This Week on WHITEBALLOON INSIGHTS we talk to Ben about working with older brother Matt and how they put their live streaming skills and expertise to good use during Covid.
Q: Ben, you and your brother Matthew have been at the forefront of live-steaming, particularly of sporting events, for over a decade. Then in 2020 you founded Funeral Streaming, putting your expertise to good use during Covid. We’d love to hear how and why this came about.
With sporting events everything is generally booked months, if not years in advance. So quite early on we could see the writing on the wall with the forthcoming uncertainty and thought it would a good idea to see what else was out there. While doing some research I came across an article about funeral live-streaming in the US, having seemingly adopted it years ago. I then went down a rabbit hole and saw what else was out there. Quite often the quality seemed terrible, especially considering what some people were being charged. It immediately made a lot of sense to us, as we’ve had experiences growing up and while I was overseas with the RAF, where the grieving process was really difficult and as a family we felt totally disconnected from each other. We had all the equipment already to be able to produce something high quality without having to pass on high costs, so we just gave it a go and immediately we saw how it could benefit those in need.
Q: During the pandemic, live streaming was invaluable for the many thousands of families who were unable to attend services in person. Now that people recognise the benefits of live streaming, do you feel that this will become the norm for most funeral services?
I wouldn’t say most, but it’s certainly a lot more popular. The funeral industry has most certainly had its eyes opened to different options that are available for their clients and awareness around what we can do for them. I think it’s fair to say that the industry overall can be a little slow to adopt change, but with such an intense few years and difficult struggles with COVID most funeral directors and churches are now very familiar with what we can do and, importantly, are now familiar with our processes. We’re very discreet and do everything we can to ensure everyone in attendance is comfortable with us being there.
Q: You offer a wide range of packages and options depending on budget and requirements, including a ‘stream yourself’ service. Is this a popular choice?
Most definitely – some days we can have 3 or 4 running. In 2022 it’s quite easy to just start live-streaming from your phone or computer, but it’s difficult to do it well and understanding some of the more technical aspects can be daunting. We wanted to offer something affordable, but still valuable to people. With our support we can get our clients set up and tested well in advance and they can stream directly to our professional and private platform. Some of our clients like to keep it simple, featuring just the stream maybe with a handful of photos, an area for tributes, and the Order of Service, but in some cases we’ve built totally custom pages with video messages, music and other various bells and whistles.
We’ve also recently added a live technical support chat which has proven to be beneficial to our clients. In the past they may have been trying to focus on streaming and also getting calls from those trying to watch, whereas now online viewers can simply just ask us if they have an issue and we can point them in the right direction. It’s all about taking some of the stress off the shoulders of those trying to organise the funeral (while dealing with grief!) and making everything run as smoothly as possible for them.
Q: Once they book, people can customise their web page to include a number of features, such as photo albums, memorial page links and tributes. Are these simple to create, even for those of us who are less tech-savvy?
Absolutely – at the moment we do all the techy work ourselves and just add/change/tweak as to what the client wants, but we are looking to launch version 2.0 soon which can allow them to do everything themselves if they like. In the past we have added such features, but after testing it for a period we could tell that some of our clients were finding it difficult. While at the moment it all seems to work quite well, we know there is most definitely value in streamlining everything for those who just want to book and focus on the day at hand without having to talk to us if they want something added to the page.
Q: You have expert teams throughout the UK. Do you cover all areas?
We do and since we started it’s always been about just going wherever we are needed. While we could probably focus on a smaller area and take away some of the long drives and early mornings, we like just being able to just say “yes” when someone comes to us in a time of need. When we started I used to just travel here there and everywhere from my HQ, at the time, in Norwich, but I never wanted to let someone down who had sought us out. We didn’t necessarily plan to grow like we did but it just made sense to expand our team along with the demand and spread ourselves out across the country. It was a little daunting at first as it can be difficult having a team that all work remotely, and I had concerns about the quality of our work dipping, but I’ve been lucky to work with some fantastic people.
Q: We’d love to know – were your videoing skills apparent even when you were children? And if they were, do you have many home videos taken by you or your bother?
That’s a good question! I believe there are a few family videos around on old VHS tapes somewhere, but I don’t think any of us have a VHS player any more! I honestly think I’d have to say no. Matt was certainly the more technical of us (I don’t think I even owned a laptop until I left the RAF around 4 years ago), but he was more into other kinds of weird and wonderful gadgets. I think it actually all began when Matt, who is/was a keen athlete wanted to film himself to help him progress in his early teens, and then people started asking him to do it for them too. Ryan, our operations manager likes to laugh at me as when I first met him just after leaving the RAF, I was hired by Matt for my organisational skills, not my technical knowledge, and I didn’t even know what an HDMI cable was. But I learnt quick and absolutely love the art form now. We’re always trying to learn more about videography and photography and surrounding ourselves with great people has just made it all work so seamlessly.
Q: And finally, I know that you stream live sporting events. Is there one in particular that you were really excited to be involved in?
I’d absolutely love to get more involved with mixed martial arts and surfing. They’re both sports I love and probably not the first thing that would pop into your head when you think about watching sport live, but I think as we always put our all into everything we do, we would be great for helping those from the slightly smaller sporting communities grow. I’ve also just recently moved and now live very close to a cricket grounds and multiple bowls clubs, so I certainly wouldn’t mind streaming their events as it would be nice to have some work on my doorstep for once!
Thank you Ben for sharing these insights
To find out more, please go to the Funeral Streaming website.