Here’s a basic list of questions you should ask yourself before every meeting trying to get a PSA:
- What are the key points I want to make?
- What specific action do I want from the media organization?
- Have I identified the right decision maker?
- Do I have enough material to show that the PSA responds to a community need?
- Should I bring a community leader to the meeting to show that my issue has support?
During your meeting, make sure to do the following:
- Discuss your issue. Give the facts, using local, state, and national data.
- Highlight programs going on in your area, and show how support can reinforce the station’s favorable public image.
- Explain why the issue is a priority in your community. Personalize the issue as much as possible. Being able to tell stories as you share facts will help you communicate with public service managers. But be clear that your interest is in raising awareness of the larger issue, not just in one case.
- Highlight the ads’ relevance for area residents, the audience that both you and your media partner want to reach. Talk about the difference that running the PSA’s will make in your community.
- Remember to leave pertinent materials with the media outlet. These materials can include samples of response mechanisms or fulfillment brochures and lists of relevant contacts and programs in your community.
- Determine whether any follow-up, such as providing additional information, is needed, particularly if questions arise that cannot be fully resolved during the meeting.
Meeting Wrap up
Verify your next steps. If the media outlet agrees to run the PSA, ask the manager to send you a list of airtimes or print times. Confirm that the station will run a local tag line with your organization’s name, phone number, and Web site address. If the station has agreed to produce an original spot, then work to develop a script that highlights your message.
Do not take no for an answer. If you cannot get a commitment to run the PSA, find out why. Are they committed to a rival project? Ask what you can do to help them perform a better public affairs job for their station and their community. Many stations may not refuse flat out, but there may be other reasons that they are unable to commit. If they currently have too many PSA’s running, ask if you can wait in line until they rotate some of the existing PSA’s off of their schedule. If you are having problems setting up a meeting, you may want to send a letter outlining your ideas.
Try bartering time. Piggyback on the giants. Sometimes, a major advertiser can use its strength to negotiate special rates or extra spots for the time it has reserved for commercial ads. It can then convert these paid spots into, or barter them for, PSA’s. You may want to consider contacting advertisers in your area to see if they are willing to barter paid spots for PSA’s in their local buys. If there are companies in your community that regularly advertise on TV and in newspapers, ask them if your organization’s PSA’s can be included as a “barter” arrangement in their media placements. Be creative and open to ideas. A local grocery store may be willing to put your organization’s phone number on their bags or pass out information at checkout counters. Restaurants may put your information on tray inserts. A utility company may include an insert in the bills they send their customers. The possibilities are endless.
Say thank you. Express your appreciation for the exposure that the station or paper has provided by sending a thank-you note. Continue to stay in contact with public service managers, and keep monitoring PSA placements.
Advertise on billboards and transit systems. Local outdoor advertisers often provide free billboard space if you pay for the artwork and installation. The same is true for transit ads. For additional information, contact your public transportation system’s public affairs office or the community affairs offices of the local outdoor advertising company listed on the billboard. When placing the ads, follow the same steps as outlined above.
Do-it-yourself placement saves money, but it requires a substantial investment of time. If you are trying to place ads in four, five or maybe six outlets, consider a company that specializes in PSA placement. You are likely to get better results, and save yourself a lot of time. Companies that specialize in placing PSA’s have relationships with the people responsible for accepting the ads. They stay abreast of the topics that interest the publications or stations. It is easier to track the performance of your PSA’s when you hire a company to handle your placement. In fact, in most cases you can get daily reports by going to the company’s website.