After the death of a loved one, the person writing the obituary is often under tremendous stress: Emotionally compromised by grief while dealing with numerous logistical issues and/or social obligations and funeral service decisions and expenses.
On top of that, they are tasked with writing and paying to publish an obituary, often for the first time. A simple planning guide can simplify the process - and media are finding that making it simple to write with a predictable cost means that families also spend more on obituaries.
So what goes in an obituary planning guide? Based on a sample from Bay Area News Group (attached) here are the elements to include:
• Cover page and introduction - BANG's page has an image of a flower above "Obituary Planning Guide." The introduction states:
"Our newspapers would like to extend our support at a time of loss. This planner was developed to provide ease of mind to families and Funeral Directors who are publishing a notice in the newspaper."
• Information about how to schedule an obituary - Here you will want so specify publications and websites in which the obituary will appear, if there is more than one property; deadlines; how to place the obituary; how long it will appear and how payment will be made. If the families can place through the funeral home (some newspapers such as Bay Area News Group give a discount for doing so), make sure this option is mentioned as well as any favorable pricing.
This is a great place to mention extended cut-off if families use electronic placement, if your company has this capability, often allowing posts over the weekend.
• Contact information. Where they can call or go for more information should be prominently displayed.
• Visual icons of symbols available for purchase
• Writing guidelines
The writing guidelines are a critical part of the planner. While we've seen a variety of posts on how to write a great obituary, Bay Area News Group gives "step by step" instructions, along with visuals of exactly how it looks, so that families can simply follow the format.
Here are their condensed instructions:
1. The first line is the name of the deceased followed by the city where they resided (or former local city) - "Resident of". This information is required.
2. Dates of birth and death are optional.
3. The text of the notice should include a short biography including milestones (marriage, children, career, military service), successes, special interests, and membership in organizations.
4. The list of survivors usually contains the names of the spouse, children and grandchildren and may include their cities of residences. (Don't forget spouses of children, step children and sisters and brothers. When in doubt be inclusive) You may also want to include family members who passed away prior to the deceased.
5. Close with the date, time and location of all services - visitation, rosary, funeral, burial or graveside service - whichever apply. Make sure to include the name and phone number of the mortuary so that you don't have to field calls for directions.
6. State requests for donations to charity, if applicable, at the end of the notice.
7. Make sure to spell check the notice and verify spelling of family names.
8. If you desire a photo (instructions here on where to email it in, what format and where to find selection of samples).
• Best option for publication. At the end of the writer's guidelines, The Bay Area News Group also recommends the "best option for publication is the 3-Day package - the notice runs for three consecutive days and is charged for only two days". Again, recommending a specific package is another way to simplify the decision-making process - a great idea.
There is more room on your own site for extra writing tips for people interested in researching for more ideas. These extra writing tips flesh out the obituary section, add SEO value and promote longer obituaries from those families who are interested.
Here are three samples of additional writing tips:
Sample two: Star Tribune Both the younger generation and non-traditional boomers are interested in new and more ways to write memorials. The Minneapolis Star Tribune starts off it's guide to writing obits with this great first line:
"Harry Weathersby Stamps, ladies’ man, foodie, natty dresser, and accomplished traveler, died on Saturday, March 9, 2013." Then it goes on to quote more writers on tips to create obituaries with compelling details that bring the personality of the subject to life. An interesting, informative piece on how best to memorialize a life.
Sample three: About news
This "How to write an obit" article is aimed at journalists, but has some good ideas.
In short, gone are the days when the length of an obituary depended on the importance of the person, or which words had to be in a certain ritualistic order.
Remember that in addition to the official notification, other family members and friends may be contribute photos and memories on memorial sites and be looking for guidance.
Other ideas for content to put on the site include top 30 songs for funerals, and great obits from your own media's archives.
Just keep the guidelines in the actual planner itself condensed and instructional for use by funeral homes and families mostly interested in creating the official notification.
This article is a free resource provided for media companies courtesy of Brand Insights partner, Wave2 Media Solutions, which supplies a self-serve platform used by media and funeral homes to grow the obituary franchise.
For more information on Wave2's self-serve platform for electronic posting of obituary notices, contact Brian Gorman, VP of Sales, 781-858-3507, firstname.lastname@example.org
The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and MediaExecsTech, developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine, to showcases perspectives from around the world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.