In a Down Economy, Reach All Your Publics with Public Service Announcements (PSAs) as an Effective Tool
Apr 29, 2012 - 10:29:25 AM

( - Public service announcements have been around since the 1960's when a lawyer in Washington thought it would be a good idea as a counterpart to all of the cigarette advertising. It caught on, and the rest is history. The reality is, stations actually need PSAs to fill unsold air time. And Yes, they air in all time slots.

The reasons why a PSA can be effective may be as varied as the reasons a nonprofit may choose to undertake a campaign, but generally a campaign can satisfy one of these objectives:

Push traffic to their website. A widely viewed PSA with a call to action that says “for more information go to our website” can be instrumental in driving new “eyeballs” to your organization’s website.

Support a fundraising effort. A big campaign push on television and radio stations in advance of a fundraising effort means that a viewer may be more familiar with the organization when the mailer arrives at their home.

Promote a new service or program. Whether it’s to promote an effort, get volunteers, or have people sign up for a special service, PSAs are a means to get the word out to the masses.

Set the nonprofit as a leader. It is especially important to “get ahead of the pack” when there are multiple nonprofits with the same or similar mission (for example, there are many breast cancer nonprofits). Frequent visibility can give the sense that the nonprofit is a leader.

While all of these are important reasons to launch a PSA campaign, perhaps THE most important reasons is a benefit many nonprofits are unaware of: the donation of the media time can be taken as an in-kind contribution. This is important because it can help a nonprofit with its programs-to-overhead ratio.

Common Myths
If you’re down on PSAs because you’ve heard that they only air in the “wee hours” of the morning or that it’s only smaller stations use them, you’re falling prey to common myths that we have proven to be false. Year after year we undertake analysis and historically, we find that two-thirds of all airings occur during normal waking ours (5 a.m. – 11 p.m.) and that more than half of the airings occur in the top 100 markets.

New Trends
As we monitor the PSA landscape we are seeing three newer trends emerging.

First is a dramatic increase in Hispanic PSAs. Nonprofits are taking their mainstream PSAs and making them culturally-relevant to the Hispanic community. These campaigns have been wildly successful mostly because the Hispanic community is grossly underserved with PSAs on important topics, especially health, and the Hispanic media has the same needs as their mainstream counterpart, which is to find a way to fill advertising time that goes unsold.

Another new trend is going online with the PSA. This is often through banner placements or other means. The Internet offers benefits like being able to target your audience better by sending the PSAs only to websites that match the profile of who it is you want to reach. Also, if increasing web traffic is one of your reasons for launching the campaign, consider that the person looking at your PSA is already on line and a few easy clicks get them right to your website!

Finally, more corporations get into the act. While stations will NOT donate PSA time to for-profit organizations, corporations are partnering with nonprofits with a like-minded mission. The PSA is distributed on behalf of the nonprofit, and the for-profit has no visibility. One of the most common partnerships is that between pharmaceutical companies and health-related nonprofits. A pharmaceutical company may have a new drug coming out and they may partner with a for-profit dealing with that disease. The PSA message is “check with your doctor for new treatment options.” However, we are seeing more and more non-health partnerships between corporate and nonprofit. It’s actually a win-win for everyone. The nonprofit gets visibility that they otherwise may not be able to afford, the for-profit corporation gets out a message with wide play (since PSAs stay on the air for three to six months and longer) at a fraction of an ad buy, and the consumer hears an important message that may have timely relevance to them.

If this information has motivated you to consider a PSA campaign for your 2012 initiative, you’re taking a step in the right direction. Do seek the help and counsel of a reputable producer/distributor to assure the message is on point and positioned in a way that will give you success with the media. As with anything, there are common dos and don’ts and you can easily avoid pitfalls with free consultation.

Contact Mike McCurdy, Executive Producer of HealthyTelevisionProductions, a division of Call toll free: 877-634-9180 or [email protected]

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