Ten Tips for Televised PSA’s

In any business, it feels good to help do good. At 4media group, we like to do good by doing what we’re good at – and one of those things is the production and distribution of Public Service Announcements, or PSAs.

There is more than one way to create an effective PSA, and there are many media you can use to get your message to the public. But for the purposes of this article, here are ten tips for crafting a successful television PSA campaign:

  1. Always remember what a public service announcement is.  And isn’t. PSAs are messages meant for the public good. There is no law requiring broadcasters to air PSAs anymore, but they continue to do so when they feel that the message brings a benefit to the community. Since PSAs are aired in slots that would otherwise go to paying advertisers, stations are picky about the PSAs they choose to air.  If the decision-makers feel that a PSA is promoting a brand, product or service, they will deem it advertising and require payment for airplay.  Please note that some stations will require proof of your organization’s 501-c3 (not-for-profit) tax status before providing free airtime.
  2. The production value of your spot is key.  PSAs run alongside commercials and should hold their own. They should look good, sound good, hold the viewer’s attention, and state their message clearly and concisely.  Celebrity talent can help get your spot on the air, but a strong creative concept can have as much appeal as a famous face.
  3. Provide several lengths.  For television PSAs, it is customary to provide broadcasters with 30 and 60 second spot lengths. This provides television traffic departments with more options, and 60 second spots provide organizations a greater opportunity to communicate their message.
  4. Deliver a strong call to action.  Your PSA should engage and resonate with your target audience. If it’s effective, your audience will want to seek out more information.  Be absolutely clear about WHERE they can go for more information, but more importantly WHY they should go there and WHAT information or aid is available for them there. Do not send your audience to the main page of your website and hope that they will find their way to the correct sub-section!  Create a microsite with an EASY to remember URL.
  5. Consider radio.  You’ve already gone to all the trouble of coming up with a creative execution and copy for your TV PSA. Why not adapt that to a complementary radio campaign?  Today’s digital distribution methods allow you to reach thousands of radio stations in the U.S. in one fell swoop. Do it!  The cost is relatively insignificant, and the results are tremendous.
  6. Consider Spanish. For minimal additional cost, you can create a Spanish-language version of your campaign and expand you reach.
  7. When to distribute?  The beginning of the year is a common time to launch a campaign, but nearly any time of year can work.  If possible, avoid launching during sweeps and during the lead up to Christmas when the stations have more ad time sold.  Pre-election season may also limit airtime of your PSA.  Remember, however, that you’ll be tracking your PSA for at least 6 to 12 months so airplay will wax and wane through these cycles.

  8. Ask local offices of your organization to help with your PSA promotion. Since TV stations want to actively serve the community they are in, they may respond to pitch calls and outreach from local offices or stakeholders.
  9. Reuse your broadcast TV spots on the web and in social media. Support the broadcast campaign with promotion posts and tweets using the video or use it in native advertising or as pre-roll online.  You can also reuse the spots for OOH advertising and in paid media.
  10. Can I re-distribute my PSA next year? If the message is still relevant, then you can certainly redistribute it.  Some stations may pick up your spots for another run, and new stations may discover it on the second go-round.  We’ve seen PSAs recycled for 5+ years still garner significant airplay.  We also recommend tracking PSAs for a full 12 months after distribution in order to capture the true success of your campaign.

Want to know more about the creation of great public service announcements? Have an announcement you’d like help producing or booking? Reach out – we’d be happy to help.