Motivation, old-school style Executive Media has helped businesses and organizations write their stories for years. It’s about branding and messaging and all those things you do to build reputation in the midst of constant changes in communications. One often-criticized change could, I believe, become a simple tool to inspire ambition in millions of school-age kids. You can help.
I’m talking about obituaries. Today’s newspapers write stories about the lives of the dead only when they are famous. For the rest of us, an obituary is what we in the public relations business call “paid media.” If you want the newspaper to include a story about the life of a loved one, you write it and you pay for the space. Obviously, I’m avoiding the word “advertising.” At first, many families resented the cost and rejected the opportunity. More frequently now, loved ones believe that a life lived well deserves recognition. The result, in many cases, has been compelling stories of love, origins, lifelong interests and achievements. This week’s Indianapolis Star has many examples:
A man born in Washington, IN whose Indiana University journalism degree led him into religious writing and then to leadership of Christians for Peace in El Salvador;
A man from Fishers who won membership in the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame for his world records in track and field;
An Indianapolis woman who helped start a successful publishing company and who was “the matriarch to a large and loving family; a mental health crisis-line counselor; a champion for racial harmony; and a stalwart friend.”
In each of these, we find lessons of achievement, of the fruits of hard work and of commitment to ideals and family. Most important, we read about real people, not celebrities with lives so detached from the normal that they have no relevance.
I believe these stories can give kids ideas. So read obits to your children and grandchildren. Encourage teachers to use obituaries in the classroom.
And I believe we should construct our lives to make good reading when we’re gone.