PSA videos, or public service announcements, are messages created by nonprofits and other organizations to raise awareness and educate the public on relevant causes and issues. Although PSAs may look and feel like broadcast commercials, they’re actually quite different. Producing PSA video comes with its own set of rules of what you can and can’t include, different CTAs, and a different strategy for measuring success. When done right, PSA videos can help organizations expand their reach and raise awareness though free earned media.
Connect360 Multimedia, a media placement agency, specializes in helping nonprofits secure the best exposure for their PSA videos across both local and national networks. IdeaRocket sat down with Annette Minkalis, Partner and Executive Vice President of Connect360, to learn more about how nonprofit organizations can leverage PSAs to raise awareness.
IdeaRocket: How did you get into working with non-profits and PSA videos?
Minkalis: I’ve been personally involved in public service announcements for several decades. It’s kind of a passion of mine. I love being able to help nonprofits. I meet so many different people. There’s so many different causes that you can feel passionate about and help get exposure for through the use of public service announcements.
IdeaRocket: What is the difference between a broadcast commercial and a PSA?
Minkalis: PSAs very much look and feel like a commercial advertising. If you’re watching television, you might not notice something’s a PSA versus a commercial spot. But basically, the broadcasters don’t always sell all the advertising space that they have available. They need something to fill it, so they turn to public service announcements. And a lot of nonprofits take advantage of the generosity and opportunity by submitting PSAs to the broadcasters. Broadcasters will review it, and if it’s a message that resonates with what they think is important for their viewing audience, they will accept it and put it on air.
Nonprofits would pay the cost of the production, and they would pay a company like Connect360 for the distribution of that PSA to the media. We also track and report, so that the nonprofit gets a report of which stations aired the PSA, how times they aired it, the impressions, and the donation of the media value.
IdeaRocket: What is the biggest thing media outlets look for when considering PSAs?
Minkalis: We’ve talked with a ton of public service directors and stations around the country, and the number one reason they put a PSA on the air is the relevance of the message to their audience. If it’s a PSA about lung cancer for example, that can relate to a lot of people. That is a message that they would see as relevant to their audience. If it’s a message on something obscure, and they don’t see the relevance, they’re not gonna to air it. A PSA on boating safety, for example. If you sent it to a market where there’s no water around, it’s not going to meet approval. From our standpoint, we have to be diligent about what we send where to make sure it meets the criteria of the market.
IdeaRocket: What is the optimal length of a PSA?
Minkalis: Typically we recommend clients do three lengths: 60 seconds, 30 seconds, and 15 seconds. Thirty seconds is the most popular, but we often get a pickup on the 60, which gives an organization a full minute to deliver their message.
IdeaRocket: What elements would you recommend nonprofits include in PSA videos?
Minkalis: At the close of the PSA, you want to have a call-to-action.That call-to-action is generally for more information or, “to learn more, go to our website.” So you, you want to have a call-to-action at the end of the spot.
Also, ideally (although not mandatory) you want to put on the end slate: “a public service message from the organization.” From a station standpoint, it looks nice for them to be able to show their viewers that they’re donating that space (that it is a PSA). But it’s by no means a make or break [for approval].
IdeaRocket: Are there any “don’ts” when it comes to PSA production?
Minkalis: PSAs cannot have any corporate branding, you can’t have anything like that. We’ve had clients do shoots where they have a street scene or whatever. And then when we get the footage, you may see a Starbucks sign in the background — very inadvertent things that you wouldn’t have thought about. Maybe a spokesperson or a character on screen has a shirt with the Nike logo…those are the kinds of things we look for. And then we make sure that the client blurs them out.
IdeaRocket: Can animated video be used for PSAs?
Minkalis: One of the key benefits to using an animated video is if a client wants to do a Spanish language PSA to reach Spanish-speaking audiences. What’s nice about animated video is, unlike a video production where you have people speaking, you really just mostly have voiceover. And you may have some graphics on the screen that can easily be translated. So an animated video works especially beautifully if a client wants to use it for different languages.
IdeaRocket: How do you measure the success of a PSA video?
Minkalis: A lot of the nonprofits judge success based on donated media value because they can use that as an in kind of financial contribution to include on their financials. Other nonprofits look at impressions or at the success of markets that were important to them (did they get enough hits in those markets). Everyone can review results individually. Largely though, it’s usually on based on the donated media value.
Annette Minkalis is a partner and Executive Vice President of Connect360 Multimedia based in Mineola, NY. For decades she has worked with large and small nonprofits providing counsel on their PSA campaign strategy. Throughout her career Annette has authored many articles, published blog posts and spoken at seminars on the topic of PSAs, providing tips for creating a successful campaign and explaining the value they offer nonprofits.