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Five questions: Silver Celebrants

Robyn O’Connell is the owner of Silver Celebrants, a bereavement service provider, and believes in doing more than just what’s expected. She’s written children’s books to help the very young deal with tragic loss, and been on radio and television to talk about how to cope.

How important is your website to the business?

Not a lot of business comes through my website, however it is an essential tool in what I do.

Families I work with are able to look me up, see my work, and this gives them confidence at a time when they can be feeling quite vulnerable. The links to YouTube also give them a chance to see me ‘present’, which also adds to their faith in me.

How did you get started as a celebrant?

Like most celebrants, I went to a funeral conducted by a celebrant that was quite literally ‘mournful’ – where the person’s life was not celebrated and I came away sadder than I arrived. I was more interested in a spider on the wall than the uninspiring words I was hearing. Then, when an aunt died and the family had no money to pay for a celebrant, I offered to do the service for them. At the end of the service, the funeral company asked for my card because they loved what I did. It should be noted though, that although I did give them my card (when I hurriedly got them printed), I never did receive a funeral from that company – however, the door was opened.

What is your strategy for gaining media coverage?

Rather than trying to promote ‘Robyn the celebrant’ I approach radio stations at Christmas time to try and encourage them to talk about how to deal with the first holiday period when someone special to you has died. Although I am normally introduced as a funeral celebrant, this is really secondary to the message I am trying to convey; therefore my ‘talk’ is not about ‘me’, but rather what people can do to help out others.

How has media coverage helped?

Because I am not about promoting myself, I seem to get a very good response, and they are willing to have me back the following year. It is surprising though, the number of people who hear you, and you just never know who that will be.

What other ways do you use to promote your business?

I give talks at nursing homes and community groups, as well as presenting at seminars and conferences. The time I donate to these sessions to educate the public on whether to pre-organise funerals, deal with children and grief, or to deal with those who are bereaved, has often led to me being paid to do training sessions for staff, or asked to do funerals for the families of people who have attended my sessions. I believe it is about giving back to our society, the more you give, and the more you receive back.

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