Reaching Friends and Family

How do you put a price on love, on connection and on memories? Families placing obituaries, planning funerals, making arrangements have so much to think about. When it comes to sharing the news – newspapers, calls, emails, social media (they may have access to the Facebook account of the deceased) – those methods do not capture everyone who was impacted by the deceased. According to Facebook, when you post something on your personal Facebook page, it reaches between 10% to 40% of your “friends list” over time. For brands (including funeral homes) with Facebook pages, the numbers are even lower. Friends from high school and college, colleagues they worked with for years, people they met at Junior League or Rotary Club, but the loved one placing the obituary never met.

VIEW Leveraging Social Audiences to Create a Better Obituary Webinar Recording

So when newspapers began to offer a service to create a tastefully-designed, targeted Facebook AD to those colleagues, school friends, and shared interest clubs – the families were more than appreciative. The ASTOUNDING things we discovered was how well that Facebook targeting works, and how for the small investment, hundreds of people are leaving comments about the deceased that might never have had the chance to say goodbye.

The Chicago Sun-Times and Utah Media Group, which launched targeted obituaries in July, 2020 shared their implementation and results at the 2020 Local Media Association Digital Revenue Summit.

Targeted obituaries on Facebook, simply put, automates turning obituaries into Facebook ads and sending them to the specific targets most likely to be interested in news of the deceased.

The idea for targeting obituaries came from a funeral director asking an iPublish newspaper partners “could you do this?” said Brian Gorman, co-founder of iPublish Media Solutions, now owned by Legacy.

“We take the picture from a print obit, super-impose it on a choice of backgrounds to build a respectful, beautiful ad that shows up in the Facebook timeline,” he said. “We have a relationship with Facebook and we lock down the parameters and the ad spend with Facebook to ensure the ads will be quickly and successfully placed.”

The greatly simplified interface allows users to select from the few most appropriate targeting choices: Age, geography, civic organizations, education and employment. “You have a managed campaign in about ten seconds,” Gorman said.

Utah Media Group Success

Sally Steed, SVP of Advertising for Utah Media Group, said simplicity is a huge factor in the program’s success in her market.

“For my people placing the ads, it is absolutely flawless using AdPortal. We encounter people at the worst time in their life… ease of use pays for itself,” she said. Sally also noted that questions posed during the setup of the Facebook targeting resulted in longer print obituaries. The ads also seemed to be attracting record levels of interactivity. Click through rates from the targeted obituaries soon reached a 9% with 10% engagement – that is, shares, comments, and likes.

The program is paid for with an assumed rate increase, which families did not mind paying.

Here’s the math: A rate increase of $25 to $49 depending on your market, typically has 50% net margin to the newspaper, said Brian Gorman, co-founder of iPublish Media.

The real story, however, is not in the revenue numbers, but in the way the Facebook ads prompt conversations between lost connections and create a deeper relationship with families, the funeral homes and the newspaper.

Chicago Sun-Times Success

Mary Hoffman, Classified Director for The Chicago Sun-Times told the audience that “the response from the funeral homes and families has been nothing but stellar. Because they are targeting former employees and schools, [families] hear wonderful stories back. We are seeing some funeral homes that we never had running in the Sun-Times before.” Mary noted that the targeted obituaries fit their business philosophy, providing solutions that work for their customers.

The click through rate from the targeted obituaries at the Sun-Times targeted obits also reached 6% and the classifieds department has a series of emailed-in testimonials from grateful families and funeral homes. About 70% of all obituaries are placed by funeral homes, and they are also appreciative of being able to provide an extra needed service to families during difficult times when funerals are often impossible to hold in-person.

Simplicity and service are part of sharing the love, something rarely associated with social media today.

“We have 140 obituary sites, but almost all run a call center, too,” Gorman said. “I’m a firm believer that call center reps become less like order-input persons and more like support persons. That’s good for families, too.”

“If you are a newspaper and are not using iPublish, my question is why?” Hoffman said, in conclusion of the virtual session.

Have you received a thankful testimonial like Chicago Sun-Times and Utah Media Group has received recently from families and funeral homes? Maybe it’s time to explore a partnership with iPublish to increase your service proven to help people in their time of grief.”

iPublish Media Solutions, the leader in self-serve advertising software, runs 600,000 obituaries per year on 140 ad portals. Legacy is the largest provider of obituaries in the world.