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Success Leaves Clues: A Profile Of Elder Decisions

“There is a great deal of opportunity to create a niche in your community once you have the training and if you are willing to put in the time to market your practice and develop the network of referrals you will need in order to grow,” say Arline Kardasis and Rikk Larsen of Elder Decisions, which scored a major marketing success with National Public Radio in April.

Arline and Rikk graciously agreed to an interview about the actions they and their partners, John Dugan, John Maher, Crystal Thorpe, and Blair Trippe have taken to garner such fabulous media attention for their mediation work.

Tammy: Elder Decisions has had success getting stories in several major media outlets, including CBS Evening News and National Public Radio. I’m guessing mediators everywhere are wondering, how did they do it? So what was the path to your success with such major P.R.? Please tell me your story!

Arline and Rikk: At Elder Decisions, we believe that our work has three paths: first, working with adult families to develop thoughtful decisions together around eldercare and elder transitions, estate planning and inheritance, and other difficult family disputes; second, training experienced mediators to work in the emerging field of elder/adult family mediation; and third, raising public awareness around mediation for adult families and elders. So, writing articles for all sorts of publications and delivering presentations to large and small audiences is an integral part of what we do in an effort to inform eldercare professionals, dispute resolution practitioners, attorneys, court personnel, and the general public about elder mediation. This work which is shared by all of us at Elder Decisions, has increased our visibility – and, as a result, journalists and writers have come to us on many occasions to provide expertise for their television, radio or print stories.

Tammy: Did you set out to build relationships with particular media outlets or reporters?

Arline and Rikk: We sent press releases to lots of publications when we were getting started in 2003/2004. We followed up with phone calls and emails but had no immediate results. Over time journalists found us online when they were researching stories. A reporter from CBS Evening News with Katie Couric interviewed our partner, Blair Trippe, and spoke with members of a family who had used her as their mediator. There was also an in-depth story in the Boston Globe featuring another family; and an Associated Press article appeared online at ABC News, CBS News,,, and The Washington Post.

Tammy: For a mediator just starting on the path of building a P.R. plan, what do you recommend they do first and foremost?

Arline and Rikk: Write, write, write. Articles are very important. They have a long shelf life and they are searchable on the web. Local papers, newsletters and journals are always looking for stories, and is also a great venue.

When you deliver workshops to professional organizations, elder services networks, business groups, etc, you will often find that you will be approached for an article in a newsletter or a blog. Say yes. And if you are looking for ideas, please visit our website where you can peruse our library of articles and our list of speaking engagements and media coverage.

And to be sure to follow Tammy’s advice as to how to develop a presence on the web using the newest social networking technologies – this is definitely not our strong suit and we still have a lot of work to do in this area.

Tammy: Do you have any other advice or insights for mediators that you’d like to add?

Arline and Rikk: Elder (adult family) mediation is a new field. There is a great deal of opportunity to create a niche in your community once you have the training and if you are willing to put in the time to market your practice and develop the network of referrals you will need in order to grow. We have found that our team approach has been effective for us in every possible way, including: ongoing inspiration, motivation, efficiency and division of labor, peer review of cases and greater exposure in the community. Also, ACR may soon be adding an Elder Mediation Section. Those who want to learn more can write to us for contact information. And we are always happy to speak with mediators and eldercare professionals who want to learn about this field.

Elder Decisions has a unique niche and clear target market, has strategically networked and built their credibility online, and used a team business approach to maximize their reach and exposure. Great lessons in mediation marketing. Thanks, Arline and Rikk!


Tammy Lenski

Dr. Tammy Lenski helps individuals, pairs, teams, and audiences navigate disagreement better, address friction, and build alignment. Her current work centers on creating the conditions for robust collaboration and sound decisions while fostering resilient personal and professional relationships. Her conflict resolution podcast and blog, Disagree Better, are available at… MORE >

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