At a time in history when it seems that every day we are experiencing historical events that have the potential to literally change the world around us, how do we, as communications professionals, break through the noise? Forget the noise for a second, what about breaking through the fear, the hype and the panic to tell a story that might actually affect you, your family, your neighbors? Can we? Is it even possible? Does it even matter?
To these questions questions, I submit that the answer is YES. More than ever on both a personal and professional level, it matters. It matters to me personally to know that there are initiatives, programs, events and just some GOOD news in my community. It matters to me as a professional to know that the local media markets all over the country actually want to hear about these initiatives, programs and events and share them with their audiences. It matters. It’s possible. And we can.
Here at Boom we work with some amazing clients. We have the pleasure to be working with The Entertainment Industry Foundation (you’re likely familiar with their Stand Up To Cancer initiative) on a new initiative: Think It Up. Think It Up is the first-of-its-kind platform to fund student-powered, teacher-led learning projects in partnership with DonorsChoose.org. Our role is to maximize the message through Public Service Announcements on TV and Radio. Our focus is to gain national exposure by way of local network affiliates and media outlets. LOCAL. The key here is connecting the dots on a cause or issue that affects people in a specific community and making a case for the media outlet sharing it. Old school, one-on-one outreach. Not syndication/RSS, not viral, not digital. Just connecting a message with an audience. And it works. It’s not immediate, it’s not snappy or chatty. It’s local media relations.
We were thrilled to see that particular campaign firing on all media platforms this week an landing locally. In fact, in my own backyard. A local tie to the initiative was covered in the Denver Post this week…both their online and print editions of hyper local “Your Hub.” The feature focused on the first-ever Think It Up Live event that took place A Columbine High School (in my own Jeffco neighborhood.) Kids and teachers brainstorming ideas for powerful learning projects that will be submitted for crowdfunding on ThinkItUp.org. This initiative matters, the story matters, and local media matters.
Meet this month’s feature for Boomer of the Month – Suzie Raven, manager, Public Service at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). Through advocacy, education and innovation, NAB enables broadcasters to best serve their communities, strengthen their businesses and seize new opportunities in the digital age. When asked to describe herself in ten words or less, she humbly stated: Helps broadcasters, non-profits and media companies spread positive messages. Read on for more great reasons you would want to have dinner with Suzie:
1. What was the last picture you took with your phone? My view of the field during a recent game at Nationals Stadium.
2. If you could only have one meal for the rest of your life, what would that meal be? Sushi – specifically, unagi.
3. What industry jargon do you find yourself using the most? What is your least favorite industry jargon? My least favorite jargon: during in-person meetings, people say “Let’s talk offline.” By definition, in-person meetings are offline.
4. If you could choose any other profession what would it be? Why? I would love to be a photographer for National Geographic so I could travel to remote, exotic places.
5. If you could only use one social media platform what would it be? Why? Twitter. I’m always finding something new in my neighborhood – even while I’m following news from around the world.
6. What was the last book you read? Would you recommend it? Eyes of a Child by Richard North Patterson. Yes, it was engaging. There was a twist at the end that I didn’t anticipate.
7. What television show is your guilty pleasure? Daria – I have the entire series on DVD. I love her snarky humor.
8. What ability would you want to have that you don’t currently possess? Do superhero abilities count? I would love to be able to read minds.
9. What famous person do people tell you that you most resemble? Do you take it as a compliment? I’m half-Egyptian, so I dressed up as Cleopatra one year. I’m a dead-ringer for her.
10. What is the oddest food item you have ever eaten? I ate guinea pig in Peru. It sounds cliché, but it actually tastes like chicken, but more juicy.
As we approach Election Day, I question why there are so many political ads despite people’s constant complaints about them. But, it’s really quite elementary:
- Political ads are a cash cow for TV and Radio Stations. Stations are in business to make money and they are making hay while the sun shines: an estimated $1 billion will be spent on political ads this mid-term election cycle, according to Wesleyan Media Project; and
- Political ads actually work! Studies have shown that the candidate who spends more on their ad campaign wins. According to a 2012 study conducted by the nonprofit United Republic, the candidate with more money won the race 91% of the time.
As political ads start to flood our airways, we can’t turn on the TV or radio without seeing or hearing one. In fact, during the 2012 campaign, TV viewers had to endure more than 3 million political ads (source: politico.com).
This ensuing ad traffic jam will last until Election Day, which begs the question: is there any room left for the airing of TV and Radio PSAs? Yes, there is! While there is no denying that political ads will have some impact on the number of PSA airings, we have found that there is still a good amount of ad space left for the airings of PSAs. Political ad buying has become more targeted with less blanket media buys. This shift in ad buying opens up blocks of ad time for PSA airings.
In addition, demand will always exist for PSAs from PSA Directors. Yes, even during an election cycle. And, once a PSA gets into a station’s rotation, it tends to stay in rotation and the number of PSA airings will simply just ebb and flow around an Election Day. The rules regarding a PSA’s demand/airings, even in an election year, remain basic.
And, I actually see a real benefit to PSAs airing during an election cycle. Juxtaposed against a negative, sensationalized and unappealing political ad, a PSA only becomes more appealing and trustworthy. Viewers/listeners could be more inclined to head to a non-profit’s website to learn more about an organization and maybe even make a donation!
Non-profit organizations can take advantage of people’s dislike of political ads and seize this opportunity – they too can make hay while the sun shines.
What’s music to my ears? A PSA Director telling me, “We are running that one as of today.” Those are words I want to hear from every television PSA Director.
Television generally is the most sought-after PSA medium; therefore, it’s the most competitive. And TV PSA Directors are looking to weed out (read: throw out) PSAs because they tell us they are inundated with requests for airtime! I sit on pins and needles waiting to find out if a PSA Director will air one of our PSAs. I want to and strive to make every PSA campaign a home-run.
So what factors can stop a TV PSA from reaching its full potential? Here are a few most common reasons:
- The timing of the PSA could be off
- The PSA message might not resonate with the PSA Director and the station’s viewers
- The station just received and has started running a similar PSA
- The PSA Director is understandably overwhelmed with all the PSAs he/she is receiving and does not have time to review/air them all
As you can see some reasons for rejection aren’t always in our control – while others are easily fixable issues:
- Good production quality
- Preferred format
- Proper presentation of the PSA
We pride ourselves on finding out ahead of time what a station’s requirements are – never sending a PSA without knowing the rules and guidelines of the station first. In other words, you want to know what the local rules are before you take to the field.
There is one issue/rule that is like Kyrptonite to some PSA Directors. A corporate logo. “Dun…dun…dun” (put in for drama effect only).
Some TV stations have very specific requirements for TV PSAs. If there is a corporate logo in a PSA, it will get rejected out-right and for that reason and that reason alone. Many stations say right on their website: “It is the policy of our station to limit logos of a Public Service Announcement to the retaining foundation or non-profit organization only. No commercial or for-profit company logos will be accepted on a Public Service Announcement.“ Some stations/networks fervently believe that a PSA message is not a forum for corporate sponsors to advertise or sell their brands or services. PSAs with corporate logos are seen as commercials by some PSA Directors.
In fact, don’t even send a TV PSA with a corporate logo to these stations and waste their time – they won’t be pleased! This is regardless of what the PSA is about, what celebrity is in it, or how well produced it is.
But, I am here to tell you that a corporate logo on a TV PSA is not a death knell. We understand that sometimes it is not feasible to remove the corporate logo and work with our clients to create successful campaigns even with a restrictive logo.
While we all know that television stations will broadcast PSAs for free that doesn’t mean that PSA campaigns are free. And non-profits typically don’t have deep pockets so they look to corporate sponsors for help – we get it. And, corporate sponsors enable non-profit organizations to provide important care and community services throughout our country and take us one step closer to finding cure for diseases, increased awareness of safety/health issues, etc. “It’s the classic “win–win’ situation. The corporation gets credit for being a good citizen, while [nonprofits] receive support to accomplish good things in the community.” Society for Nonprofit Organizations, 2011
As a result, some non-profits are understandably beholden to corporate sponsors and are required to put the corporate sponsor’s logo on a TV PSA that they funded. This does typically affect the amount of stations and resulting airings for a TV PSA; however, if it’s a well-done PSA on a relevant topic, it will have stations across the USA air it.
There are many TV stations that do not have a “no-corporate logo” policy. Different stations have different policies for approval of PSAs. There are many stations that will air a TV PSA with a corporate logo simply because it’s a relevant, timely topic in a well-produced PSA. We have even had TV PSAs with logos air on stations that claim their policy is not to air PSAs with logos. Shhh!!!
So, if a corporate logo must be on the PSA and sometimes it MUST be (and we can’t say that we won’t counsel the client to remove it and/or have the non-profit and corporation create a non-profit entity to distribute the message to get greatest ROI), we work to make it the most successful campaign it can be and we have had many successful PSA campaigns with a corporate logo on the TV PSA. We have great relationships with TV PSA Directors and know the stations and networks that are willing to review a TV PSA with a corporate logo.
As the saying goes, “It’s better to try and fail than never to have tried at all.”
Find out about Public Service Announcements in this Boom-in-the-Room blog: the why, the when and the how.
Public Service Announcements, otherwise referred to as PSAs, run during advertising time or space on television, radio and on the Internet – at no cost to you or your client. The time is essentially donated by the media outlet as a goodwill community service. There is no other broadcast tactic or even ad buy that can deliver the reach or ROI of a successful PSA placement campaign.
Having said that, there are very specific requirements that will determine if a PSA is an option for your campaign:
- Campaign must involve a legitimate non-profit organization.
- Your message must serve the public.
- The PSA should not include any mention or referral to a commercial sponsor.
- Provide multiple lengths and formats in order to cater to different station preferences
- Consider a spokesperson that is truly passionate or involved in this cause or message.
- Provide a clear call to action
- Do not make an overt plea for donations in your PSA.
You can only offer a PSA to stations if you are a non-profit or partnered with a non-profit – for example, an advocacy relationship that a pharmaceutical might enter into to raise awareness about women and heart disease. Usually a relationship like that is the result of an unrestricted educational grant. The PSA comes from the non-profit organization and the non-profit is requesting air time for their awareness message. That’s your next requirement: your message must serve the public: it must educate or inform.
Regardless of the corporate entity involved, your PSA is not likely to make air if it mentions a for-profit corporate entity. Discuss how your PSA can and does often meet a corporate communications objectives with Boom. We can provide some great examples.
A few other tips to make your PSA a success: produce and provide stations with multiple lengths of your spot. For example, if you only provide a 15 second spot, and the station has an available time slot that is 30 seconds, you’ll miss out. Also, in this digital age, make sure you are offering digital formats as well as the old standby: tapes or DVDs.
When considering a spokesperson, make sure they have a tie to this cause or message. Public Affairs Directors quickly see through celebrity for celebrity’s sake. Finally, consider a simple and memorable call to action: a logical or catchy web address can result in more activity. If it’s very complicated to find or get more information on your topic, you may sacrifice follow through on your campaign.
Bottom line? With the right elements, a Public Service Announcement can generate millions of impressions and hundreds of thousands of dollars in equivalent ad dollar value for your campaign.
Most importantly, a PSA can lead to action and change.