Friday, January 8, 2016

6 Ways To Invite The Community Into Your Cemetery

Everything old is new again.” That phrase can encapsulate many cemeteries in the U.S. today. What became known as scary places filled with spooky superstitions is once again being embraced by the public.

Today, the community is being beckoned back to the bucolic atmosphere of the cemetery to enjoy a stroll, some music, a tour, even an event … just like our ancestors did in the 19th Century.

These hallowed grounds were designed as park-like settings for the purpose of creating a comfortable and lasting place that people could enjoy.

Today, we can entice our communities back into the cemetery by a number of methods: here are six to get you started.

1. Social Media
Yes, I know, you’ve managed just fine for x-amount of years without resorting to social media, so why try it now? Because this is the wave of the future – actually no, it’s already a very big part of the present. If you can only do one platform, let it be Facebook. There are over 1.01 billion active daily users, and 1.55 billion users per month. Suffice it to say you’ll need to learn the ins and outs, but it will be worth it. After all, your target audience, Baby Boomers, have embraced it.

2. Blogging
Blogging is better than a news release (You do use those, right?) to get your cemetery’s name out there. A blog can keep your cemetery in the forefront of people’s minds by expressing ideas and offering them all kinds of interesting information; it’s a way to stay active in your field, to connect with the community, to promote your cemetery, and to just have fun. It doesn’t have to be a dissertation; it just needs to be informative and real.

3. Volunteers
The main reason people do not volunteer is because no one has asked! Volunteers can be the life-blood of an organization. Start asking for volunteers in your newsletters. (You do that too, right?) Let people know that you would welcome their assistance and have a list of things written down that they can choose to do. Keep the duties simple, let it be fun and your volunteers will become the cemetery’s ambassadors throughout your community.

4. Videos
Today, the technology is too easily available not to have a video of your cemetery. It could be something on the most prominent ‘residents’, or simply a welcoming message from your CEO or superintendent. Once you start thinking, the ideas are endless, and a short, well thought-out video can gain you well deserved attention. Especially if you use it on your website, incorporate it into your blog, and tout it in your newsletter. Also, be sure to post it on your YouTube channel (I’m not going to ask, just get one.) and follow up with a news release.

5. Tours
Cemeteries around the country are slowly embracing “the tour” as an opportunity to get the public to visit their grounds. I’ve heard some people say that there is nothing 'special’ about their cemetery. Sorry, but that’s bull! Every cemetery has something special about it – the land, the story of the founding, the people buried there, the stones and artwork, the community’s history; it’s all relevant and interesting to people. Tours can be led by volunteers or costumed interpreters, and taken by riding a trolley, or walking through the grounds. It doesn’t matter how you do it, it only matters that you do it.

6. Events
Mid-sized and smaller cemeteries are slow to embrace this idea, afraid of appearing less than professional. But events can bring hundreds of people into your cemetery. Lawn concerts are favorite events, so are flower and tree walks, community picnics, and special dedications or remembrances. Some cemeteries have re-enactors portray what life was like during a specific time in the community’s history.

There are hundreds more ideas, but these should get you thinking in the right direction. You may start small, but with time and effort you can keep it growing.

(If you need help with ideas, or suggestions on how to implement those ideas, contact me. I’d be happy to work with your cemetery on a contractual basis. If you have a heritage foundation, or the leeway to create a position for someone to expand public relations and events; build and grow your social media and the online presence, and develop and maintain great media contacts, let me know. I have the knowledge and experience, and am looking for the right opportunity.)

Here’s to making 2016 a year where “everybody knows your name.”

~ Joy

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