Close the Door Gently When You Leave

“Dead on” was the apropos but darkly funny response from a reader of Joan’s April 2009 SMPS Marketer column, which addressed a difficult topic: announcing the death of a partner, especially someone still responsible for the firm’s future. 

Writing from experience, Joan lists 13 points to consider from the firm’s point of view in order to both cement the legacy of the individual and also protect the reputation of the ongoing firm. This “unenviable and unavoidable task” includes determining the central message; immediately locating or developing an archive of accurate information; composing an elegant release that will satisfy the affected office, clients, and if at all possible also the family; and dealing with the sometimes tactless media on deadline. 

“It’s an uncomfortable topic … and it doesn’t get any harder than this for a public relations professional,” Joan admits. “Nevertheless, it’s important to be prepared.

We’re interested in hearing about your own similar experiences.  E-mail Joan with your comments at, or use the “Ask Joan” feature on this Web site.