Storytelling about Lantern with Liz Eddy
Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 128. This week we have storytelling about Lantern with Liz Eddy. During this episode, Liz and I talk about how practitioners make the business case or the use case for purchasing Lantern.
Liz is an expert in all things end-of-life planning and wellbeing. Her passion for helping individuals plan and cope before and after loss really comes through during the podcast.
Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think.
Show length: 31 minutes
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Liz builds companies that tackle taboo topics. She founded her first social venture at age 15 focused on dating abuse and domestic violence education in schools. The org has been running (on its own) for nearly half her life.
After graduating with a BBA from Parsons the New School for Design, she ran Special Projects for DoSomething.org, one of the largest global orgs for teens and social change. Then, she joined the founding team of Crisis Text Line as the Director of Communications. She oversaw brand, PR, marketing, strategic partnerships and business development--- growing the org to 12,000 volunteers, 76 million messages, in 3 countries. She left Crisis Text Line in 2018 to launch Lantern, a venture backed Public Benefit Corporation on a mission to change the way we talk about and manage end of life and death.
Liz earned a Masters of Science in Strategic Communications from Columbia University in 2019. She is an active volunteer and Board member for Experience Camps, a one-week free summer camp for children who've lost a loved one. She is also a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, and committee member for the Dying Well Initiative of the Global Wellness Institute. In her free time, she is on a global search for the spiciest food.Follow Follow
Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup. You’re listening to the Use Case Podcast. Today we have Liz on from Lantern, and we’re going to be learning all about her and her technology. And more importantly the business case, the use case for why you should purchase Lantern. So without any further ado, Liz, would you do us a favor, the audience a favor, and me a favor, and introduce both yourself and Lantern?
Absolutely. So, hi. I’m Liz. I am the CEO and co-founder of Lantern, and we provide step-by-step guidance around life before and after death. So basically if you’re pre-planning for yourself or you’re managing the death of someone else, you can find all the resources, tools, services in one location.
First of all, I went through this in April with my father passing. So it’s near, near-ish, to an experience that I had. But what I didn’t know is my parents had planned everything and paid for everything.
Wow. That’s amazing, and very unusual.
And very unusual. So my brothers and I show up at the funeral hall and we’re thinking, “Okay, we got to pick out a casket.” We got to do all this stuff. And they pull out a binder and they’re like, “Okay, here’s your dad’s wishes. Here’s his favorite songs. Here’s what he wants.”
Wow. That’s amazing. And you know, what’s the most unusual part of that is that you knew where to go.
I mean, there’s so often that folks, maybe they even have plans in place but then they don’t tell anybody about it, so you don’t know they’re there.
We were flabbergasted. I have two older brothers. We got out of that session, we go and have breakfast and we’re like, “Is this normal?” We thought we were going to have to make all these really tough decisions and all this stuff, and they’re like, “No, your dad’s already… Your mom and dad.” My mom’s still living. “They’ve already planned, and they paid for it 20 years ago.” I’m like, “Huh.”
Yeah. And what a gift, right? That is the thing we tell people all the time when they curate end-of-life plans, is sometimes it seems not important just because you’re like, “Well, I’m going to be dead anyway, so who really cares?” But the reality is, it is the greatest gift you can give the people you love by having things in order. And you’re living proof of that.
Yeah. Oh, my God. Again, during COVID, or during kind of the beginning of COVID, but still. What I loved about the experience is that they had the foresight. Not just the plan, which was great, which was to also pay for it. I mean, we could have paid for it. We’re all relatively successful, so we could’ve paid for whatever. But the fact that they had already financed it and paid it all off, it’s like, there was no bill. There was no invoice, there was no nothing. It was crazy. And again, not just the greatest gift; it took away stress. Death is trauma, right? And so in any type of traumatic event, car accident to whatever, you’re going to have to consume that trauma, and none of that’s easy. And so let’s talk a little bit about how Lantern… Because I’ve seen companies, especially EAP-wise, I’ve seen HR buy things similar to this but more like a service, and help people through grief and do grief counseling and things like that.
So let’s actually dig into Lantern just a little bit and talk about the benefits. Because it’s going to be benefits to HR, employees, but I can also see this being something that as a recruiter it’s like, “Hey, listen, you’re not thinking about this right now. You’re 23, you’re invincible. You’re not thinking about this. However, this is something that the company cares about, and so this is something you have access to.” And so, I love it. I mean, it might not be one of your larger audiences, but I can see recruiters being able to sell this.
Oh, absolutely. And I think something that’s really important for employers to recognize right now is one in three people are grieving right now, largely because of COVID, but also many other global events, and also just the continuation of the regular things that people die from every year. So this is present in every single workplace whether you realize it or not, and it has huge impacts on of course the emotional wellbeing of employees but also on absenteeism and presenteeism, on general decision making of employees after they lose someone. And it’s interesting that you mentioned anything, because it’s actually a common misconception that young people aren’t thinking about end-of-life planning, for two reasons. One is, young people who have children, end-of-life planning is introduced to you right when you have a child.
Good point. Good point.
So you have to think about what happens to that kid if something were to happen to you. Not to mention also, about 75% of Americans are facing some sort of caregiving responsibility, so kind of now known as the sandwich generation. So not only do they have kids, but they’re also dealing with aging parents and grandparents. And I was that person. I was a 27-year-old working actually in a mental health organization, and I was caregiving for my dying grandmother, and just felt that lack of resources and support. And it was largely what inspired Lantern to come into existence today.
Wow, I love that. I partly said that because I have a kind of a belief. It’s not founded in science, of course, or any research, but it’s a belief that men don’t grow up until they’re 30. So there’s a slight bias in that statement about being invincible. But the things that Lantern helps an individual through, so obviously death, the finality of death… and again, this is company-sponsored and paid for, I’m assuming.
But also does it touch into some of the other things like wills and DNRs, hospice? And you touched on mental health, which again, kind of the mental health for the caregiver, which is critical, but also mental health in the patient as well.
Absolutely. So at a high level, Lantern has free resources that anybody can access. Articles on everything from navigating your own mental health around grief to supporting others; common questions on legal, financial, logistical aspects of end-of-life and death. That’s all available in our resources hub. But when you actually get into the product itself, from an employee perspective, you’re getting step-by-step guidance on creating your own end-of-life plan. So we tall you everything that you need for an end-of-life plan, whether that be will, guardianship, power of attorney, learning what that means, how to create it, who to talk to about it.
History and legacy planning, password storage, what accounts you have, what you want done with your digital legacy. So that’s something people forget a lot about, is we have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, all of these things, and letting people know what you want done with those platforms after you’re gone. And then on the flip side, after a loss we od a very similar process where we walk you through step-by-step, day-by-day, everything you need to consider after a death. So that’s not just the funeral planning, but that’s account closures, dealing with benefits, life insurance, a house, a car, all the belongings. Well, also navigating your own grief.
We also have a concierge service available so you can have a free half-hour consultation with us, where we’ll give you live referrals all around end-of-life and bereavement. And then from the employer side, not only are they able to present this extremely useful product that costs the same as sending flowers to someone, but also we provide a lot of consultative services. So developing a best-in-class bereavement leave policy, identifying benefits and resources, digging into your current resources. So a big one we see is, EAPs have sort of been the place where folks are turning to around end-of-life and death, and they’re fantastic for a lot of things and offer a lot of wonderful things. But when it comes to grief, bereavement, end-of-life planning it’s generally very high-level, so we really dig into the inner workings and specifics of the entire process.
Yeah. I love that, and I want to explore that, because addiction counseling… 100 years ago I wanted to be an industrial psychologist, and so I met with the guy that ran the IO practice for Xerox in Dallas, and he’s wearing a tracksuit. So I show up at IBM in a suit-suit, and he’s wearing a tracksuit. And so we’re sitting there talking and he goes, “Listen, it’s all about productivity. It’s getting them, finding out. It’s divorce. It’s cocaine. It’s this. It’s that. Whatever it is, but it’s getting them back to a level of productivity that works for them and for the company.” So I’ve got to play handball, I’ve got to play tennis, I’ve got to play golf, I’ve got to be… Sometimes it works on the couch, but I can see therapy working from an EAP perspective because it’s bespoke. It’s personalized. Everyone’s got concerns. They’re on some type of journey, right? Grief, there, definitely a journey, and people start and stop in different places, fair.
But there’s also a lot of, just like you mentioned, the checklist of the unknown. The known things of, okay, will and testament, or a do-not-resuscitate, or medical power of attorney. So there’s these things, but then there’s the process and checklist that I just think is first of all really helpful, and I think when you talk about cost I think COVID in a weird way is a silver lining for Lantern in the sense of we’re talking more about mental health now from an HR perspective than we’ve ever talked about it. And the fact that we’re talking about it, because people are going through it, people around talking about it, there’s money being spent on it which is great. I think this is a natural extension of helping people with understanding, this is going to happen. It’s a question of when. And so-
Oh, absolutely. And I think we’re broadly much more aware of our mortality than we’ve ever been before. Something interesting, a pattern that I’ve noticed, and this has been through media, now so much through HR, but there is absolutely a lot more talk about grief. A lot of the mental health resources that are available are not grief-specific. It’s a real challenge in the space as a whole. There are certifications for grief counseling, and many folks that provide mental health services do not have those certifications. They’re just sort of generalized practitioners. And so we hear all the time from our users just having a really hard time finding folks that are professionals specifically in the grief arena. And the other aspect that I find interesting, and we’re really pushing to change, is because we get a little bit clumped in with mental health resources it’s often a forgotten category. This grief and bereavement, the logistics that go around it.
And it really stood out to me recently, there’s been a couple of sort of best places to work lists that have come out, and I actually wrote about this recently, and one of them specifically called out that they based their rankings for best places to work in America based on the benefits and services that they provide. And they had this long, long list of, these are all of the best-in-class workplaces, the services they provide to get through a pandemic year, and there was not a single mention of grief and bereavement. And I was just completely mind-blown. I’m like, “How is that not the first thing on this list, let alone not on it at all?”
Well, and again, it’s been lumped into a benefit or a perk or some type of service, a bespoke service that you can have. I guess like an educational reimbursement. It’s something you can use, but you don’t have to use it, and if you want to use it there’s a process. Well, this isn’t that. I mean, there’s going to be both employees that die, but also family members of employees that die that impact work. Period. End of story. Now it’s a question of what does HR… What does the company, we’ll just go broader. What does the company do? Sending flowers, sending cards, sending meals, stuff like that. All that stuff’s great, but it’s temporary. It’s like the flowers. No matter how pretty the roses, they’re going to die. The meals, no matter how wonderful, eventually they get eaten and whatever, or consumed, and they’re gone. But a process and a guidance, kind of that step-by-step like you said at the very beginning.
It’s like, “Listen, all these things, there’s an underpinning of how to do them, and that’s what we do. That’s how we actually help you go through this. And oh, by the way, if you need to talk to people, yeah, we got that too. So we can help you therapeutically if we need to go that route, but if it’s tactics… Which, bereavement, there’s a bunch of tactics that are inside there that we don’t really talk about. So we can help you with all of that.” I see unpacking that and talking more about, “Listen, just tactically you want people to live their best life and have the best version of them while they’re with you. If somebody in their family dies, minutia how great of a worker they are, they’re going to be consumed by it. And if they die, then now their family is going to be consumed by it. And so the company’s got a place to help them.” And I love the way that Lantern’s positioned, because again, I don’t think it’s a benefit or a perk. I think it’s a necessity.
Absolutely, absolutely. And so much of what we coach our employer partners on is really understanding the depth and the breadth of what’s needed at a time of loss, and making sure that all of their communications and their policies are in place and prepared. We are definitely still very much living in a world where we’re very reactive versus proactive, and I’m feeling a lot of hope as I see more companies come forward to us that aren’t in an immediate urgent situation, and they’re just saying, “You know what? We need to have these things in order, because it will happen and we’re not going to be able to predict it.”
And from an employee perspective, you can only imagine. I can speak for myself and I can speak for some of our users, that if an employee experiences their manager knowing how to talk to them and their executive leadership having the right policies in place and making sure they get the right amount of time off and access to the right resources. Just the level of loyalty that you develop to that company and that leadership, versus the opposite of having a really bad experience, it can completely change how you perceive the business. So even though it might not be used at the level of say like a gym membership, it’s an extremely memorable experience, and one that people will talk about whether it’s good or it’s bad.
Right. What category do people… I mean, again, we touched on it I guess a little bit. But what category do they mostly put you in right now?
That’s a great question. I think probably health and wellness generally is where we land. I mean, we certainly touch on legal and financial support as well, but I think largely it’s the mental wellness of just having that anxiety reduction and that support in the logistical process, and not feeling isolated.
So I’m going to do two relatively bold things, and I say relatively sarcastically of course. One is I believe you should reposition Lantern as an employee experience technology, because retention for the next couple of years is going to be the number one thing that drives HR and companies, is the ability to retain talent. It isn’t going to be finding talent; that’s always going to be a war. But it’s going to be the war of, how do you keep the talent you have? And this is a tool, this is a mechanism to help them engage but ultimately retain talent. And so I think you get yourself out of that category of benefit, perk, any of those things where they lump you. Wellness, all that stuff, where it looks like a nice-to-have, not a need-to-have, and move yourself more over to, “If you don’t do this, another company will and you’ll lose that talent.” And so there’s that. Again, just think about it.
Second thing is I think you need to create a list, again probably as a blog post or just for fun, that has the best place to die. So I’ve won best place to work awards. I know what the process is. I could actually teach people how to game the entire process, if anyone’s ever interested. But the thing is, is flipping that around and getting people to understand that death is inevitable, and it’s all about that experience that you want. Your employee and your employee’s family, their caregivers, the people that surround their employees, you want them to have a great experience. That’s what you do. You touch on all those things, so.
Yup. That is absolutely brilliant, and a great response to what I’ve written about thus far. I love it.
Best Places to Die, by Lantern. Because again, it’s those that actually choose to be proactive. And there are companies that do this on the health side and the health benefit side, where they put a bunch of programs in there for proactive things that I think is actually really great. It’s not just reactive. So I think employee experience. All right, enough about that. When people do the demo of Lantern currently, what do they fall in love with?
You know what’s interesting with our product? It evokes a very personal response, and it’s interesting that you did the same thing at the top of this conversation. Generally when people enter the conversation they’ve had either a personal experience with a loss themselves or they’ve gone through it with an employee and just felt like they needed better preparation. And I would say 90% of the time that’s the first thing that comes up, is sharing their own personal experiences. I imagine that doesn’t happen with most companies. It’s the same thing for us with investors. We know more about the personal workings of investors than I think the average person would, so it generally tends to be a very personal conversation. We learn a lot about the inner workings of the company and how they respond currently.
And then I think it’s really more about the ease of use. We find that a lot of folks that are demoing with us are just really surprised by how organized the system Is and that it’s actually engaging. I think a lot of times when people hear about end-of-life and death planning they’re like, “Oof, this is going to be a slog to get through.” And when they actually see how the product works, and how well it’s organized and how easy it is to work your way through it, it provides a sense of relief. Because it generally is, especially end-of-life planning, it’s sort of this thing we all know we need to do, but we keep putting it to the bottom of our to-do list.
That’s right. That’s right. It’s interesting, because again, you’re looking at these moments that are going to happen. Babies, high school graduation, college graduation, marriage, divorce, death, whatever. Whatever those experiences are, they all impact work somehow, some way. Lantern’s obviously, where y’all are positioned currently y’all are dealing with the one at the end, and helping people through that. And again, what I love about the step-by-step is over the course of time that gets smarter. That’s actually something that you start learning new steps and you start figuring things out, and again, you’re giving people advice at the time when they need it the most, and that can be both on the company side and employee side.
Which, again, I think this isn’t emergency preparedness. I think that sometimes companies like yours, they get categorized, and people are like, “Oh, yeah. We need to have a plan.” It’s like, no. This isn’t a once-in-a-life thing. This is something that, it’s going to happen, and it’s going to happen and you can’t control it. And so what you can do is be there, and be present, and help people and guide people through all of those processes. I mean, we say process. It’s actually many processes that you help people through. Final question. Well, two questions if you don’t mind. One is pricing. You mentioned pricing, and so I just want to understand. Because it’s a SaaS model, I’m assuming.
Yeah. So if you’re coming to us direct-to-consumer, you’re looking at a… We have sort of a free starter plan, and then for the full access it’s $149. When it comes to employer partners, we have it set up here on a sliding scale based on the size of the business.
Right, yeah. PEPM, or something like that, that basically said, “Big companies, here’s what you pay. Small companies, here’s what you pay.” And it’s based on employee size or revenue. Okay, got it. Got it.
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And it comes with those additional consultative services.
Oh, that’s awesome. Final question before we roll out is your favorite customer story. And again, no names. Not disclosing company names or anything like that, but just something. You had a real vision, you and your founders. You have a vision for obviously how you want people to use Lantern. What sticks in your mind right now as just your favorite story?
I mean, there are so many. It’s truly what gets us out of bed in the morning. But one that comes to mind, oddly enough, and maybe why it sticks out so much is it happened three days after we launched. We had a user who actually… This was, again, very, very early on, who we knew. Was a previous coworker and friend, and she lost her father very suddenly, and reached out to us a few days after and she said, “I just want you to know that Lantern is the only thing bringing my mom comfort right now. She feels like she understands what she needs to do, and it’s reducing her anxiety.” And truly, she was just saying all of the things that we had dreamed of and imagined that our product would do. So to have that happen through this, then, was pretty spectacular, and to know that it was a person that we really knew well, and she wouldn’t say it to us if it wasn’t true.
I love that. Wow.
So yeah, it’s pretty amazing.
It’s interesting, because you mentioned anxiety. But it’s also ambiguity, of not knowing. Not knowing what you don’t know, right? So not knowing those things creates all of this angst and anxiety and pressure and stress and all of this other stuff, and anything you can do to mitigate that with the step-by-step guides that kind of help mitigate that… You’re still going to have to grieve. You’re still going to go through a process, but just taking some of those things and making them real tactical. Here’s what you need to do. Like you mentioned social media; here’s what can be done, here’s what you need to do if you want that done, et cetera. It just seems like that would, like you said, reduce stress, but almost create happiness in a weird way, like this is just one less thing that I have to worry about.
Exactly. I mean, the chaos and the anxiety of the unknown is the most common thing that people told us when we were doing our early research, other than of course the group aspect of it. And on top of that, if you don’t have guidance and you’re kind of isolated in your process, it delays grief. So you’re spending all of your time trying to figure out what you need to do, and when, and how, and why. And you’re not focusing on your grief and on your family’s experience during a time when you have the most attention on you for support. So we find that a lot of times, and this happened to me, was you spend all of this time doing all these logistics, and kind of running around frantically when your whole community is there saying, “I’m here to support you.” And then once you get your head above water and you’re ready to really focus on your mental health, a lot of that support is gone.
That’s right. That’s right.
It’s moved on. And the world moves forward, and then you’re on your own and isolated again in that experience.
So it’s almost like a double whammy. You get that earthquake of experience, where you get the initial shock and then all of a sudden you get the shock that happens after that.
Exactly. You hear a lot of people say after a funeral that that’s the part they’re the most afraid of.
Oh, yeah. 100%.
Because everyone goes home and then you have to try to enter whatever it is that your new normal is, often without a lot of support.
And again, if you have someone counseling-wise, someone that’s a grief counselor, certified, that can actually help you go through that process, then that’s not even as daunting. And so again, some of this is just surrounding yourself with step-by-step guides that help you through a lot of the tactics, but also having access to people that are real professionals that can help you through, “Hey, listen. Here are the stages of grief. Let’s go through where you’re at.” And everyone grieves differently. It’s taken me a while, I guess, in my life to understand that when someone dies there is a full range of how people react. And it’s not a good or bad; I remember my wife got twisted up about somebody that didn’t come to the funeral, and I’m like, “Yeah, I don’t really care. That doesn’t bother me.” That wasn’t a big thing to me, but for her it was a big thing. And it’s like, everyone grieves differently. And yeah, Liz, I absolutely love what y’all are doing. Love, love Lantern. And this has been a wonderful, wonderful Use Case Podcast.
Thank you so much for having me.
Absolutely. And until next time on the Use Case Podcast, thanks everyone.
William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.