Most non-profit organizations qualify 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, planners must to think about appropriate
formats for stations 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, education, geography, and lifestyle.
However, unless you are mailing to every station in the country, you need
to identify your primary and secondary target audiences, where
they live, and what stations reach them most efficiently.
3. Know What Type Of Materials Stations Want.
Radio stations regularly use a variety of different formats of sound
sheets, cassette tape, and reel-to-reel tape. 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 material
because it gives them maximum flexibility. Also, include PSAs in a variety
of different lengths ranging from ten seconds to a full minute, which
allows stations a variety of options. To add more flexibility, use
one side of a disc for several different musical formats, i.e. country,
rock, easy listening, and the other side of the disc with musical "beds"
(no vocals) and a live announcer script. 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 gatekeepers 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. Think about adding a second color and compelling
graphics to 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
also know what they are worth in dollar terms. Perhaps as important, you
should know where they are not playing. Consider the following questions:
- What are we getting for our money?
- In which of our primary markets are we getting air time and where are
- 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,
7. Act Upon Evaluation Results.
Once evaluation is complete, you should use the results to improve performance.
Depending upon the results, 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
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 tapes and scripts, print
packaging elements and supervise labeling and mailing. You may actually
reduce costs and use your staff more productively by selecting a full-service
vendor to handle these, 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 a case of the fox guarding the hen house.