Nonprofit Marketing Plan
Developing a Public Service Announcement for Inclusion in your Nonprofit Marketing Plan
A Public Service Announcement (PSAs) first aired in the 1940’s during World War II as a means of boosting morale. Over time, they shifted away from a national propaganda focus and began to highlight special national issues concerning all Americans, especially in the nonprofit marketing arena.
Over the decades PSAs have become a major presence in U.S. television and radio, and for many years stations were required to air these “announcements for the public” as part of the station serving as a “public trustee”.
New PSAs continue to be produced and aired today promoting action from the public. Although stations are no longer mandated to air them for free, many cases still do, or the spots are offered at a very low cost.
Important Public Service Announcement Tips
Keep the Time
The golden rule of nonprofit public service announcements is “remember to keep to the exact time frame allotted by the station.” If a station requests a 30-second spot, they want exactly 30 seconds, no more, no less. A good rule of thumb is 70 words for 30 seconds, depending on the speed of the reader.
Although a word count serves as a guide, it is never a substitute for a stopwatch in hand. Time yourself on multiple read-through to make sure you can be consistent in your pacing. Less is more. Use words that have strong meaning and imagery but always concise. Words have power and even short sentences can have a big impact.
Focus on Local Topics
Focus on local topics and impacts in your public service announcements topics. If you have local chapters or are part of a larger nonprofit, it is always important to direct individuals to the state or local chapters. Sometimes you can use local volunteers or board members in the production and placement of spots to make their message more appealing to local stations. Remember that 75% of public service announcements focus on local impacts, with only 25% promoting national initiatives. If you write a national spot, it will be important to have a local tag line. When identifying what local markets your message should target and how they prefer to receive a message always refer to your nonprofit marketing plan.
Occasionally a charity will try to enlist the support of a celebrity. Some famous examples include Michael J. Fox’s PSAs for Parkinson’s disease and Stanley “Tookie” Williams on avoiding gangs. While famous celebrities may not be available for your Public Service Announcement, local experts and persons of influence are often equally powerful and can typically contribute in other areas of your nonprofit marketing strategies. Try contacting a local news anchor or athlete. Often times these individuals have more time available to support a local charity by being the voice for a public service announcement.
There is a debate among marketing plan professionals about whether it is best to use a professional announcer’s voice or even sound effects and background music. While there isn’t a consensus on the subject, my personal opinion is the more professional a public service announcement sounds the greater the impact it will have.
Always be sure to consult with the station manager before sending out any nonprofit public service announcement. Your first objective should be to contact the public service directors of the network outlets and the major independent stations. With over 900 television stations and 8,000 radio stations, there is very little uniformity within the broadcast industry about the number of PSAs allotted or the criteria used for selection. Sometimes it is best to offer a variety of scripts that include 60-, 30-, 20-, and 10-second spots along with the produced 30- second spot.