Ten Tips for Successful Radio PSAs

Generally, any non-profit organization qualifies for broadcast public service air time, including associations, local, state, and federal government agencies, think tanks, health organizations, unions, foundations and many others. In short, competition for air time is intense and getting tougher each year. Besides competition, there is a need to think about appropriate formats for stations on your list, geographic considerations, and how materials will be packaged.

On the plus side, a radio PSA campaign can be produced and distributed with a modest budget, yet yield air time valued in the high six figures.

The following suggestions will help you get the maximum return on your next radio PSA campaign:

    • 1. INCLUDE THE NETWORKS.
      There are dozens of radio networks ranging from national public radio to satellite music network. You should know which ones accept PSAs, the materials they require and the contact person to deal with at each one.

    • 2. DEVELOP A STRATEGIC DISTRIBUTION PROCEDURE.
      With over 11,000 radio stations in the country, which ones should you target? Radio can help you segment target audiences in a variety of ways including: age, racial composition, geography, and lifestyle. However, unless you are mailing to every station in the country, you need to think about who your primary and secondary target audiences are, where they live, and what stations reach them most efficiently.

    • 3. KNOW WHAT TYPE OF MATERIALS STATIONS WANT.
      Radio stations regularly use both live announcer scripts, and recorded CDs. If you know what materials stations prefer and send them what they want, you stand a better chance of getting air time.

    • 4. PROVIDE STATIONS WITH OPTIONS.
      Even though cost considerations may dictate sending PSAs out in a less expensive material format, you should always give stations live announcer copy as well. Some will use it regardless of how you package your materials because it gives them maximum flexibility. Also, include PSAs in a variety of different lengths ranging from 15 seconds to a full minute, which allows stations a variety of options. To give even more flexibility, think about offering several different musical formats, i.e. country, rock, easy listening, etc. That way, a program director or DJ can produce their own PSAs custom tailored to their particular format.
    • 5. USE ATTRACTIVE PACKAGING.
      Public service directors are important gate-keepers whom you must positively influence to get your materials on the air. To generate maximum impact, create an attractive PSA package for your campaign. If your packaging is dull and unimaginative, they may not even take the time to look inside, let alone play your PSAs. Your package should be in full-color and provide compelling graphics on the external packaging.

    • 6. EVALUATE YOUR CAMPAIGN.
      We can't stress how important it is to know where and when your public service announcements are airing and who they are reaching. You should know where they are not playing and why. If you don't know, your boss will probably want to know:

      • What are we getting for our money - what was our ROI (Return on Investment)?
      • In which of our primary markets are we getting air time and where are our weaknesses?
      • What kinds of audiences are we reaching with our message?
      • How does radio compare to TV and/or other kinds of media options?
      • How has it helped us educate, inform, change behavior, generate requests, etc.?
    • 7. ACT UPON EVALUATION RESULTS.
      Once evaluation is complete, you should use the results to improve performance. Depending upon what the results show, consider changing the materials you send stations; test the effectiveness of local versus national distribution in selected markets; contact stations which have not used your materials and find out why. Evaluation data is worthless unless you use it to improve future performance.

    • 8. CONSIDER "CONTRACTING OUT"
      Even after the challenging job of getting your PSA materials recorded, there is still a lot of work to do. You've got to: prepare a budget, compile a mailing list, generate labels, reproduce audio CDs and scripts, print packaging elements and supervise labeling and mailing. You may be able to reduce costs and use your staff more productively by selecting a full-service vendor to handle these important but tedious details.

Also, when it comes to analyzing results, management usually reacts more favorably to external evaluation because they feel it is more credible. Often they regard reports prepared by internal staff as a case of the fox guarding the hen house (no pun intended).

(Updated 9.4.16)