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Recently, two coworkers each lost a family member. When they came back to the office after bereavement leave, I expressed my condolences and asked how the services went. To my surprise, both said they struggled to place the obituaries. Two different very smart, competent people and as employees of Legacy much more aware of the benefits of placing an obituary in the newspaper and very motivated to do so. These two role model customers for our newspapers, planning arrangements in two completely different markets, separately told me it was hard. Placing an obituary shouldn’t be hard.

We have done a nationally representative survey of over 1,000 that showed 88% of people would like to place an obituary upon the death of a loved one. The newspaper obituary is the gold-standard in the category. In addition, our ethnography research shows us that in this time of physical loss having a physical print version of the obituary is especially valuable emotionally for the family.

So, why aren’t obituary placement rates increasing? Based on our research, here’s what we know:

1) Pricing isn’t optimal: Our pricing study shows that pricing doesn’t align with what consumers say they would expect to pay. Look at the obit pricing your newspaper offers. Is there a way to streamline your package options? Market research shows that good-better-best packages resonate with consumers. Do you have a good entry level option that most people in your market can afford? If your market is small do you have an option for under $100? If your market is larger is there an option under $200? Do you have a wow product as a best option? We’re interested to follow the success of Tronc’s Life Tributes which offer a professional writer and editorial style obit at premium pricing. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers two images in their best formats. Several of our clients have increased font size for readability. How can you deliver the best value for the price in your market?

2) The process to place the obit can be difficult: Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and examine how your newspaper receives obituaries. Look closely at each step of your process, and ask if it would make sense to someone who has never placed an obit before. What are the barriers to placement? How can you change the process or the communication to help a new customer understand their options and feel reassured throughout the buying process, so they easily complete their placement and feel they accomplished something good with their purchase?

When we interviewed people about the process of writing obituaries, they felt that just getting started was the most difficult part. Where funeral homes are leading the process, we heard a similar complaint that the time spent getting that first draft to the families was a repetitive process that didn’t feel as valuable as other tasks in that first day. Those comments led us to build ObitWriter, our new resource that turns simple form fields into a first draft with the touch of a button. It’s a help for one point in the process, but there is a big opportunity in understanding what other barriers are and breaking them down.

3) Funeral homes are a key influencer of placement: A funeral director friend shared that a recent client gave her the nicest compliment: “It was like you carried me around on a pillow for three days.” That image is really telling: a funeral experience that is as good as it can be is one where the families’ primary job is to grieve, and their secondary job is to allow for the rest of the circle of grievers to fully honor and celebrate the life of the deceased, as well. Funerals are expensive and the funeral professionals who work directly with families may not be equipped to explain the value of a newspaper obituary. Do the funeral directors in your area understand the value of placing a newspaper obituary for their families and their services? We know most funeral directors wish people woke up and checked their funeral home website, but that’s not realistic. The newspaper obituary is the key to discovery, because it’s where most people are looking for obituaries. We know that people really do check the newspaper obituaries each day or search for information on the deceased. In both cases, the Legacy.com network is the most likely destination, and the one where funeral homes can connect with the most families interested in their services.

Oftentimes, the obituary is the only and final story of someone’s life. We don’t want the deceased to be forgotten because their loved one thought that placing an obituary was too hard. We want to make sure that the newspaper obituary remains a vital part of remembering those who’ve passed away, so we’re doing everything we can to establish and maintain the newspaper as a vital part of the funeral planning process. And, we also want to live up to our promise: “Where life stories live on.”

Our partnership is one way we can help secure the future of the newspaper obituary category. Let’s work together to preserve a place in history for everyone’s life story. Let’s make it easier, not harder, for families and friends to honor their loved ones with a traditional newspaper obituary—because everyone deserves to be remembered.

Free Tools to Strengthen Obituary Category

At Legacy, streamlining the obituary process for all of our customers—newspapers, funeral homes, and families—is a top priority. We want to make placing an obituary easier for all three. To that end, we’ve created some tools you can use to strengthen your obituary category.

1) Print Ads: Promoting your online obituaries in print drives traffic to your site. We’ve put together a variety of print ads that feature the online obituary, Guest Book, and sympathy flowers.

2) Print Editorial: Each month, one or more new print editorials are available for download. Previous topics have included choosing funeral music, honoring lost warriors, making memories, and more. These articles can provide a solid anchor to your obituary page and help strengthen that category while increasing premium ad positions.

3) How to Write an Obituary Guide: This PDF guide can be customized with your newspaper’s branding so you can give it to funeral homes in your market. It includes a fillable form to get the process started, thought-starters and tips to help writing, and examples of completed obituaries. There is also space to provide more information about placing an obituary in your newspaper.

4) ObitWriter: A simple tool that takes form field entries and creates a complete obituary that can be reviewed, shared or placed directly with a newspaper.

As you work to grow your obituary category, know that we’re here for you at marketing@legacy.com.

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Kim Evenson

Chief Marketing Officer at Legacy.com
Kim Evenson is the Chief Marketing Officer at Legacy.com.

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