The Ultimate Checklist to Improve Your Obituaries
Posted August 15, 2018
7 min read
Funeral directors know the deep, lasting impact that every obituary can have.
When done right, an obituary tells a powerful story that captures the essence of a loved one. In doing so, it helps to celebrate their life and legacy.
It helps to honor that person, and it even brings those who knew the person together.
It also helps to carry on those cherished memories, held by so many people, for years to come.
We know that the power of an obituary is something you’re well aware of. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a checklist to help you make sure you’re doing your best when creating, or helping to create, obituaries:
1. Have you captured the essence of that person?
What did this person accomplish? What did they stand for? What were their “favorites”? What impact did they ultimately have on other people or on their community in their lifetime? What kinds of stories reflect those traits and that impact they had?
Thinking along these lines can help to uncover great stories as you seek to answer these questions.
2. Have you added emotion?
One of the ways to add emotion to every obituary is to try to capture the feeling behind the narrative you are sharing.
Even people who don’t consider themselves writers can do this by adding detail and getting specific, explains Petra Lina Orloff. Orloff is President and CEO of Beloved, a company that produces custom, personalized, handcrafted obituaries and eulogies.
“[Maybe you start with a] list of hobbies, a few favorites things, or maybe a short anecdote which sums up the deceased succinctly.” Second, add in adjectives to weave in more context.
For example, consider these three variations about a nurse:
- Mary was a nurse.
- Mary thoroughly appreciated working as a nurse.
- As a nurse, Mary thoroughly appreciated serving others.
You can see how just a few words can paint a much different, more emotive depiction.
Not sure where to start in adding more detail and feeling into your narrative?
When it comes to adding adjectives, you can use a thesaurus, just don’t go overboard. “Making your story more compelling can be as easy as swapping out a few words,” explains Orloff.
3. Have you included a visual?
Did you know that visuals get 94% more views than text-based information? People prefer content that includes visuals, and our brands are hardwired to better absorb and interact with visual content (1).
In fact, we actually process visual information 60,000 times faster than text alone. And, in terms of engagement, visuals, like photos and videos, get 100% more engagement than text alone (1).
The point is that, as humans, we’re hardwired to crave visual imagery.
Many funeral directors are already doing their best to include visuals in obituaries. If you aren’t, it’s not too late to start. “Visuals are critical because visuals help tell your story,” explains Orloff.
Because photos trigger an immediate, emotional reaction, stories become more direct, condensed, and compelling when a photo or visual is included. “People see, then read, so your photo essentially becomes a headline for your entire obituary, no matter the platform from which it is pushed,” adds Orloff.
4. Have you included more than one visual?
Orloff says that if you aren’t already, think of photos as a tool for driving deeper engagement. That’s why, when you can, include more than one photo.
“Remember, visuals make people more likely to click, read, and share—which pushes out your story even further.”
The insight is this: having multiple photos helps an obituary to be shared—whether that be in social media or through email, or through another channel. “The bottom line on visuals is that you get more shares and more clicks on an obituary with photos than one without.”
Although it’s often going to be up to the family, if given the choice, consider using an array of photos with an obituary. “For example, you can tell an incredibly compelling story in three photos: the deceased as a young man, the deceased with his wife at their wedding, and the deceased in later life with his grandchildren. This trio of visuals provides a nice little, immediate synopsis of this man’s life, which familiarizes the viewer, and draws him or her into the story,” says Orloff.
It’s hard to go wrong when it comes to picture selection. “Pictures of a man or woman in military uniform, on vacation, celebrating a holiday, with their spouse during a wedding or anniversary, playing with children, simply being joyful: all of these photos work very well because viewers can relate and they get a quick and keen understanding of the story you are sharing,” says Orloff.
5. Have you properly published the message?
Part of this process is about creating the unique story. The other part is about sharing the story.
“Hands down, by sharing, you are going to reach a larger audience online which isn’t looking at your website otherwise, most of the time. So, publish your obituaries on social media and push them out with new technological platforms which allow for quick and easy sharing,” says Orloff.
Orloff says she suggests all funeral homes take advantage of the free social media tools at their fingertips such as Facebook and Twitter. “If you don’t, you’re not only missing out on free marketing, but you’re potentially locking yourself out of the future of the industry.”
“If you are set up a plan to share every single obituary they have and actually follow through with that plan, you will see instantaneous results,” says Orloff.
6. Have you made it simple for others to share the story?
People love to tell stories and people love to share stories, so consider making it as easy as possible for that to happen.
“If it’s compelling and interesting in some manner, people will even share a stranger’s story: this happens every day online and on social media.”
Here’s where you can start: determine if your obituaries are set up in a way where someone only has to make two or three clicks to share directly to Facebook or other social media platforms.
It should be simple, painless and quick for them to share the obituary in-the-moment.
Marketing Your Funeral Home
You are already writing great obituaries…these steps are just here to help you re-consider some of the strategies being used today.
Remember that those obituaries are also giving readers a sense of your funeral home and its personality. “If your home is dedicated to personalizing every aspect of your client’s funeral, you are probably taking much more time to craft a beautifully unique obituary and funneling that story out to your audience and beyond,” adds Orloff.
Orloff says that these compelling, personalized, and heartfelt obituaries will just continue to show the kind of customization and personalization they can find throughout your funeral home. “Your posts, including your obituaries, reflect what you do inside the funeral home.”
Reading those stories, people will get a very strong sense of the time, effort, and level of personalization your funeral home offers. “Your posts are not separate from marketing, they are marketing,” says Orloff.
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