Want to Create a Highly Effective Public Service Announcement (PSA) Campaign?
Here are nine ways to make your PSAs more powerful. While these tips apply mainly to radio, they may be helpful in other media too.
1. SET THE GOAL
Radio can be a very persuasive selling medium. The right message can motivate millions to take action on your behalf. So your first step must be to decide what action you want people to take. What is the primary goal of your public service campaign? For example, are you trying to change certain types of behavior (stop smoking, help kids avoid bullies, etc)? Do you want people to volunteer for your organization? Are you seeking financial support? Or do you simply want people to know that your organization exists? You may answer, “all of the above” – but your results will fall short if you try to combine all these messages in one PSA. Pick your top goal, and make that the main message.
2. SELECT THE TARGET AUDIENCE
Is there a particular segment of the audience that your message will target? While it is tempting to go after the entire population, the results will usually be less effective than with a focused campaign. So choose a target demographic (male, female, age range, income level, ethnicity, etc.) and keep that target in mind as you follow the next steps. For example, if your PSA will target mostly low-income seniors, then your message should include a phone number rather than just a web address – as some of those seniors may lack web access.
3. CHOOSE THE MEDIUM
We’re talking radio here (an ideal medium for PSAs), but you might want to reinforce your message by adding other media to your mix. Popular choices include web banners, video, and print. Whichever media you choose, be sure you comply with ad industry standards (for example, if you do web banners, they must be designed to fit the standard ad banner dimensions).
4. WRITE THE SCRIPT
Radio is an intimate medium that touches the imagination. So while a ‘straight read’ will get the message across, you might consider starting off your PSA with a short vignette or dramatic segment (for example, we might hear a brief, staged phone conversation). This can capture listener attention from the start. In radio, "theater of the mind" is relatively easy to achieve: just add sound effects, music, and a talented studio engineer. But don’t overdo the drama, or your message may get muddled. Effective radio PSAs usually include a voiceover pro who gives a clear call to action. Ideally, there will be time at the end of the PSA to repeat the call to action, to make sure it gets across to listeners.
5. DON’T PREACH, DON’T BORE, DON’T ANNOY
Unfortunately, quite a few radio PSAs break these rules. No one wants to be lectured to, so avoid using a preachy tone. Next, realize that today’s audiences prefer well-produced messages that have some energy. If the listeners snooze, you lose! Lastly, avoid annoying sounds (sirens, blaring horns, screams, highly repetitive phrases, etc). While these do grab attention, listener reaction is often negative, and some stations will not air content that has jarring sounds.
6. PRODUCTION ADVICE
The easier you make it for stations and networks to broadcast your message, the better the results. So consider writing and producing your PSAs in a variety of lengths (60, 30, 15, and 10 seconds) and styles, to fit the needs of all broadcasters. You might include written copy along with the produced PSAs, for outlets that prefer to get scripts. Good audio quality is critical too, so consider having a professional broadcast company with digital editing and pro studio facilities, such as SNC, produce your PSAs to meet all industry standards.
7. TIMING ADVICE
Some organizations focus on certain times of the year for their outreach efforts. If that is your plan, be sure to allow plenty of lead time for stations and networks to schedule your timely PSAs. For example, if you plan a holiday campaign, try to get your PSAs to stations at least 60 days ahead of the holiday season, and earlier if possible. But we suggest avoiding time-sensitive campaigns. Instead, why not offer timeless and dateless PSAs, which can air indefinitely? Some stations will keep on running them for months or years. That can turn your one-time investment into a long-term return.
8. MAXIMIZE YOUR REACH
You may have created a compelling PSA, but if only a few people hear it, your effort is wasted. Wide distribution is essential for success. You can post your PSAs on a web site for download distribution, which is fine. But telling lots of broadcasters about it is even better. This can be as simple as sending emails to stations. Be sure to include a download link (however, do not email unsolicited audio files — that may be seen as spam). If your budget allows, mass mail a letter to stations, announcing your campaign – or better yet, send stations an audio CD with your PSA campaign. SNC provides CD Mass Mailing to our updated database of thousands of stations, as a turn key service. There is an even more powerful way to quickly get your message heard in all 50 states: SNC offers Guaranteed PSA Placement on up to 700 stations, instantly reaching an estimated audience of 4 to 6 million.
9. TRACK THE RESULTS
It is helpful to know which stations (and which regions of the country) broadcast your PSA. If you do a mass mailing (see above), it is easy to enclose a return postcard for feedback. Alternatively, your web site might ask stations to register before they download. Your PSA script can mention a specific web landing page, allowing you to track the resulting visitors. Or your PSA might include a phone number or extension (separate from your general number) to help track call response. Lastly, if you use an established media company such as SNC for Guaranteed PSA Placement, you receive a detailed post-analysis report showing all stations and markets where the PSA was broadcast.
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