When George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States, died last week, the news was quickly met with an outpouring of online content honoring his memory. The tributes demonstrated the full power of digital platforms for memorialization. People across the globe could view memorials in many different forms – articles, photos, videos, timelines and illustrations – and interact with them almost instantly.
Even for those who aren’t public figures, online obituaries have a much further reach than ever before. They’re often easily accessible to family members and friends for years and can even build connections with members of previous generations who we never met. But this also increases the importance of an obituary as something that could be accessed by many people for years to come.
What this means for funeral professionals is that the stakes are even higher to create impactful obituaries that leverage digital platforms and differentiate your firm from others. Here are a few ways you can ensure that your online obituaries are meaningful and establish your firm as a leader in embracing innovation.
Collaborate with the family to write a unique obituary.
Not every obituary you write will (or should) go viral, but the widely circulated obituaries do provide some lessons you can apply to the ones you create. The most creative and memorable obituaries incorporate details that evoke special memories for the person’s family members and friends while causing other readers to think, “I didn’t know that person… but I wish I had.”
Give friends and family members an easy way to share the obituary.
When a loved one dies, social media platforms help share details about funeral plans, provide a place to gather memories and stories and allow others to offer words of comfort during a difficult time. Although you shouldn’t rely too heavily on obituaries as content for your funeral home social media, you should make it easy to share obituaries through your website and social media platforms.
Make the obituary easy to find on your website.
Obituaries are a key feature of most funeral home websites, but it can be tricky to find the best way to present them. It’s important to understand how different types of visitors interact with your website – from those who just want to see the obituaries to those who are looking for tips on prearranging – and develop content and a site structure that is beneficial for each audience. Most people spend 15 seconds or less on a page, which means it’s critical that your website immediately engages visitors and provides clear paths for them to get more information about the content they need.
Encourage visitors to post memories and messages.
Providing a place online for people to publish their condolences and memories is a highly valued service for families and should be an integral part of your online obituaries. Some firms take this collaborative approach to memorialization a step further by allowing visitors to upload their own photos and videos or send virtual “gifts” in the form of images of flowers or candles.
Video is a powerful medium for sharing the characteristics that made a person unique and memorable. Embedding a short, simple and sincere tribute video to accompany the obituary can help build a more complete picture of a person’s life.
While online tools and platforms help create richer and more interactive tributes, the basic elements that have always made obituaries meaningful still apply. If you ask the right questions, you’ll be able to help families tell their loved one’s story in a way that leaves a lasting impression.