PR Lessons From Funerals

Funerals. We all have them, for the most part (I assume those who get buried in unmarked grave by the city don’t read this blog). The funeral of a loved one like a parent can be difficult. It’s the last time you say goodbye to that person who reassured you in those scariest moments, and now in this time of existential dread, in our powerlessness against time, you’re met with a resounding silence when you beg them to tell you it will be OK.

But they’re not just all wearing black and crying! No, funerals, like any social event contain valuable lessons for PR professionals. Here’s what you can learn from your loved one’s send off into the unknown:

4- Be Brief But Sweet!

This is a pitching rule that you see time and time again at a funeral. Here’s a little experiment: when one of your parents dies, go to their funeral. Listen to the eulogies. There’s invariably going to be a sobbing, emotional display, probably by the surviving parent. Then, there will be a fun, punchy number, probably by an uncle or niece.

Go around, ask which eulogy was the most evocative. You’re probably gonna get a lot of answers saying the rambling downer. Wait 6 months and ask the same question. I’ll bet you a Nobu dinner that people are gonna remember the quick, funny one.

The same goes for pitching. Clients can be overwhelmed by an a convoluted and lengthy pitch, whereas with a brief message, they’ll be with it. Hey, it’s like you’re saying the last words you’ll ever say in the presence of someone you’ve known your entire life: act like you’ve been there before!

3- Keep It Simple, Stupid!

What’s the first aesthetic you think of at a young person’s funeral? All black. A lack of ceremony. Nothing that doesn’t need to be there. When a young life is snuffed out before its time, it’s just like running a campaign: trim the fat!

You think the parents of the deceased are any different from your media contacts? Let me tell you something: neither of them want a bunch of superfluous imagery and messaging. Cursing the Earth because it opened up and swallowed without bias should be just as foolproof as anything you do for your clients.

2- Show Respect

Do you waltz into a funeral wearing silly suspenders and ask mourners to pull your finger? Probably not. A dark ceremony where we contemplate our own impermanence is not to be made light of, and neither is a paid hashtag campaign.

You could argue texting during a meeting about social media marketing is even worse than doing it at a funeral. Are you paid to be at a funeral? Sorry, I don’t think you’re an embalmer or bagpipe player if you’re still reading!

1-Don’t Forget To Have Fun

This right here is the most important tip you can learn from a funeral. If these things were all crying all the time, no one would go. You can break up that bottomless sorrow with a fun anecdote about the deceased, just like you can give the client a breather by chatting them up about golf or the weather.

Funerals sell to grieving families the same thing you’re selling to clients: an integrated system of performing a task they themselves cannot do alone. The flow and go of a funeral makes it so you’re not just chucking a cold slab into the ground and weeping for 6 hours. The creativity and fun you put into any campaign makes it so you’re not just selling a product. They’re practically the same thing.

Good luck out there, current and aspiring partners! I’ll see you all next week when I infer what the Nuremberg trials said about the importance of media relationships!