Yesterday I attended a roundtable luncheon called Powerful PSAs, sponsored by the National Association of Broadcasters, TV Access, Nielsen, and Crosby Marketing Communications.
After a year of working in public service messaging through my work on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Inside Knowledge and Screen for Life campaigns, I was intrigued by the invitation and compelled to attend. My goal was to walk away with nuggets of wisdom on how to improve our PSA production methods and distribution techniques in the future.
The session kicked off with a panel of radio and television broadcasters from Beasley Broadcast Group, Inc.; WBAL-TV 11 in Baltimore, MD; NBC Universal Entertainment Group; Black Entertainment Network; and WUSA-9 in Washington, DC.
After listening to the panelists give their insights on “what works,” I realized there isn’t a ‘one-size fit all’ solution when it comes to production elements or getting your PSA placed. While the local station PSA directors on the panel said they value PSAs that provide community angles, the network station PSA directors noted that they value PSAs that are more ‘evergreen’ with national messaging.
Here are six take-aways from the luncheon:
- PSA directors are overwhelmed: One panelist estimated that a director can receive almost 58 or more requests per day. She asked social marketing practitioners in the audience to be patient.
- Go beyond broadcast: With limited air time and PSAs always competing for space with paid ads, relying solely on broadcast channels to air your PSAs could be a mistake. One panelist suggested looking at the PSA as a public service message that can be shared through other mediums such as the Internet and conveyed to audiences through earned media and partnerships as well.
- PSAs should be well-produced and submitted to stations in formats they use: All the panelists agreed that a PSA of poor quality will end up in the rejection pile every time. One sure-fire way to ensure yours does not is to make sure the PSA is high quality and produced in several formats (so that you can send station directors the format of their choosing). The growing trend is to air shorter versions such as a :15 or :20 format, however PSAs in :30 and :60 format are considered to be the most popular.
- Partnerships are the way to go: Finding out which “causes” the station has historically supported could help your PSA to get on the air. Many stations have causes they support, so considering a partnerships with stati
ons that already support your issue is a viable option for ensuring your message is heard.
- Directors are wary of PSAs funded by corporations: All of the panelists noted that commercial ads disguised as PSAs is a growing trend in the fight for air time. PSA directors are resistant to playing PSAs that may ultimately generate funds to a corporation. Instead, they would prefer to air PSAs that have a true call to action for consumers that does not involve a corporation in any way.
- Craft your pitch: While the panelists varied on how they liked to receive a pitch, the one consistent message was to keep it brief and leave off the Word attachments (they aren’t reading them!). The pitch should make the case for how the issue affects the station’s audience. While your PSA may not make it on the air you can position your campaign or client as a resource on the issue, in case a news director is in need of commentary.
What do you think about these tips? Based on your experiences, which tip resonates with you the most?