How To Get Results With PSAs
by Margie Goldsmith
Once seen only in print, the public service announcement, or PSA, has
sprouted electronic wings.
With technology's boost, the television PSA
far outdistances its traditional print version and multiplies
the size of the publics that can be reached. If you are looking for a way
to get your client's
message across to millions of TV viewers, enhance
the client's image, and serve the community interest as
well, the PSA may
be the vehicle you need.
Unlike the video news release, designed as a local
the PSA looks very much like a commercial, but the airtime doesn't cost
In terms of value received, a PSA, usually shown nationally, about
25 to 30 times by each station, is
worth several thousands of advertising
dollars. And it can also be used for press events, presentations,
Chances of getting your PSA aired are excellent. On the average, each
airs 205 PSAs a week. Overall, an average of 1 to 1.5 PSAs are
aired per broadcast hour, making a total
of 47 billion impressions on American
television viewers. In a study of 25 PSAs distributed
to TV stations on average usage included:
- Between 60 and 100 TV stations reporting usage
- 130-500 telecasts
- 20,000,000 to 45.000,000 households reached
- 54,000,000 to 121,500,000 impressions (at 2.7 per household)
The broadcasting station interprets the tastes, needs, and desires of
its audience, and determines
which community issues such
as health, safety, social services, civic activities, etc.
should be supported by PSAs.
A most important consideration is whether the client and a particular
subject matter will mesh.
One illustration of an ideal match is AT&T's
sponsorship of a PSA on illiteracy, with the
Assault on Illiteracy Program
as the nonprofit sponsor.
When we discussed topic selection with
district manager for corporate advertising at AT&T, he explained: "We
wanted a subject related to information and communications, because that's
the business we're in.
We also want the public to know that while we are
a gigantic corporation, we're committed to
performing deeds in the public
interest. Illiteracy affects people of all ages, so we know we'll
in all broadcast time slots." With follow-up, we found that the AT&T
spot went to 400 TV stations, aired 1,374 times on 296 stations, and made
an estimated 682,280,000
When you are planning your PSA, keep the following in mind:
- The topic you've chosen should reach the market you've targeted. Stations
can broadcast PSAs in time slots that coincide with a particular audience:
child-related topics run in the early morning; alcohol and drug abuse run
late at night. Subjects that appeal to the general audience are shown throughout
the broadcast day.
- Stations frequently devote a specific time period (a week or a month)
to a particular
campaign or issue such as Heart Month, United Fund Drive,
or Better Hearing Month.
- There are instances when a PSA should not be considered, for instance:
when the organization
is perceived as controversial, such as a religious
or political group; when you are promoting
alcohol, cigarettes, or games
of chance; when there is no relationship between the client and
Each media outlet should also receive:
- A letter explaining the spot, written on the stationery of the nonprofit
and signed by the sponsor.
- The sponsor's tax-exempt number
- A script of the enclosed PSA
- A self-addressed, stamped reply card
for stations to provide feedback
- Any other information your client wants to include (how-tos or tips brochures).
There is some controversy regarding the efficacy of making follow-up phone calls, but if decide to do
them, they will take a lot of time. Because public service directors have other duties and get these
calls all the time, You will have to make between three and five phone
calls per station to actually
connect with someone, and it will take one person two to three weeks, full-time, to contact
Finally, don't expect
immediate results. It can take up to three months for a public-service director
schedule a spot into their rotational inventory. Your distributor should be able to provide you with
very detailed usage reports showing when and where your PSAs aired and you should use those reports to take
corrective actions where deficiencies of exposure exist.