The deathcare industry is competitive, and it’s made even harder as you face challenges with discounters, staffing issues, and meeting families’ ever-changing expectations.

That’s why you need a source of solid advice, ideas, and information that will strengthen your funeral home, cemetery, or cremation business and help you become the best in your market.

It is the Leader’s mission to help today and tomorrow’s professionals take their firms to the next level.

Want us to feature your firm? Have a story idea for us? Would you like to share a news release? Email us at [email protected].

The Team

Courtney Gould Miller: Managing Editor of The Leader and Chief Strategy Officer of MKJ Marketing

Courtney is a “go-to” resource in digital marketing for funeral homes and cremation businesses, leveraging MKJ’s Digital 360 program to drive traffic and generate pre-need and at-need leads from search marketing, social media, blogging, email marketing, and online ads. She completed graduate studies in Digital and Content Marketing from Duke University and is a frequent author and speaker in the deathcare and end-of-life industries. In 2016, she established MKJ’s Nashville office where she leads MKJ’s continuously growing digital team. Courtney also serves as Legal Counsel for MKJ Marketing and advises funeral homes on best practices for risk management and business strategy from her years of experience representing Fortune 500 companies as an attorney at international law firm O’Melveny & Myers. She also consults and publishes on importing caskets, urns, and merchandise to the U.S., most recently with an article in ICCFA magazine. She chaired MKJ Marketing’s 2015 International Death Care Import-Export Summit in Los Angeles, CA, that brought together experts in caskets and urns, trade law, and logistics to talk about what deathcare professionals should consider when importing caskets and memorial products abroad. Courtney completed her undergraduate degree at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, focusing on Human & Organizational Development. She earned her law degree from UCLA School of Law.

Kara Apel: Editor of The Leader

Before joining The Leader team, Kara worked in broadcast journalism for nearly 10 years as an award-winning Digital Content Producer. Most recently, she worked at WSMV-TV, the NBC affiliate in Nashville. During her time there, she won two Emmy Awards and one Associated Press Award for her news coverage. Prior to this, she was the sole digital editor at WRDW-TV in Augusta, GA. She was able to cover many exciting stories, including working as a photographer at the Masters Tournament. Kara graduated from the University of South Carolina with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. During college, she was the editor-in-chief of The Daily Gamecock, the student newspaper at the University of South Carolina. She also interned at The Post & Courier in Charleston, SC; the corporate offices at the E.W. Scripps Company; and WCPO-TV in Cincinnati, OH. She is a past recipient of the Scripps Howard Foundation Scholarship. In her free time, Kara serves as a leader within the Junior League of Nashville and volunteers at the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.

Marilyn Jones Gould: Host of Leader Interviews and President of MKJ Marketing

Marilyn is highly regarded throughout the funeral industry as one of the most popular convention and meeting speakers, applying her counseling, communication skills, and industry knowledge to the areas of professional sales, customer service, arrangements, and branding. She is also the creator of four comprehensive DVD training systems that are recognized as the best in the industry. She holds a master’s degree in communication from Purdue University and is the past president of the Tampa Bay Advertising Federation. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and has been recognized as having received the highest-earned international recognition for professional speaking, the Certified Speaking Professional. Only 400 professional speakers in the world have achieved this recognition. Marilyn has also served on the board of the National Funeral Service Foundation. She was recognized by CANA and the ICCFA for advertising awards on behalf of MKJ clients and was honored by the National Funeral Directors Association with the Initiative Award, which annually recognizes an exceptional individual who has made substantial professional contributions to the funeral service. Marilyn has been recognized by Outstanding Young Women of America, Who’s Who of American Business Executives, Marquis Who’s Who of American Women, and International Who’s Who of Entrepreneurs, the Silver Screen Award from the US Industrial Film Festival, and over 25 Addy Awards from the American Advertising Federation.

Glenn H. Gould III: Contributor to The Leader and CEO of MKJ Marketing

Glenn is routinely sought out by owners and managers in end-of-life care for his research and strategic planning. He has conducted more than 600 market profile and prospective trade area studies in the United States and Canada. Glenn has moderated and created research reports on 100-plus test panels and focus groups sessions for various vendors, including cemeteries, funeral businesses, and associations. He has worked with Wilbert, Inc., Aurora Casket Company, the Funeral Service Foundation, Columbian Financial Group, Consolidated National Life, and Stewart Enterprises/Fortiss. Glenn’s articles appear regularly in all of the major industry publications, and he is a frequent presenter on funeral service marketing at seminars and conferences. His books, Deathcare Marketing: 25 FAQ’s and Funeral Home Marketing: Moving the Bottom Line, serve as textbooks in mortuary schools across the country. Glenn has created expert opinions and testified in multiple civil suits as an expert witness, served on the Board of Directors at the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science, and instructed the Small Business Class for the School of Mortuary Sciences at St. Petersburg College. Glenn’s work experience includes executive and consulting positions with Bausch & Lomb, General Mills, Batesville Casket Division of Hillenbrand Industries, and Bethlehem Steel. Glenn held positions as Manager and Director of Human Resources, where he developed and implemented research studies of employee groups, in addition to recruitment and selection of corporate executives and manufacturing engineers. Glenn holds a lifetime accreditation from the Society for Human Resource Management as a Senior Professional in Human Resources, the highest level of accreditation granted.

Emma Horton: Contributor to The Leader

Emma Horton is a Nashville native and current senior at High Point University, pursuing a degree in Strategic Communications. Her degree encompasses digital strategy, social media, traditional advertising, copywriting, and public relations. During her time at High Point University, she has served as Academic Achievement Chairman for Zeta Tau Alpha Fraternity and has gained institutional academic recognition by way of Alpha Lambda Delta, the High Point University Honors Scholar Program, and the Presidential Scholars program. She began working with MKJ Marketing in May 2019. Emma focuses on bringing a Generation Z outlook into today’s industry, including topics such as the death positive movement and popular portrayals of death in the media.

Kevin McKay: Contributor to The Leader and Manager – Cremation Division Mid-States Recycling & Refining

Kevin McKay started working in the precious metal recycling field in 2001, focusing primarily on dentists and dental laboratories. Since 2014, his focus has shifted almost exclusively to the crematory profession. He has been published in numerous dental and deathcare periodicals and journals over that time. He has spoken to groups large and small with an emphasis on the education of the smelting and assaying process.

Jessica Farren: Contributor to The Leader and Public Relations Specialist and Staff Writer at Answering Service for Directors

Jessica (Fowler) Farren is the Public Relations Specialist and Staff Writer at ASD – Answering Service for Directors. She has answered the calls of funeral homes nationwide for more than 15 years. Jessica manages ASD’s company blog, social media accounts, and digital marketing. She has been published in numerous funeral trade magazines and has written articles on a variety of subjects, including communication, marketing, business planning, technology, and funeral trends. To contact Jessica, call (800) 868-9950 or email [email protected].

Mollie Lacher: Contributor to The Leader and Owner of Sunny Care Services

Mollie Lacher is a Tennessee native with an undergraduate degree from the University of Tennessee and a graduate degree from Vanderbilt University. Mollie has worked in project management for the majority of her career and was most recently a project manager at Bridgestone. After the unexpected passing of her brother-in-law, Mollie felt a calling to start a business that helped other families like hers navigate all of the to-dos after losing a loved one, and thus, Sunny Care Services was born.

Coleen Ellis: Contributor to The Leader and Founder of Two Hearts Pet Loss Center

Coleen Ellis started Pet Angel Memorial Center, Inc.® in 2014, following the death of her dog, Mico. This was the nation’s first standalone pet funeral home. Due to demand, Coleen founded Two Hearts Pet Loss Center in 2009 to guide people who wish to provide meaningful pet deathcare services in their communities, as well as to be an educational resource in the pet grief discipline. She has a certificate in Death and Grief Studies Specializing in Pet Loss Companioning as well as being Certified in Thanatology and a Certified Pet Loss Professional.

Traci Martin: Senior Marketing Writer at Legacy.com

Tracie Martin is the Senior Marketing Writer at Legacy.com, the top destination for online memorials and end-of-life resources. During her twelve years with the company, she’s spent a lot of time with grieving families and the funeral directors who serve them. She finds it an honor and a privilege to use her broad experience in B2B communications, content marketing, and end-of-life issues to help funeral homes connect ever more deeply with their communities in the constantly evolving digital world. A novelist, beach-glass collector, and graduate of the University of Michigan (Go Blue!), Tracie lives outside Chicago with her husband, two children, and a dog that can’t be trusted around any table. You can find her on LinkedIn here.