Blog #4: Rolling out the PSAs

Today, our MCJ 158S class will begin work on a public service announcement (PSA) for Saint Agnes Medical Center. A PSA is an announcement that promotes programs of the government or non-profit agencies; it serves the public interest. Most PSA topics revolve around health, fundraising, family and social concerns, community organizations or events, and volunteerism.

I have experience at a non-profit organization in the Central Valley and I know how important these PSAs can be for community events and even hiring. In recent memory, I have caught a few PSAs while driving to campus or on my way home from a late night. Although the time slot may be less than desirable and we are competing with large advertisers, our class can captivate listeners by keeping the following tips in mind:

  1. Do your research
    • How embarrassing would it be if the ladies’ clothing swap extravaganza and fundraiser ended up on a sports radio show? To ensure this doesn’t happen, look up your channels and find the appropriate station to reach your audience (demographics). Be sure the information presented in the PSA is based on up-to-date, accurate research, findings and/or data.
  2. Timely, creative and high recording quality will make the best PSAs
    • If your fundraiser is more than three months away, people are bound to forget and you will compete with more timely events. To get the most reach, create a script that is creative and relevant, but not cliche. A little drama can go a long way in radio since you can only paint the picture through words, music, sound effects. Make sure all recordings sound professionally-produced and meet the specifications of your station.
  3.  Keep your PSAs short and to the point
    • PSAs are usually recorded at 60, 30, 20, 15,  and 10 second lengths, with the most popular lengths between 15-30 seconds. Always send broadcast PSAs in different lengths. The Center for Digital Education states that “a 30-second PSA will typically require about 5 to 7 concise assertions.”
  4.  Highlight the most relevant information
    • It’s like the journalism basic for writing a good lead-tell the audience who, what, when, where and why. This is what will hook them and gives them the most direction to the desired action.
  5. Some important logistics
    • The news department doesn’t really have much use for a PSA, so send all finalized products to the director of public or community affairs. Send your PSA at least five-six weeks before you want it aired. The best time for a PSA is January, following the loads of holiday advertisements throughout the later part of the year. Radio stations provide free air time for PSAs, but there is no guarantee that they will end up in a channel’s rotation.

Example PSAs are featured on the website for WREK 91.1, a radio station in Atlanta, Georgia. Here is one that they consider to be a great PSA:

Hemophilia of Georgia needs male volunteer counselors, 18 years of age or older, for their overnight summer camp to be held July 3 to July 9 at Camp Twin Lakes. To register, call Stephen Crysler at 770 518 8272.

One of the most popular campaigns from the U.S. Forest Service, State Forestry, and the Ad Council is about Wildfire Prevention, featuring Smokey the Bear. You can listen to the 60 second PSA online.

Unlike radio, TV commercials have a bigger canvas to cover and more creative liberty, but they still follow the same essentials of serving the public interest and answering the basic questions. Mashable included the Ad Council’s “Love Has No Labels” PSA as one of their top 10 commercials of 2015

After learning about PSAs, I hope our class finds success in creating a thoughtful and interesting PSA for our client.

-Erika D. Castañon


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