Boost your PSA's pickup in one simple step.

Once you begin to think about PSAs from the perspective of people who drive their placement, your ROI will go way up.

There is a lot to consider in the development of a new national public service campaign for your non-profit. There’s the research. The engagement strategy. The brand platform.  Development goals. But there’s another important consideration—a crucially important one—usually only considered as an afterthought: the perspective of the PSA directors at the print, broadcast, online and outdoor media who will make or break the success of the non-profit’s campaign. 

So here’s the one simple change you can make to boost pickup significantly: make these PSA directors a top-level audience for your campaign.

Over the years as our advertising agency has worked with great PSA distribution partners (more on them in a bit), we have learned a lot about this important audience for our work. And the more we focus on them, the more successful our distribution has become. Most PSA directors view public-service announcements as content, and they schedule them from that perspective. 

They don’t seem to choose the most urgent cause or the organization with the best outcomes or Charity Navigator rating. PSA directors have endless satellite streams of charity and cause PSAs to choose from, and they pick the campaigns that are a fit for their consumers. 

Delivering PSAs that meet their needs can make an enormous difference in your reach, daypart, engagement and ultimate ROI on the campaign.

They want it to be compatible.

It may seem obvious, but it’s important that the print ad, TV spot, or web tactic feel at home in the target medium. It’s got to be a fit, and production values are a big piece of this equation. PSAs that look unintentionally low budget or are as dense as sales sheets are less appealing to the A-list media we’re after, and we’ve had our best success with PSAs that have an appealing level of polish, simplicity, and focus. National PSAs need to look and feel like national advertising.

We’ve also seen bold statements about causes outperform pleas for donations… and not because of any rule that we can discern. It seems PSA directors tend to find moving ideas to be more appealing to their readers that requests for giving.

Does your campaign look and feel like the ads and PSAs in the media you are targeting? Help internal stakeholders see the need for work that’s a fit for the people who will ultimately put it on air, online, or in print.

They want it to be timely.

While PSA directors work so far out that timeliness can be a challenge, we can help with well-in-advance campaigns that provide a publication or station the opportunity to plan.

And because PSA directors think of timeliness from a consumer’s standpoint, we try to, as well. Holiday issues, major historical anniversaries, and big observance months (like breast cancer and African-America history) are all occasions for themed PSAs to rise to the top of the stack. 

We once developed a holiday-themed broadcast and online campaign to support the national Christmas Seals direct mail campaign, and it was picked up several years in a row – including a December run on a screen in Times Square. The outlets we most wanted for the campaign welcomed a nostalgic holiday-themed PSA for December.

They value relationships.

As with earned media, public-service messaging does better when pitched. Pushing campaigns out on standard distribution channels can deliver some results, but our best hits have come with tactics typically seen in media relations. Sending out-of-the-ordinary kits to directors personally. Calling to follow up. Pitching an important upcoming historical or health observance.

Enter the PSA distribution partner. Good PSA agencies work hand-in-hand with strong distributors who nurture these relationships effectively. Our partner, for example, once helped us arrange to take a storyboarded PSA concept to a string of meetings with New York cable and network PSA directors to ask if they thought it’d be a fit for their audiences, before we even went into production. We got some great feedback… and the PSA directors had become stakeholders by the time we released the campaign.

So as you begin development of PSA concepts and you begin to plan all the requisite testing and buy-in, don’t forget to stop periodically and assess the work from the PSA director’s viewpoint. 

It’s a simple exercise that can pay off exponentially.