Making Paid Advertising and Public Service Announcements Work

  • Check out PSA’s, run-of-station and other cost savers.
  • Be aware of advocacy ad clearance issues.
  • Identify advertising experts who can provide services.

Advertising takes a thousand forms, from skywriting and blimps to tiny labels on the fruit in your supermarket. But almost all advertising is paid communication designed to persuade or influence behavior. Advertising is a powerful force that shapes our attitudes about everything from what we eat to what car we drive to whom we vote for and which public policies we support. The nonprofit sector can use advertising to great effect, if it proceeds from an understanding of both the nature of the advertising business and its relationship to the media and their audiences.

Closely related to paid advertising, but distinguished from it by the fact that they are broadcast by media outlets at no cost to the nonprofit organization, are public service announcements (PSA’s), designed to promote some public good. By contrast, “earned” or “free” media results from outreach strategies designed to influence the reporting of news and related commentary. Earned media is the focus of most nonprofit campaigns.

It is valuable to know something about paid advertising and PSA’s, even if your plans do not currently call for them. At some point in the future, your strategy may expand to include paid advertising, which can be invaluable for achieving your communications goals.