remains hidden within the company’s four walls, sits buried on their website or remains on their Facebook page collecting virtual dust.

Somewhat off topic, but on a related note, content marketing is not about you. Rather, it’s about what you can offer others. A well-written piece of content does not push your own agenda, but offers helpful insight or perspective from which others can learn.

Funeral service social media is a marketing tool that needs serious content. No one cares that you are in Philadelphia for a funeral service conference and seeing the local sites. What readers care about is what you learned at the conference that might affect them.

Social media only reaches those in your community that have chosen to follow you or visit your website. What about all the other folks in your community that don’t know about your firm – but will need the services of a funeral professional at some point in the future. That’s where PR and publicity can come into play.

Publicity, the process that enables and encourages media outlets to create and promote messages that benefit your company, is the secret to marketing success. Cultivating publicity is certainly not without its challenges, but it definitely needs to be a consideration since families are looking to that content for guidance before they select a funeral provider.

In an era where editorial/media staffs are continually shrinking, media outlets are taking more and more contributed content from outside sources. This provides a perfect opportunity for you to take your blog about your new aftercare program and create a press release or to take your Facebook post about some new research from NFDA and create an article.

Sure, everybody’s talking about the use of social media in funeral service marketing. But don’t overlook the benefits of public relations and publicity in your marketing program as well.

Communicating Negative News in a Positive Light

Posted on February 28, 2016 at 4:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Nearly everyone has to be the bearer of bad tidings from time to time. Maybe it’s a layoff at the crematory. Perhaps it’s a cutback in hours at the funeral home. Or the termination of a popular associate.

How you communicate bad news will have a significant impact on your firm and its reputation. If you handle communicating one piece of bad news effectively, it may be more impactful than delivering ten bits of good news.

1. Don’t delay. For some reason, bad news always travels faster than good news. Therefore, it’s important to get the word out. After all, when folks sense trouble brewing, they tend to whisper in corners, rather than concentrate on the job they are paid to do.

2. Keep the information flowing. Don’t give your employees the news and not keep them apprised of new developments. It’s one thing to keep harping on the same message (see #10), but if there’s new information – go or bad – this needs to be communicated as well.

3. Be frank. Human nature leads people to try to camouflage bad news with all sorts of soft expressions and double talk. Guess what? Your employees will see right through that stuff. Being candid builds trust and pays out in the long run. Besides, it’s easier to remember what you’ve said when you’ve told the truth in the first place.

4. Be confident. Confidence inspires more confidence. If your employees see you reacting with poise and self-assurance (no matter how much you’re shaking inside), they’ll be less concerned. Your language, your voice, your posture – all of those things must convey the impression that you’re in control and that you’re already moving past the bad news.

5. See it through their eyes. You know the full story behind the bad news and how it will impact the organization. Your local community may not care. Focus your messages on what matters to your employees. Consider how whatever happened may affect their working environment and start your message there.

6. Don’t exaggerate. Odds are pretty good that whatever has happened or is about to happen is not on a par with what they will see on the network news tonight, so don’t react as though it is. If you present the situation as something greater than it really is, your employees will make a big deal of it as well. 

7. Take the blame. It’s easy to shift the guilt to someone else or a situation. People in charge don’t hesitate to take credit for the good things that happen to their companies. They should also be willing to take the blame for the bad ones – even if they really aren’t at fault!

8. Find good news in the bad. Okay, you’ve had to let go a third of your staff because calls are down. Positives may not be easy to find, but there are has to be some good that can come from it. Put the focus there. “Yes, this happened, but here’s what we can learn from it.”

9. Don’t make promises. Things may be bleak now, but don’t let your optimism get the best of you. Sure, you can tell them how the company plan to turn things around or handle the situation, but you should never vow that this will not happen again.

10. Move on. Businesses have a tendency to be so concerned about the bad news that they keep repeating it. Or they leave messages announcing the bad news on signs in their workplaces for weeks. Don’t do that. People, including your employees, have short memories, and if you don’t keep repeating your bad news, they’ll move on to other things.

Take it from Dr. Robert Buckman, a professor at the University of Toronto who's been breaking bad news for years. "Do it poorly," he says, "and people will never forgive you. Do it well, and they'll never forget you."


DISRUPT Media and Weigel Strategic Marketing Announce Alliance

Posted on February 28, 2016 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (0)

DISRUPT Media, the leading social media agency, and Weigel Strategic Marketing, the strategy, branding and communications consultancy have announced they have established a strategic relationship. This alliance will build on the strengths of each company for the benefit of organizations throughout the funeral profession.

“DISRUPT Media continues to thrive at the intersection of media and technology, while Weigel Strategic Marketing offers an expertise in print media, branding and communications,” said Ryan Thogmartin, President and CEO of DISRUPT Media. “This relationship offers our clients the perfect blend of social media/digital marketing and traditional marketing/communications.”

“Having known Ryan for a number of years and worked together developing marketing programs for several companies, creating this alliance was a no-brainer,” stated Joe Weigel, principal at Weigel Strategic Marketing. “Ryan and I have always proposed to our clients that relying solely on either digital marketing or traditional marketing was short sighted and now we can offer companies a solution that covers all the bases.”

The marketing landscape is ever evolving, with new digital marketing technologies being launched every day. However, traditional print and broadcast media still have a prominent place in the marketing mix. Finding one marketing resource that offers an expertise in both disciplines is difficult. Conversely, hiring two separate agencies and having them work together can be just as problematic. However, DISRUPT Media and Weigel Strategic Marketing have proven in the past how they can work together effectively to fully integrate the marketing plans for their mutual clients.

“I’m very excited to continue to build on my relationship with DISRUPT Media, which has consistently been a leader in utilizing cutting edge marketing technology, to bring the best possible value to companies in the funeral space,” said Weigel. “This alliance signifies how a next-generation digital media agency can effectively work with a strategic marketing company to meet the ever-evolving needs of funeral service companies with a perfect blend of traditional and digital marketing.”

Thogmartin added, “The only thing that is certain for funeral service marketing is change, which is why we are constantly testing and building new technology innovations that can advance our clients’ business. But there are situations when time-tested marketing solutions like those offered by Weigel Strategic Marketing are the best course of action for our clients.”