Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Five things to remember when revising your regulations

Julia Sullivan,
Creative Director
Salting, spraying and gravel – oh my! My team and I have been working with the Sunset Memorial Park Grounds Superintendent on a new regulations sign.

Many parts of the existing sign are still important, such as always allowing cut flowers and the restrictions we have in place during mowing season. But there were many new issues that I hadn’t even imagined. Some visitors are coming to the memorial park and salting, spraying weed killer and even adding gravel around their loved ones’ memorials. Others insist on leaving statuary next to a memorial, but don’t want it moved when the section is mowed and maintained.

It didn’t take long for the wish list of items to be included on the new sign to grow far too long for any one sign to hold. So how did we whittle down the list without sacrificing information?

First, we gathered the most comprehensive, specific list we could. We included everything that we could ever possibly want families who visit the memorial park to know. Then we got to work doing some strong editing. Here are the top 5 things we kept in mind:

  1. Remember your audience is families who trust you to take care of their loved one. It’s easy to get focused on problematic visitors or times that someone violated your regulations. But keep in mind that your regulations sign is probably the first thing most people see when they enter your cemetery or memorial park. What kind of a mood does it set? Is it welcoming or does it sound like a lot of rules for a classroom of misbehaving children? Never forget that your sign is being read by families who are trusting you to take care of their loved one. They want a place to share their most precious memories, and your regulations sign should honor that responsibility.
  2. Remember that a sign can’t (and shouldn’t) replace an in-person conversation. It’s certainly a good idea to have your regulations posted clearly, but no sign can ever replace an in-person conversation. If you see someone violating your regulations, don’t expect the sign to take care of it. Instead, practice exactly what you and your staff will say to them to help them understand why the regulations are in place. It may be as simple as explaining the rules and where to find them.
  3. Remember to focus on the typical visitor to your cemetery or memorial park, not those that stand out. Just because one person dug holes to plant mums around their loved one’s ground memorial, it doesn’t mean that everyone who comes to your cemetery will do the same thing. When it comes to signs, be sure you’re focusing on the 80 or 90% of well-behaved, well-intentioned visitors. Then, address the outliers one by one. It’s like a classroom. I always hated it when one kid would act out, but everyone would be punished. 
  4. Remember to build trust by focusing on what is allowed vs. what is forbidden. Which would you rather read? Option A: No shepherd’s hooks allowed from March 1 to October 1. Option B: Shepherd’s hooks are welcome October 1 to March 1, when we are not mowing.
  5. Remember to keep the wording simple and inclusive. When the internet was still young, malicious companies would buy domain names like www.jackspizzastinks.com and then offer to sell them to Jack’s Pizza for a ridiculous amount of money. The problem was that there was a nearly limitless number of potential domain names, so you could never buy them all to keep one from being posted online. In the same vein, you can waste a lot of words on a sign trying to list out all of the items that are allowed or not allowed in your memorial park. Instead, find categories that are self-explanatory. It’s much easier to read “only cut flowers are welcome” instead of “potted plants, hanging baskets, silk flowers, wreaths, statuary, solar lights and stuffed animals are not allowed.” 

This article originally appeared in Modern Memorialization, Trigard Memorials' weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/thursdays.

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