by Mayra Ruiz-McPherson

M A R K E T I N G / T E C H N O L O G Y

Do you know what people are saying about your cemetery, crematory or funeral home online? If you don’t know, how can you respond? ICCFA MAGAZINE AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT
➤Ruiz-McPherson is a virtual marketing consultant and publicity assistant providing marketing and publicity consulting services to death care establishments as the Death Care Publicist. ➤She writes the Marketing Misfit Blog and produces a bi-weekly e-newsletter about marketing. deathcare
➤Her experience includes serving as assistant director of marketing for the University of Maryland’s Professional Studies Division, director of Web communications for ATM/debit network STAR and director of marketing for a legal technology firm and a health care facility in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Ruiz-McPherson was also communications activities manager for the ICCFA from October 2007 to May 2008.

LinkedIn pages for Nevin Mann, president and CEO of West Laurel Hill Cemetery Cos., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Bill McQueen, president, Anderson-McQueen Funeral & Cremation Centers, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida; and Tony Colson, president of Wilbert Funeral Services, Forest Park, Illinois.

Reading the hearts and minds of your target audience through online social networks


hat were you doing in early October? Do you remember? I was preparing for a workshop, having my Jeep’s back tires replaced and spending a weekend with relatives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Around that same time, somewhere in Cypress, Texas, Cassandra Baldovinos—a self-described “mommy, graphic designer, photographer and awesome wife to a more awesome hubby”—who normally would have been doing any number of things such as chores, watching television or spending time with her children, instead chose to sit down at her computer and tell everyone in her online networking circles that she finds it “kind of creepy when funeral homes have commercials.” Around the same time, Megan of Ruston, Louisiana, told her network of contacts, “Funeral homes are awkward.” And Ivy Mattio, a marketing and advertising professional living in Jacksonville, Florida, told her network that she “cannot believe funeral homes charge for every single tiny thing” and is “surprised they don’t charge for the oxygen we’re breathing.” Here are a few more things people out there are saying about death care operations:
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Funeral homes • “Funeral homes are always so sad :(” • “Last night reminded me that i hate the smell of funeral homes.” • “funeral homes...bleh. too much death, not enough life.” Cemeteries • “Wishing it was 3:00 so I can head out to the Ladies Photowalk at the Salt Lake cemetery ... so excited!” • “Off to the last game of soccer :( and then to visit the cemetery—it’s the anniversary of my mother’s death :( then off to shop :)” • “Just found out that Harry Houdini is buried at Green Lawn Cemetery in Columbus, OH.” Crematories • “I just received some junk mail that stated proudly on the outside of the envelope: ‘Free PrePaid Cremation!’ WTH?” • “Dad didn’t even leave enough in his bank account to pay for his cremation. Classic.” • “Billboard advertising ‘complete cremation’ for $995. What would an incomplete one cost, I wonder?” Am I a mind reader?

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M A R K E T I N G / T E C H N O L O G Y

LinkedIn pages for ICCFA 2009 convention speakers Rob Heppell, Mike Turkiewicz, Dan Isard, Melissa Johnson and Dan Katz.

No, I can’t read people’s thoughts and no, last time I checked, I was not psychic. In fact, I don’t know any of the people who made these thought-provoking comments. So how do I know these were their exact thoughts and opinions? Because each of those people posted their comments via Twitter for the Web 2.0 world at large to read sometime around October 8, 2008. And how would I know that? Because my new LinkedIn Company Buzz application tells me so. Let’s pause for a moment and explain what LinkedIn and Twitter are and how they are used.

Social networks 101
LinkedIn and Twitter are two of today’s most popular online social networks. The information shared here should provide any death care professional with a solid, basic understanding of each of these powerful Web networking tools. LinkedIn LinkedIn is an online network of more than 30 million (and increasing every day) experienced professionals from around the world, representing 150 industries. When you join (for free), you create a profile that summarizes your professional accomplishments. Your profile helps you find and be found by former colleagues, clients and partners. You can add more connections by inviting trusted contacts to join LinkedIn and connect to you. According to, through your LinkedIn network you can: • Find potential clients, service providers, subject experts and partners who come recommended. • Be found for business opportunities. • Search for great jobs.
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• Discover inside connections that can help you land jobs and close deals. • Post and distribute job listings. • Find high-quality passive candidates. • Get introduced to other professionals through the people you know. For an eight-minute basic video tutorial on how to get started on LinkedIn, visit About LinkedIn’s “company buzz” application: Every second thousands of people are sending out messages about specific topics and companies through Twitter. Company Buzz lets you tap into this information flow to find relevant comments about your company and profession. Install the application and instantly see what people are saying about your cemetery, crematory or funeral home and death care in general. Twitter According to the Twitter FAQ: “Twitter is for staying in touch and keeping up with friends no matter where you are or what you’re doing.” That doesn’t really tell us very much. Wikipedia says, “Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send updates via SMS, instant messaging, e-mail, to the Twitter Web site, or any one of the multitude of Twitter applications now available.” In layperson’s terms, Twitter is an online social network that allows you to share a small (up to a 140 characters) message with your network of friends. Since Twitter launched more than a year ago, it has become a valuable tool for business use. There are many opportunities to leverage Twitter’s capabilities in a way that’s relevant and provides added value. According to, it

can be used for: • Customer relations. • Crisis communications (opportunity to respond immediately before it escalates to blogs and other channels). • Crowd sourcing (product development, survey customer satisfaction). • Building brand and communication (brand presence, offer assistance). • Lead generation. • Customer references. • Announcing new services, coupons and information. • Professional networking. An excellent primer video (also eight minutes in length) providing a fundamental understanding of all things Twitter can be found at

Are you socially networked yet?
I realize that a good portion of the people running funeral homes, cemeteries and crematories are not as Internet savvy as they could be. I also realize that some of those people believe Internet marketing or online social networking of any kind is a complete waste of time if it doesn’t immediately produce revenue. Not long ago I listened as a cemetery sales manager told a conference audience of more than 100 people that the Web, as far as death care marketing is concerned, is all hype and not worth the bother. Despite the profession’s seemingly slow adoption of—and even resistance to—many of today’s Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, social networks, multimedia, document sharing and widgets, death care establishments seeking to effectively streamline their marketing efforts can no longer afford to sit on the social network sidelines. Establishing a presence on social net-

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M A R K E T I N G / T E C H N O L O G Y works such as LinkedIn and Twitter allows cemetery sales managers, funeral directors and preneed marketers the unique opportunity to directly tap into the many conversations already taking place about their profession in general and their establishments in particular.

In today’s cashstrapped economy, your participation in online social networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter won’t hurt your wallet; these social tools are available to all for free.
countless opportunities to make human connections, share information and present your brand positively in a helpful and resourceful manner. For death care establishments, making a positive connection with prospective consumers is half the battle. Getting consumers to pay attention and to engage with your business is the other half. So why not join the millions of conversations out there already taking place? No direct mailing, four-color advertisement or preneed survey in the world could ever provide you with the timely, relevant and powerful consumer insight these social networks are capable of revealing. And in today’s cash-strapped economy, your participation in online social networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter won’t hurt your wallet; these social tools are available to all for free. To recap: You’ll have direct access to consumer insight and feedback. You’ll be able to monitor your brand and participate in targeted discussions. And it’s free. So what are you waiting for? Go out there and network socially online. You can start your Twitter adventures with me, if you’d like, at or connect with me on LinkedIn at As you can see in the computer screen shots on pages XX and XX, some of your funeral director and cemeterian friends are ❑ already there.

The Houdini example
Let’s take the Harry Houdini example, where someone posted on Twitter he or she had “just found out that Harry Houdini is buried at Green Lawn Cemetery in Columbus, OH.” If any Green Lawn staff members had been using LinkedIn’s new Company Buzz application to monitor (a) what folks at large are saying about Green Lawn and (b) who is saying what specifically, someone at the cemetery would have had the opportunity to directly participate in the conversation. A Green Lawn marketing person, for example, using LinkedIn or Twitter to monitor mention of their cemetery’s brand could have used this opportunity to: 1. Make a positive connection with the person making the comment. 2. Thank the person for talking to people about Green Lawn Cemetery. 3. Reach out to educate this person and his or her network of contacts about the fact that Houdini is actually buried in Machpelah Cemetery, Queens County, New York, and not Green Lawn Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio. 4. Inform this person and his/her contacts about the interesting people who are buried at Green Lawn and share a link showcasing the resting places of people such as Gordon Batelle (industrialist), Samuel P. Bush (founder of Buckeye Steel and grandfather and great-grandfather to Presidents George Bush and George W. Bush, respectively), Lincoln Goodale (physician and philanthropist), the Lazarus family (founders of the Lazarus department stores), James Rhodes (three-term governor of Ohio), and Eddie Rickenbacker (World War I flying ace). 5. Provide a link to Green Lawn Cemetery tours, visitor information and calendar of events. 6. Give away a $5 coupon or free tour tickets to the first three people who responding to the Twitter post (assuming there is a fee for the tours). If you are not actively participating on any social network, you are missing out on

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Month 2009


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