Back before the pervasiveness of the Internet and social media, public service announcements (PSAs) were one of the best ways for organizations to generate awareness about a cause or social issue. If you grew up in the ‘80s or ‘90s, you probably remember seeing anti-drug campaigns like the “I am Astar, a Robot” and "Don't Put It In Your Mouth" While research shows that these campaigns may have done more harm than good, they did get one thing right—people talked about them. But today, reaching the masses with a PSA is no longer as simple as it once was.
Ad time for PSAs is donated by broadcasters, but the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) does not require TV and radio stations to air them. That’s one of the reasons why they are seen a bit less often today. In the past, public service ads were often used to fill commercial breaks but now many stations use that time for self-promotion.
Because of a drop in inventory, competition for broadcast airings of PSAs is fierce. PSAs also must compete with many different channels and thousands of messages online. Between Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, blogs, apps and more, creating awareness about an issue can be a real challenge. That’s why it’s essential to create messages that touch on emotion and create buzz.
If you’re brainstorming a public service campaign, or you simply want some tips on how to better connect with audiences then consider the following best practices.
The goal of any PSA should be to raise awareness of an issue and call people to action. Beginning with what you want your audience to talk about is a good starting point for any communications campaign.
The “Love Has No Labels” campaign worked because it appealed to an emotion everyone wants to feel—love. The creators made an impact by masking love with a display that shows we’re all one human race no matter our sexual orientation or ethnicity.
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