We may worry about societal death denial and a consequent tolerance of poor funerals but there’s no denying we’re not, most of us who work in the death zone, much cop at getting society to sit up and take notice of what we think. It’s rare that we come across a serious treatment of death and funerals in the media.
Who’s us? Well, the Good Funeral Guide for starters. I’m useless at playing media tart. By my defiant tone you can easily see that I am making a virtue of a shortcoming. I have no excuse. Is the Natural Death Centre making many waves at the moment? Green fuse? SAIF? SAIF likes to hide its dynamite under a bushel. What about the secular celebrant organisations, the BHA, the IoCF, the AOIC? They are admirably placed to pump out survey results about favourite poems, trends in dress codes, top tunes, that sort of and stuff. If any group needs to demonstrate the emotional value of a funeral it’s them. I’m surprised they don’t do more. And by more I mean anything.
There are some in the death biz who do manage to tickle the fancy of the media. Avalon Funeral Plans recently scored a hit with a survey (it’s always a survey) purporting to show that women reckon themselves past it at 29 while men don’t throw in the towel til they’re 58. Does anyone actually believe this nonsense?
If you’re looking to place a good funeral story, what do the journos look for? The wacky and the scandalous. You’ll never go wrong by underestimating them. Your pitch will fall on deaf ears if you aim high or even medium.
The abysmal Dying Matters recently scored a bit of a hit by proclaiming the results of a Marie Curie survey showing that most men want to die having sex. The story went on to show that actually only 18 per cent of men want to die having sex but hey, let’s not let the truth get in the way of a good headline. Do 18 per cent of men really want to die having sex? It depends how you ask the question, doesn’t it? That’s the knack of running a survey. Skew the questions so you get the answers you want.
The big undertakers don’t like to see themselves in headlines. The only stuff Dignity wants published is in the financial pages where only their shareholders can read it. Big undertakers prefer to pretend to be lots of little undertakers.
Except for the biggest, of course. Co-operative Funeralcare wants us to think it’s ethical and progressive and caring etc. By jingo, we must take off our hats to them. If anyone can dress up old news or no news as new news, it’s Funeralcare. And they’ve done it again. They’ve got a new survey out. It shows that funeral processions are forever being cut in on and sworn at by angry motorists; no one’s got any respect any more . Did you know that? How long have you known it? Here’s a typical account.
The really ingenious thing about this survey is that it’s broken down into regions and it quotes Co-op FDs from everywhere in the country, so the story has hit both the nationals and all the local papers. Fabulous free advertising all conjured up from nothing by cunning PR people. Huge success.
My anxiety is that the Co-op will soon run out of things to survey. If you can think of something for them to do next, please do leave a helpful comment.
As for the rest of us, isn’t it time we got our act together?