It takes a sound strategy, restraint and perseverance to mend your funeral home’s image.


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.


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 is why it makes sense to consider using an online reputation software platform. You can use platforms like Rannko (www.rannko.com/funeralservice) 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.

Summary
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. FBA


Joe Weigel is the owner of Weigel Strategic Marketing, a communications firm focused on the funeral profession that delivers expertise across three marketing disciplines: public relations, branding and communications. Visit his website at weigelstrategicmarketing.webs.com. He also can be reached at weigelstrate[email protected]