Community Outreach: How to get free, positive publicity

When was the last time you had press walk into your funeral home? Have you been interviewed on drive time radio lately? Other than the obituary page, where is your funeral home mentioned in your local newspaper? If your answer is “never” or “rarely,” then you need to make a marketing plan…and that plan starts now.

Creating events that get you noticed

Holding a funeral is not going to get the press to your door. Hosting a Holistic Open House will, as it did for OGR Past President Charles Castiglia of Lakeside Memorial Funeral Home. Plan an event with the end goal of being worthy of press attention, bringing the public into your funeral home and raising community awareness of your business.

"Within two weeks of implementing Nancy's advice, our funeral home was featured on two TV newscasts and a print article. I highly recommend this course."

Lasha August
Infinity Funeral Home
Biloxi, Mississippi

That may mean doing something that seems incongruous with a funeral home, such as holding a laugher club or drum circle that is open to the community at your place. It could mean holding a mainstream event, such as a community remembrance service, but at an unusual time. Instead of having it during the holidays, consider switching yours to what I call the “forgotten holiday of grief ”: Valentine’s Day.

What’s your pitch?

Once you have decided on an event, it is time to start pitching to the press. This will require a call/send/call approach. Call up the local newsroom and be ready with your short “elevator pitch” about the event. Make sure it is skewed toward how your event will help your community (such as a grief support program) or how you need the community’s help to accomplish a goal (such as collecting food or toys for those in need in your town). Do not make it sound like a request for free exposure for your funeral home. That will lead to a referral to their advertising department (or just a polite but decisive, "No thank you").

Once you have made your pitch, offer to send more details in an email and get the correct email address they want you to send this to. That ensures your email does not end up in a general mailbox with hundreds of others. Instead, you will have someone at the station or paper that is waiting to read it.

Then you wait…not too long, but just enough to make sure they have had time to review your proposal, share it with their producers and determine if they are interested. How long you wait is based on which media type you approached, how urgent the need is to get the  information out (such as if an event is coming up soon), and if you think they will be contacting you instead to schedule the story.

Get ready for your interview

Each type of media has certain guidelines to follow so you appear to be a polished, media savvy professional. While I cannot do a full media prep course in this article, I can point out a few tips to make you feel at ease when the time comes for your interview.

Be prepared

  • Reporters work on tight deadlines. If they set up a time to meet with you, take it. They do not care about your schedule, so you must accommodate them or you may miss your opportunity.
  • Know what points you want to make and be sure to send background information ahead of time to the specific reporter you'll be working with so they know what to talk to you about.
  • Turn off your phone! I learned the hard way that Amber Alerts and other emergency alerts break through silent and do not disturb modes.


  • Have a few locations at your funeral home scouted out ahead of time to show the crew when they arrive for b-roll and as possible interview locations. They don't want to talk to you sitting in your desk chair.
  • Look at the reporter during the interview (not the camera) and just have a natural conversation with them.
  • Speak in short sentences. This allows the reporter to ask another question, and makes it more likely you'll be used (the average bite that makes it to air is only 5-8 seconds long!).

VFC radio interviewRadio

  • Find out if this interview will be live, “look live” (pre-recorded but played as if you are in-studio) or pre-recorded with post-interview editing prior to air.
  • Ask if there will be scheduled commercial breaks so that you can track the time and end your point prior to break.
  • If you will be interviewed by phone, use a landline as cellular service can be spotty.


  • Meet with the journalist in-person, when possible.
  • Provide information in written form to prevent errors, such as your business card, event flyer, etc.

Regardless of medium, understand you have no control over what is written/broadcast. The best you can do is make your points and do anything you can to accommodate their schedule and workflow.

OGR is offering this training as a 30-minute video presentation, a 60-minute video with live Q&A or an in-person event for your state funeral directors association at no charge. Get more information from [email protected] or (512) 334-5504, ext. 304.

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