Funeral Home Communication Tips for Crisis Situations

It is not a matter of “if,” but “when.” Media crises can occur in any organization regardless of business sector or purpose. Commercial and not-for-profits are equally exposed to private problems that become public as well as public problems that can affect their operations.

Think of the mortgage crisis and how it affected business for lenders far removed from any implication of bad practices. When an elected official breaches ethics, how does this affect our views toward lawmakers and government in general? What does the public think about an organization when one of its employees engages in dishonest practices?

Real-life examples like these should be calls to action for businesses to formulate risk management practices, review human resources policies and ensure employees receive frequent training and evaluations. Although solid planning, processes and management cannot deter all internal or external threats to your brand and the profession, they’re important steps to help protect your funeral home business.

A well-crafted crisis situation communication plan should:

  • Outline a strategy to gather information about the situation. Make sure you know the pertinent facts, and identify the key people involved: your attorney, your law enforcement representative and the authorized representative(s) for any affected parties.
  • Name the people who should be on your crisis team. This may include: internal audit/business managers, your attorney and representatives from affiliated business partners who are affected by the situation.
  • Appoint a spokesperson who will serve as the point of contact between the crisis team and the media.
  • Identify your key audiences, which may include but are not limited to client families, employees, vendors and the media.

From a public relations standpoint, there are five essential rules to follow in a crisis situation:

  1. Act quickly to resolve the situation. If appropriate, report that you are cooperating with the authorities and working to determine the scope of the problem.
  2. Tell the truth. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say that you don’t know — it’s the truth. Work with your legal counsel and the authorities to determine what facts you may report without impairing the investigation.
  3. Be accessible to the press. Transparency is key. Evasiveness is damaging to your brand.
  4. Show confidence and compassion.
  5. Communicate changes in the situation as quickly as you can.

Ensure that any staff members who will be involved in carrying out your communication plan understand these guidelines and any others that your firm identifies to manage crisis situations. By ensuring that your firm has procedures in place and that employees are well-trained on how to implement these practices, you’ll be better prepared to address situations that affect your firm.

This post has been adapted from an article that originally appeared in the myHomesteaders newsletter.

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