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LI funeral homes offering new ad-supported bereavement guides

Ken Maher, co-owner of Forrester Maher Funeral Home

Ken Maher, co-owner of Forrester Maher Funeral Home in Ronkonkoma, seen on July 12, received 500 professionally produced booklets about his business for free. Credit: Barry Sloan

Ken Maher didn’t pay a cent to get 500 professionally produced booklets about his business, the Forrester Maher Funeral Home in Ronkonkoma.

Along with biographies about the funeral parlor’s owners—Maher, his wife, Melissa, and mother-in-law, Margaret Forrester — and its services, the 50-page guide offers information on such topics as the do’s and don’ts of funeral etiquette, understanding grief, and New York State estate plans. It also contains 42 pages with ads.

“As long as nothing was out of our pockets, we were happy,” said Maher, whose firm has handed the booklets out during meetings with families about funeral arrangements and at street fairs.  “Before our brochure, we only had a tri-fold pamphlet about grief.”

Within the last six months, ad-supported bereavement guides have surfaced at more than a dozen Long Island mortuaries courtesy of David Moss, director of Smithtown-based Link Print Media, a custom publisher specializing in the guides.  His firm’s strategy involves reaching out to funeral homes to secure their consent for a bespoke brochure, writing the copy and designing the layouts.  It also pitches local businesses for the ads that appear in the booklets and make the guides possible. Funeral homes receive a proof of their brochure for their approval before it goes to print.

“We found a very niche market, and when you’re selling advertising, [funeral homes are] a targeted market where families need help,” says Moss. A 14-year veteran of custom funeral home brochures, he has developed them in the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.

Positioned as a resource, Moss’s booklets include content about the funeral parlor as well as issues that families face “when a death occurs,” such as power of attorney, irrevocable trusts and selling a family home, he says.

Funeral homes suggest potential advertisers for Link Print to contact.  Their recommendations generally encompass local florists, real estate brokers, attorneys, financial planners, estate-sale firms and monument companies that have a relationship with the mortuary or history with its families.  

Funeral directors say they receive no compensation from the ad sales and recommended vendors aren’t obligated to run an ad.

Link Print Media’s ad rates “start at $20 a week for 12 months,” says Moss, but are open to negotiation and can be higher or lower depending on the ad’s size and its location in a brochure.  

As part of a two-year contract, Debra Remien, a broker with Patchogue-based Realty Connect since last March, paid Link Print Media $3,503 last year for a full-page ad in a brochure for Ruland Funeral Home in Patchogue.

Remien, a fourth-generation Patchogue native, says she advertised because she has known Ruland’s owners for many years and believed their brochure would give her added visibility.  Although the ad has yet to generate additional business, one deal would make it “pay for itself,” Remien says.

While advertising-supported funeral home brochures may sound a bit offbeat to some ears, Paul Levine, president and CEO of Slightly Mad, a Northport advertising agency, notes, “It’s commonplace for various industries to develop custom publications targeted to their audience.  If you go to a deli or a doctor’s office, you see short-form faux magazines that have editorial content with related ads.”

Still, with families apt to turn to the funeral home booklets at their most vulnerable times, Nassau County Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Gregory A. May advises them to take the same precautions that the department recommends to residents before patronizing any business. His suggestions include using licensed vendors; reviewing a company’s insurance and contract terms; and paying no more than a third of a contract’s price up front, with the remainder paid upon the job’s completion or agreed-upon milestones.

For their part, funeral directors say they have also proceeded thoughtfully.  

Before his business agreed to a bespoke brochure, Gregg Minutoli, a principle in the family-owned Dodge-Thomas Funeral Home in Glen Cove, says his father called Ruland for its experience with the booklets.

Prior to Link Print Media's soliciting ads for Ruland’s brochure, owner David Romeo says, he sent letters to potential advertisers about his plans for a bereavement brochure in order to assure them of its legitimacy.  

And since funeral homes have the last word about their brochure’s content, Maher nixed a cleanup service’s ad because he felt it was at variance with the sense of closure that his firm seeks to give families.

“We tried to avoid anything that might trigger a negative feeling,” says Maher.

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