Computerized Tracking of Print PSAs

In the pre-Internet days, if you wanted to be able to demonstrate print publicity or PSA effectiveness, you would probably paste individual clippings into a scrap book and then title the books by subject matter, year or some other method. You would then use an adding machine or calculator to arrive at a total circulation for all the clips and that was your evaluation report.

The advent of the personal computer resulted in developing custom software that would provide much more sophisticated evaluation of print media. The first step was to measure the width and depth of the clip. That information was then entered into the software program which multiplied either the page size (magazines) or size of newspaper clip, times the value for that particular space to arrive at what is called advertising equivalency value (what it would have cost if you had purchased the space). The software would then print out a report showing:

  • Name, city and state of the publication
  • Whether it was a daily, weekly newspaper or magazine
  • Its circulation size
  • The headline from the print PSA
  • The size of the print PSA
  • Estimated value for the space
  • Totals for circulation and value
  • A recap by creative title

In the pre-Internet days, these reports would be printed out and sent via snail mail to the client who would often incorporate them into a larger evaluation report with media feedback for other types of media. Today, with the Internet, print evaluation reports are joined with PSA usage from other media and posted to client reporting portals.

All Digital Reporting

Five years ago there were a half dozen clip services with Burrelle's and Luce providing the largest and most comprehensive coverage. Several years ago those two companies merged, and most of the other ones went out of business, resulting in Burrelle's as the primary print PSA evaluation source.

The state of the art in print PSA reporting today does not involve hard copy clips at all. Burrelle's posts digital clips to its reporting portal, but that information does not provide everything required by our client evaluation reports. As we do with data from Nielsen TV monitoring, we pull the Burrelle's evaluation data into our custom software, add data to it, and post it to our individual client reporting portals.

Putting Data To Use

Data from PSA print evaluation can also play an important part in designing future campaign strategy. Typically art directors like to create large, full-color magazine ads because they look much better in their art director's portfolio. However, the reality of print PSA usage is that less is more.

One of the benefits of doing print PSA evaluation, is that you have a statistical basis for making future decisions on the size of print PSAs that are created. By analyzing the size ads newspapers and magazine use the most, you can obtain factual data on which to base future production decisions.

For example, data resulting from eight different size newspaper ads placed for the National Easter Seals Society showed that five and six column-inch ads were the most popular with the media. An exception to the use of smaller print PSAs is the Wall Street Journal. We have gotten quarter, half and even full-page four-color print PSAs in the nation's largest circulation newspaper. For more details on our placement in the WSJ, go to our blog at: and scroll down to the blog: "The Value of Human Contact."

Tips for High Imapct Print PSAs

To maximize exposure for print PSAs however, the techniques below should he used when distributing them to the media.

  • Add "published as a public service by this [newspaper] [magazine]" at the bottom of ads.
  • Produce 100 line screened ads for magazines and 65 line screen for newspaper.
  • Include a mix of horizontal and vertical ads in the package, leaning towards smaller sizes (2x2.5", 1x5" and 2x3" are most popular).
  • Include both full-color and B&W print PSAs on the CD
  • Code your print media database to record which ones regularly use PSAs and send your PSAs to users rather than "shotgunning" them to all outlets.
  • Put "native files" along with finished hi-res .PDF files on the CD in case publications have to make slight adjustments to sizes
  • Send package to Advertising Director or Publisher, not to editor.
  • Send a letter of appreciation to publisher or ad directors using your PSAs.

With today's highly sophisticated reporting techniques, rather than pointing to a pile of clips, public affairs staff can now prepare impressive looking reports to substantiate their work. By circulating these reports to senior management, they will understand that public affairs is a vital function, and that it is working to support organizational objectives. Finally, and most importantly, the reports demonstrate that the public information budget has been well spent, and that is a strong argument for maintaining this activity in future public affairs budgets.

Other Resources on Print PSAs

For other articles and information on print PSAs go to: