Ideally every funeral home should have a comprehensive public relations and communications plan that will be enacted in the event of a crisis. In developing these plans, it would be helpful to prepare scenarios of possible disastrous events to allow management and staff to determine how to deal with them before they eventuate. The reality is that most funeral homes will not have such a plan in place and therefore we offer some insight into the 6 steps to take to manage a crisis situation.


  1. Define the extent of the crisis
  • Take time to identify what has happened and why is has happened.
  • Try to understand how widespread the backlash will be. Local, regional or national.
  • How have other businesses responded in similar situations? Could you use a similar strategy?


  1. Establish a unified response
  • Do not distance yourself from the issue. Own the problem and be upfront if you have made a mistake.
  • Develop and maintain a unified position and supporting messages and keep the messages simple, clear and consistent.
  • Be sincere when making apologies; empathy goes a long way in crisis management.
  • Designate one person as the company spokesperson for media and public contact. This can be the business owner/manager or a specialist consultant.
  • Staff should be made aware that they are to refer all incoming contact to the dedicated spokesperson.


  1. Act promptly
  • Cooperate with media. Target communications to those affected by the crisis and those who can effect action (staff, stakeholders, government officials, media etc).
  • Immediately make a simple statement indicating awareness of the situation, action being taken and willingness to inform media and public of details when they are known.
  • Openly and honestly provide as much detail as possible.
  • If appropriate, arrange for a news conference for the designated spokesperson as soon as facts are known.
  • Offer help to those suffering where possible.
  • Use facts to quash rumours.
  • Keep stakeholders informed of developments (staff, funeral associations, media etc)


  1. Establish media response policy
  • Schedule briefings to relay data, correct misconceptions and maintain positive media relations.
  • Do not stonewall or deny that there is a crisis.
  • Treat all media equally; no ‘exclusives’.
  • Stick to the facts.


  1. Keep details well documented
  • Keep records of all replies (for example: media outlet, reporter name, date, time, respondent, summary of response, follow up requests etc).


  1. Conduct a post-crisis review
  • Look to learn from the crisis. Get together with your team and breakdown the events to fully understand the how’s and why’s of the situation. Use this time to put policies and procedures in place to mitigate the likelihood of the issue reoccurring.  


It is not always possible to avoid a crisis occurring, however if a situation eventuates, then the key to a good public relations strategy is to take responsibility of the issue; be sincere in your concern; and be available to speak with the media and public throughout the ordeal.