Learn about storytelling

What funeral directors can teach you about storytelling

Death. You might consider it a challenging topic for a reality documentary series. Heck, many of us find it challenging to even discuss it.

Recently I discovered The Casketeers, a reality TV show following the daily goings-on at Tipene Funerals, in West and South Auckland. This quirky series has been a run away success and was recently picked up by Netflix.

The Casketeers follows young funeral directors Francis and Kaiora Tipene, and their lively team, as they go about collecting bodies, dressing the deceased, modelling caskets, welcoming families, arranging funerals, singing waiata and officiating at funerals.

These touching, poignant episodes are interspersed with delightfully comic moments, as we go  behind the scenes in this family business. There’s the mystery of who raids the biscuit tins, the battle between the overspender and the budgeter, the funeral director’s too tight suit and perfectionist Francis’ love of the leaf blower and the carpet cleaning spray. As for the working relationship between husband and wife – well none says it better than Francis: “ Let’s not confuse how much I love her with how much I don’t like working with her.”

It is lively and warm and funny and touching. In almost every episode, I have giggled at the banter between characters, and I have cried for someone’s loss.

The tenderness and care with which the Tipene team care for the deceased and their families, is genuinely moving. They chat quietly as they dress the body, treating the deceased with the utmost respect and love, advising them gently of what is about to happen at every step, just as I once did with my newborn babies. They show incredible attention to detail, determined that the deceased will look their absolutely best and that the funeral home will be impeccably presented.

When I first saw the programme I wondered how they ever convinced loved ones of the recently deceased to participate.  But by respectfully sharing their work and the stories of the departed, the Tipenes are normalising the process of letting go and changing the way the audience think about death.

They show us how to be comfortable with a dead body, how to honour a loved one and how to embrace death as a normal part of life. Through their eyes, what could be a morbid topic becomes heartwarming and life affirming.

Having recently been through the funeral of a loved one, I found The Casketeers immensely reassuring.  The depth of care behind their work tells me that a loved one would be in safe and respectful hands. The good-natured sibling-like banter between the staff reminds me that we’re all human and a little humour can get us through the toughest times.

If we’re lucky enough, the times we need to engage a funeral director will be few and far between. And when that day arrives, we may not know who to engage or where to start.

By allowing us behind the scenes, we meet the Tipene funeral directors as human beings and quirky characters. We see the gentle, respectful and caring way they work with the deceased. This breaks down the barriers and the whole business of funeral directing feels more human, loving and approachable.

This is the power of storytelling.

This is the power of letting your customers see behind the scenes inside your business.

Now I’m not suggesting you seek opportunities to star on reality TV, but I am asking you to consider how you could let the audience behind the scenes in your business.

How could you demonstrate the care that you take over your work, in tangible or practical ways?

Where could you break down barriers or shift taboos, by allowing clients to see the way that you work?

What might clients be prepared to share in a case study? Hint: It may be more than you expect.

How can you use the power of storytelling to connect with your potential clients, or even change the conversation or perceptions around your industry?

Leave your ideas in the comments below – I’d love to hear them.

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Christine Sheehy will help you refine your core message, find your authentic voice and show up boldly online, so you can grow your tribe of loyal followers AND your business. She teaches women entrepreneurs how to consistently create engaging content and stand out in a noisy online world, through journalling challenges, messaging coaching, copywriting and intimate writing retreats. Christine writes, dreams (and persistently tries and fails to give up coffee) from a seaside village near Matakana, New Zealand.

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