Of the 650,000 people that die in the UK each year, over 70 per
cent are cremated. The most common form of disposal of their ashes is by
scattering, with no urn or memorial to commemorate the life lost.
The Memorial Awareness Board (MAB), works on behalf of memorial masons
and burial authorities to encourage the bereaved to remember their loved
ones in a permanent way.
At the beginning of this year, MAB asked its retained agency, Michael
Dewar Associates, to come up with a campaign to increase memorialisation
in the UK.
To raise awareness about the importance of a memorial as a focus for
grief. In addition, MAB was keen to inform the public about the range of
choice available in memorials and encourage cemeteries to be more
accommodating to the wishes of the bereaved.
Obviously death is not a positive media hook, so Michael Dewar
Associates came up with the idea of the Cemetery of the Year Awards. In
April, MAB joined forces with the Confederation of Burial Authorities
and the National Association of Memorial Masons to sponsor the
The competition was divided into two categories for open and closed
cemeteries and applications were invited from around the UK.
Through press and radio coverage MAB made it clear that it would assess
each cemetery on all aspects, ranging from imaginative garden design and
variety of memorials, to the effectiveness of its links with the local
In July, the PR team released details of the 12 shortlisted finalists to
each of the cemeteries’ local media and in September, targeted the
national media with information on the awards ceremony in
The initial publicity generated around the launch of the awards resulted
in over 70 entries from all over the UK.
In July, regional interest in the shortlisted finalists included an
article in the Scotsman and broadcast coverage by TV stations in the
West Country, Stoke-on-Trent and Carlisle.
The final results of the Cemetery of the Year Awards proved the climax
of the campaign and were covered by all the main news agencies,
including the Press Association and Reuters. Features and news stories
ran in the Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Sun and the Express, while
Country Life magazine ran a full-colour feature.
The widespread media interest in the open cemetery winner, Carlisle
cemetery, focused on its DIY funerals, woodland burials and lack of
restrictions on memorial design and wording.
Centring the campaign on the Cemetery of the Year Awards gave the media
the perfect foil for dealing with an uncomfortable subject. But, while
the tabloids went to town on haunting and ’RIP ratings’ (their own
cemetery judgments), the broadsheets focused on many of the issues MAB
wished to raise. For instance, the Times and the Guardian discussed the
problems of local authority underfunding and overcrowding in UK
In addition, MAB’s central message that memorials are for the living
rather than the dead, hit home. There was much debate about the role of
cemeteries as open public spaces in local communities and the importance
of choice in memorialisation. MAB members were so pleased with the
campaign that Michael Dewar Associates is already organising a similar
event for 1999.
Client: Memorial Awareness Board
Campaign: Launch of the Cemetery of the Year Awards
PR Team: Michael Dewar Associates
Timescale: April to September 1998